Review: Were Not In Kansas Anymore - Sea of Tranquility
Since his final (for the moment…) album with Toto, 2006's Falling In Between, the band's most recognisable singer, Bobby Kimball, has mainly been spending time on the retro, tribute circuit. In between, although not falling, a less than satisfying Yes-Toto hybrid project, Yoso, with Kimball at the mic and collaboration with the sadly departed Jimi Jamison of Survivor have been Kimball's only notable new recordings. Hence I have to admit that my expectations for We're Not In Kansas Anymore weren't exactly sky high. Opener "Too Far Behind" however has other ideas, an enigmatic soulful AOR slice of jazzy West Coast a surprisingly urgent, if amazingly laid back, introduction.
Rumours of Kimball's vocal demise immediately scotched, the autobiographical "On My Feet" adds a little brass, takes the foot off the gas and lays down a huge groove as trumpet fanfares and snare pops are nailed into place by an authoritative display from the main man himself. From there a toe is seldom put wrong, keyboard maestro Derek Sherinian giving the sort of consummate display we've become accustomed to, while drummer Joel Taylor proves mighty in the extreme. Honestly, you can't underestimate the importance on an album like this of having a drummer dripping with impeccable touch and timing. Not a snare smack, cymbal burst or journey round the toms is wasted, a busy, yet controlled masterclass driven home by never out staying its welcome or sitting anywhere other than in the pocket. If you ever want to hear an album where the drummer is integral to what is going down, without ever needing to try to outshine the song itself, it's right here. Meanwhile, singer Jonny Zywiciel shows up to duet with Kimball to great effect on the smooth "One Day", while, in a cast list as long as your arm, it's also worth noting just how fiery and effective guitarist Adam Schwem is throughout.
As you'd expect from a man best known for fronting Toto, there are also a number of slower selections in evidence, "You'll Be With Me" a soaring ballad, "You're Not Alone" a prouder, guitar infused piece that somehow adds the word power to the ballad formula without ever toppling into parody. These types of tracks may well be Kimball's calling card, so it's maybe impressive that in truth they, excellent though they are, are topped at every turn by the more energetic outbursts this album provides. "Flatline" a surge of keys and guitars that belies its name while "Scam" adds a little dark mystery to proceedings, one of the album's heavier moments surging in all the right places.
It would appear that Bobby Kimball isn't in Kansas any more, however I'd suggest the one place he certainly finds himself is nearer the top of his game than he's been for many a year. We're Not In Kansas Anymore exceeds expectations, taking care of business in the most uplifting and rewarding of fashions and leaving you wanting more and more and just a little bit more. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long until Kimball delivers – again!