Before enjoying huge success with the mighty Kansas, Kerry Livgren flirted with other musicians and projects. One of these musical babblings was called Proto-Kaw, and now we’re introduced to new compositions under this denomination. “Before Became After” is a strange album, with occasional interesting ideas but quite irregular as a whole; there’s lack of cohesion on both composing and performing sides. Tracks sound as a mix of hard rock, folk, blues and some traditional american music, all varnished with symphonic touches, mainly from Livgren and Don Wright’s keyboards.
“Alt. More Worlds Than Known” establishes from the beginning the sound for the rest of the CD, with powerful guitars and layers of keyboards. “Leaven” is quite similar, maybe more solid, but unnecessarily overlong. “Axolotl (for lack of a better name)” takes more melodically paths, enhanced thanks to John Bolton’s flute, who also contributes, this time on saxophone, on the next track, the weird “Quantum Leapfrog”, a series of keyboard and guitar solos articulated by occasional choruses.
“Gloriana” extends over nine minutes to weave one of the best songs on the CD, with rich and majestic sound. This is the closest to Kansas you can find on the album, if in a less epic tone than that of the “Leftoverture” authors. “The Occasion Of Your Honest Dreaming” is a short track with a typical seventies sound, but frankly mediocre. Livgren gives free rein to his well known catholic faith on the eloquently titled “Heavenly Man”, another convincing but irrelevant 70’s hard rock.
The album’s schizophrenia goes on with “It Moves You”, a pop song that could have been written by Fleetwood Mac in the eighties. To close, the extended “Theophany”, eleven minutes of celestial and pompous sympho, again saved by John Bolton’s good job on saxophone, which summarizes the indefiniteness of this CD, between symphonic AOR, mellow pop and folk hard rock.
A curiosity: there’s a drummer, Brad Schultz, credited on the booklet but, for most of the songs, what I hear is a drum machine. Well, it’s just an impression.