This two-CD collection is comprised of 25 songs performed by the original Kansas lineup - guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren, violinist Robby Steinhardt, keyboardist/vocalist Steve Walsh, drummer Phil Ehart, guitarist Rich Williams and bassist Dave Hope.

Starting off with the demo version of "Can I Tell You," the set is a reflection of Kansas' ingenuity, professionalism and musical creativeness, featuring 25 works spanning this lineup's 10-year period as one of America's original progressive rock bands.Also included is a new song, "Wheels," written especially for this compilation, and three unissued live recordings: "Death of Mother Nature Suite," "Incommudro - Hymn to the Atman" and "On the Other Side."

Kansas was definitely before its time. The band received critical acclaim but was initially a commercial failure. Through constant touring and some good old flatland stubborness, the group eventually touched a chord with listeners.

The first self-titled album broke into Billboard's Top 200 and peaked at No. 174. "Song for America," the follow-up, reached No. 57. The next album, "Masque," reached No. 70.

But it wasn't until "Left-over-ture," featuring the smash single "Carry on Wayward Son," that the band really hit the map. Reaching No. 5, the album went gold, guaranteeing national airplay. From there, "Point of Know Return," "Two for the Show," "Monolith" and "Audio Visions" featured the staple progressive Kansas sound.

All the hits, "Carry on Wayward Son," "The Wall," "Point of Know Return," "Dust in the Wind," "People of the South Wind" and "Hold On," are here. Other favorites included are "Journey from MariaBronn," "Icarus - Borne on Wings of Steel," "Mysteries and Mayhem," "What's on My Mind," "Portrait (He Knew)," "Closet Chronicles" and "Relentless."

Here's the flaw: Fans of the original lineup will cherish these tunes, but will miss "Got to Rock On" and "No One Together"; those who kept up with or discovered Kansas in the '80s will notice the lack of hits after the lineup changed. "Play the Game Tonight," from "Vinyl Confessions," is not included, nor is "Fight Fire with Fire."

In 1986, Kansas regrouped with new guitarist Steve Morse, from the Dixie Dreggs, and a new bassist, Billy Greer. This version of Kansas released "Power" and "In the Spirit of Things." Not one song from these two albums is included either.

- Scott Iwasaki

THE BAND; "Across the Great Divide" (Capitol). * * * 1/2

The Band, to call upon an overused word, is and has always been unique. The three-volume "Across the Great Divide" is a reminder of that.

After achieving a degree of notoriety backing Bob Dylan in the mid-'60s, as the story goes, the five-man American-Canadian group holed up at a house they called "the Big Pink" in Woodstock, N.Y., and emerged with an honest folk-rock sound they've expanded upon but never overpolished.

In fact, Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson seemed to want to sound like a gathering of talented neighbors making music in the most amenable living room they could find. Maybe the effect is partly a result of Hudson's homey organ and clavinette. Or maybe it's the twangy trading among three well-matched down-home voices - Helm, Manuel and Danko could be cousins, each with a related pitch.

But the Band's appeal also lay in its great songs, most written by the gifted Robertson, often in first person. These included literate rural and blue-collar stories like "The Weight" and "Up on Cripple Creek," as well as those redolent with history, such as "Acadian Driftwood" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (probably the best tune ever written about the Civil War experience - even if it came a century after the fact).

"Across the Great Divide" is a fine retrospective, offering those classics and more. But it also serves somewhat as a caution to compilers and album titlers for the simple reason that it's the second multivolume CD-era anthology of music by the Band. The first, 1989's "To Kingdom Come," was subtitled "The Definitive Collection."

Apparently it wasn't. It should be noted, though, that the basic difference between the two, besides a few alternative song choices, is the new set's third disc, a 20-track collection of rarities and live recordings. Those include an electric blues rendition of "Who Do You Love" when the members of the Band were the Hawks in support of singer Ronnie Hawkins, and a few more cuts from that period. A couple more songs represent the time when they were Dylan's crew, and other tracks are live numbers from a 1975 concert and "The Last Waltz" performance of 1976, when the Band allegedly called it quits.

As a recent album by some of the group indicates, that wasn't quite true either.

