This latest effort for the former songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of Kansas could have been subtitled “Kerry’s Casserole.” Livgren serves up an astonishing smorgasbord of work, covering the gamut of popular music. In the liner notes Livgren explains that the purpose of Collector’s Sedition was to “compile an album of all the remaining unreleased, unfinished, lost, unheard, orphaned, and previously unknown music that I have accumulated over the years.” He should have cleaned out his attic sooner. This the best offering to come out of Livgren’s home studio since his award-winning One of the Several Possible Musiks (1989).
Kerry Livgren belongs to a rare class of auteurs that includes Todd Rundgren, Jason Faulkner, and the late Kevin Gilbert. He writes, produces, engineers, and plays all the instruments on his material. Unlike his peers, however, Livgren does not have a polished voice (although his gentle baritone is occasionally heard on the BGV’s). His nephew Jake Livgren ably carries most of the lead vocals on this project.
Collector’s Sedition contains a pair of instrumental tracks: the atmospheric “Am Juengsten Tage,” and “As It Should Be,” a frenetic piece a la Flecktones. “On the Air” is a clever, Ozzy-styled dirge about the public’s spectator mentality toward news-breaking crises (“I drink my coffee / Contemplate my doom”). The soothing acoustic lullaby “The Navigator” could easily be mistaken for Steven Curtis Chapman, while the gorgeous “At Every Turn” is hauntingly reminiscent of 2nd Chapter of Acts, a group Livgren sessioned for in the early ‘80s. And speaking of Rundgren, both “Hindsight” and “Safe Alone” are quirky, keyboard-driven pop that recall the witty artistry of Something/Anything?.
Fundamentally, however, Kerry Livgren is a prog rock icon, and this album contains some obligatory high-brow ventures. “The Sentinel” and “Cold Gray Morning” are characteristically Livgren (the latter was borrowed by Kansas for its Freaks of Nature album). But “The Dragon” throws a curve: on the surface it sounds like a Ray Bolz/Carman melodramatic monstrosity, the kind of overblown soundtrack music that suits evangelistic dramas like “Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.” Livgren is throwing back the curtain with this track, revealing the cosmic battle between Christ and Satan that shadows every human conflict. A closer inspection reveals a song that to some degree is a scaled-down version of the Genesis epic “Supper’s Ready” (Foxtrot, 1971). In fact, the instrumental break is a scintillating nod at Steve Hackett-era licks. “The Dragon” ends with a major chord resolution that legitimizes its earlier bombast.
In his autobiography Seeds of Change Livgren mentioned a growing infatuation with the blues. On “No More Time For Love” he attacks with idiom with a fury, and the results are exhilarating. The combinations of snarling guitar, boogie-woogie piano, and distorted harmonica sampling make for the album’s liveliest track.
Of the 14 “orphaned” tracks on this collection, only one is a red-headed step-child. “Red Money” is Livgren’s attempt to “get the funk out.” Only the intro is worth hearing; the song quickly devolves into an accusatory tirade with not one but two grating, somebody-call-the-police guitar solos. This one should have remained in the circular file.
Minor miscues aside, Collector’s Sedition is an engaging investigation of Livgren’s expanding repertoire. This record would make a worthwhile addition to any serious pop/rock collection.
Information about Livgren and his music can be obtained at www.numavox.com.