Song Spotlight: Games Of Chance And Circumstance, By Kerry Livgren’s AD

AD was Kerry Livgren’s post Kansas melodic progressive rock band. The band consisted of vocalists Warren Ham and Michael Gleason, former Kansas bassist Dave Hope, Livgren on guitar and Dennis Holt on drums. Livgren, Ham and Gleason shared the duties on keyboards.

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Like many prog bands in the 1980’s AD featured a streamlined and more mainstream sound.  Overall the band’s musical style  was akin to bands such as early 1980’s Kansas, GTR, early 1980’s Genesis, Mike and the Mechanics and Asia.  Although they were similar in style to these bands, AD possessed a more progressive slant.  Overall AD did not sound  like Kansas-lite but Livgren’s hand print is all over the music so there are some similarities.

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In Ham and Gleason the band had in place two very strong vocalists. It should be noted that both served as touring members of Kansas in the early 1980’s. Both also reportedly auditioned for the vacant lead vocalist position in Kansas after Steve Walsh’s departure in 1981.

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Musically the band’s sound ranged from pop rock to straight forward rock to melodic progressive rock. The songs remain in the three to five minute range. Lyrically the band focused on Christian themes. Fans familiar with Kerry Livgren’s story know that his spiritual journey  in the 1970’s eventually lead him to Christianity. It was his new found Christian faith and their presence in his lyrics for Kansas that created a rift in the band. The end result? Steve Walsh left in 1981, Livgren exited in 1983 and the band broke up, briefly, in 1984.

In AD Livgren was surrounded by a band consisting of fellow Christian musicians.  He was now able to freely express a Christian worldview through his music.  Unfortunately this created quite a paradox.  Livgren and the band were free to express their beliefs, but to a very limited audience.  AD was marketed as a Christian band to the Christian marketplace.  The band received little to no exposure in mainstream record stores.

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AD’s existence was all too brief.  The band lasted, in slightly different lineups, from 1983 to 1988.  Financial troubles made it difficult for the band to remain viable. During their time together the band produced four albums.  The best of the batch was their second album, Art Of The State, released in 1985.

Games Of Chance And Circumstance is the fifth track from the Art Of The State album.   It is interesting to note that Michael Gleason wrote the song since it has a Kansas like vibe throughout.  If Kansas had recorded an album between Audio-Visions and Vinyl Confessions this song could have been a perfect fit.  This ballad features a beautifully delicate vocal from Gleason.  The song begins quietly with soft guitars and subtle hints of keyboards and piano.  It is immediately apparent that Gleason has an extremely pleasant singing voice.  At the 00:34 mark a very subtle keyboard enters playing  violin like phrases.  This is a nice touch.  As the song progresses it slowly builds to a big, very Kansas like, chorus. This is followed by the song’s most intricate music motif and a short but very moving guitar solo from Livgren.  This passage is the song’s most dynamic.  After one last chorus the song ends as it began, quiet and subdued.

The 1980’s were not the best of times for progressive rock bands. That does not mean that the decade was devoid of quality progressive music. AD’s Art Of The State is such an album.   I highly recommend the album, not ony to Kansas fans, but also to fans of well written, melodic progressive rock.

Troy T.

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