- Ray Boren

ALAN MENKEN, HOWARD ASHMAN AND TIM RICE; "The Music Behind the Magic" (Walt Disney Records). * * 1/2

While this triple-disc set is an interesting look at the musical scores from Disney's recent big three - "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin" - there is little question that it's strictly for fans who are interested in documentary-like material. Everyone else is better off purchasing the individual film soundtracks.

What distinguishes this boxed set is that it includes original demo tapes worked up by composer Alan Menken and his lyricist partner, the late Howard Ashman (and, after Ashman's death, Tim Rice, who filled in on some of the "Aladdin" songs). These demo songs are then contrasted with final cuts as they appeared in the film (and on the original soundtrack albums).

For example, there is Ashman singing "Kiss the Girl" from "The Little Mermaid," complete with Jamaican accent, followed immediately by Samuel E. Wright's version from the film. On the "Beauty and the Beast" disc, Ashman and Menken sing the lengthy "Human Again," a song that didn't make it into the film. (It's a very enjoyable song and the fact that it was not used is lamented by Menken in the liner notes.) And for "Aladdin," Menken sings "Count on Me," which was cut from the film, and Jonathan Freeman vocalizes a couple of villainous numbers for Jafar that were also excised.

In some ways, the album seems like Menken's tribute to his late partner Ashman, and clearly Ashman was a talented fellow (as is Menken). And while it's enjoyable to go through this collection and hear crude early versions of certain songs, as well as numbers that were not in the respective movies, this is not the kind of thing that will likely hold up to a lot of repeat listening.

"The Music Behind the Magic" is strictly for rabid fans, film buffs and musicians/composers who are interested in the songwriting process.

- Chris Hicks

WAR; "Anthology 1970-1994" (Avenue/Rhino). * * *

When Eric Burdon left the Animals to search for a new sound, he discovered the Latin/jazz and funk band War, hailing from Long Beach, Calif., in 1970.

For the next year, War reached a degree of international stardom as Burdon's backup band. When Burdon bailed out in the middle of a European tour, War continued, determined to make a name for itself.

Throughout the years, the band experienced the highs and lows of an unpredictable market. But one thing remained true - War never compromised its style to fit the trends of the day. It held fast to its own convictions.

"Anthology" is a two-disc compilation that features almost all of the band's important releases. Disc one starts off with the three Burdon/War singles - a shuffle-bop remake of the Nashville Teens' "Tobacco Road," the catchy "Spill the Wine" and the soulful, almost gospel strains of "They Can't Take Away Our Music."

These three songs were probably the foundation for the band's longevity. With other jazzy bands like Three Dog Night and Santana making the charts, War needed to find a place for itself. The following songs, "Sun Oh Sun," "Lonely Feelin' " and "All Day Music," expand on the more bluesy groove War incorporated into its sound. Still, the Latin influences come out in "Get Down" and the dark, surging movements in the band's first Top 20 hit (without Burdon), "Slippin' into Darkness."

Other songs on disc one are the No. 2 hit "The Cisco Kid" and the Top 10 anthems "The World Is a Ghetto" and "Gypsy Man."

The disc slows down for "Deliver the Word," probably War's most removed single, with its moodiness and jazz, while a live cut of the Latin-filled "Ballero" ends the disc.

Disc two starts out with the reggae-laced, feel-good tune of peace, "Why Can't We Be Friends?" and the hearty Latin funk of "Low Rider," complete with the easily recognizable saxophone staccato interlude. The smooth tunes "Don't Let No One Get You Down" and "Summer" are also included.

Other staple War hits on disc two include "L.A. Sunshine" and the flowing "River Niger." A period piece - the "Star Wars"-influenced "Galaxy," with its shooting laser sounds and keyboard strains combined with the bopping funk, wa-wa guitar chucks and popping lyrics - is also featured.

Another major factor in setting a War song's mood was percussion. The conga intro to "Youngblood (Livin' in the Street)," the bass drums on "Outlaw" and the bongos in "Cinco de Mayo" are just a few examples of this percussive power.

"Anthology" also contains a smooth, jazzy 1992 remake of "Don't Let No One Get You Down" that offers a fresh twist on the War sound. The deep soul of "Peace Sign" ends this 24-year rundown.

Fans who love the Latin/jazz groove and clear harmonies will cherish this compilation, though War's approach can get a little monotonous after a while.

- Scott Iwasaki