Released in October of 1976, Leftoverture rose as high #5 on the Billboard Pop Albums in 1977, which to this day has solidified its place as one of the most influential progressive rock albums in modern times. Kansas experienced with a wide variety of different instruments that created a unique sound that has yet to be truly replicated. While still featuring the expected instruments characteristic of a rock band of its time, the band reached beyond the likes of guitar, bass, and drums, and incorporated other instruments into the fold that included piano, violins, violas, organs, vibraphones, and analog synthesizers. The reward is for the listener, as this exposes us to a style of progressive rock that has little been explored, both back then and to this day. The lyrical content is deeply psychological, dealing mostly in the realms of human emotion, intuition, death, and ancient philosophy. The lyrical themes blend with the music progression in unison creating a music that is way before it's time.
The album opens with the hit single "Carry On Wayward Son" which has been stapled as the poster child for the album due to its continuous airplay over many classic rock stations. Though the song is a great work of art, the constant radio play has honestly butchered the song for me so I will not be spending a great deal of time on it. However it is worthy of recognition, and sets the tone for the album. It starts off heavy, and it grabs the listener right away. It is truly a great rocking tune that kicks off an album that goes between heavier classic rock and more progressive overtones. "The Wall" is different, as it slows the pace down to a more sophisticated style that graces the listener. Guitar work leads to a piano and keyboard interlude overlapped with vocal work. The piece gets the listener to think, and it makes for a smooth transition, as the song slowly builds. The song is very heavy on keyboard work, and it is noticeably the primary instrument even over the guitars and bass throughout much of the song.
Lyrically the song is deep, and it looks into the psyche of the aged adult, looking back on his life and being disappointed with the wall he created for himself. The wall is metaphorical however, as it represents all of the things that he didn't accomplish throughout his life. He is now able to tie all his hesitancies and inactions with everything that he never became. It is a song where the listener looking up at the wall fails to reach his expectations in his own mind. He must now create a plan to break down the wall by changing his perception, so that he can reach his full potential as an individual. This is a lyrical theme that can be identified by most, and is experienced by all (often times in the form of a mid-life crises) is when we look back on our lives and note where and how we fall short of our sometimes unconscious set of expectations.
"Whats on My Mind" is a much more typical hard rock song and continues along the path set by the first track. Heavy use of bluesy guitar and percussion lace the interior of the piece, with small amounts of keyboard spread throughout. The artist describes a past love, that has made him a stronger person. The album deals a lot with reflection of the past, and it is solidified in this song. Though the relationship did not end well, we quickly discover that spending time with this girl (and even more time without her) quickly altered his perception in life. He now looks back and enjoys the revelations that he has experienced through her, because the struggles have now transformed him into a more balanced, enlightened individual that now searches for peace within himself rather than outwardly through approval from others. She is still on his mind, but not in the same way she had been before.
"Miracles Out of Nowhere" opens with a keyboard intro and features classical guitar mixed with varying types of keys. The song is inspiring and bright, but is generally mellow as the tone changes back to one more closely related to the second song. The organ makes its presence felt in conjunction with piano, and other various types of keyboards. The sound, when paired with drums and guitar, makes for a very interesting musical journey through the middle of the song. With the vocals absent, it allows the listener to fully experience the music, and the various sounds coming together from all the different synthesizers and keyboards. The viola also makes an appearance further deepening the complexity of the sound. The end of the song goes back to the roots of old classic rock again and shifts to a more rockin' tone complimented by the sounds of blues inspired solos and keyboard that never really leaves. The song ends with the sound of a gong, and several tom roles on the drums that imitate the sound of a coming storm.
Lyrically, the artist is searching for answers in life. He finds himself asking questions about life, trying to find someone who has the answers. He describes himself as "waiting for a sign" but towards the song's conclusion he finds peace, seeing the signs around him that have always been there. He understands that by changing where he looks, and how he looks at the world, he answers many of his own questions. However the lyrics never get into specifics about what signs that he is searching for or what he is seeking to prove, but one could speculate that he is searching for love, and that he finds it by altering the way that he looks at his life and the lives of others around him.