||HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY TO KANSAS
Kansas is a U.S State located in the Midwest of the country. It is named after the Kansa native American tribe, which inhabited the area? The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south wind", although this was probably not the term's original meaning.
Residents of Kansas are called "Kansans". For thousands of years, what is now Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes. Tribes in the Eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys. Tribes in the Western parts of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted large herds of bison.
Kansas was first settled by European Americans in the 1830s. For people that think about Kansas, there are two images that come to mind. First, prairies, farms, and plain spoken honest heartland values.
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Second, the images and sounds of one the most important rock bands that United States has ever produced.
Kansas was formed in 1970 in Topeka, Kansas as White Clover and later Proto-Klaw. The band consisted of Richard Williams (guitar), Kerry Livgren (Guitar and keyboards), Dave Hope (bass), Robby Steinhart (Violin and Vocals), Steve Walsh (Keyboards and Vocals) and Phil Ehart (drums).
The band were discovered by Wally Gold, one of Don Kirsher's associate's. Don Kirshner played an important role in the development of rock and roll. He played a key role at the Brill Building which was responsible for launching the careers of songwriters Gerry Coffin and Carole King as well as Neil Diamond. He also had a hand in Bobby Darin's 'Splish Splash' as well as launching the careers of the Monkees and the Archie's.
The band released their debut album in the summer of 1974. The album cover pictured a painting by John Stewart Curry of abolitionist John Brown. The painting is on display at the state capitol in Topeka.
The band's record company, CBS records, contacted the state capitol representatives about using the painting for the band's album cover. The band had no control over it.
The material on 'Kansas' was written mostly by Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh. The tracks had been culled from the repertoire of both White Clover and Proto-Kaw. Livgren's songs were generally longer and more elaborate than Walsh's andfeatured mystical lyrics which in return reflected his intense interest in Eastern religions.
Compositions like 'Journey From Mariabronn' as well as 'Belexes' and 'Apercu' were reflected along those lines.
'Song For America', was the band's second album which was released back in March of 1975. Continuous touring had given Kansas a small following of loyal fans, some of who would follow the group from one show to another.
Despite the minor success of their debut album they were still, for the most part, a struggling bar band. While 'Song For America' did little to change that, it is their most progressive and heavy work.
'Song For America' features complex arrangements. There are two major highlights from the band's second album. The first is
producer Jeff Glixman. Glixman would play a pivotal in the band's sound. He would also produce the band's grand-slam four album run that ran 1975 to 1977.
He also produced Magnum's 'Chase The Dragon' and Saxon's 'Power And The Glory'.
Second is 'Incomudro - Hymn To The Atman' which is the longest track on the album that clocks in at twelve minutes.
The band released their third album in the fall of 1975 titled 'Masque'. The album was different, a mixed bag of sorts. The first track was 'It Takes A Woman To Make A Man', which had a saxophone on it. This track was to appease their label president Don Kirscher who wanted something to give to radio that was less than eight to twelve minutes.
'Masque' has some standout tracks, namely 'Icarus-Borne On Wings of Steel', 'All The World', 'Child Of Innocence' and the prog rock composition 'The Pinnacle'.
The album cover had a rather unique as well as strange piece of artwork from Guiseppe Arcimboldo.
The band would finally breakthrough with 'Leftoverture' which was the band's fourth album. The album would contain one of the biggest hits of the their career 'Carry On Wayward Son'. 'Leftoverture' contained many fine tracks on the album including 'Miracles Out Of Nowhere', 'Cheyanne Anthem' and 'Magnum Opus'.
During the making of 'Leftoverture' Steve Walsh had writer's block at that time and his contribution would be limited to co-authoring just three songs. It fell on Kerry Livgren to fill in the void.
The album was met with mixed reviews. The band got lumped in with ten cent zero bag bands like Boston, Styx, and Reo Speedwagon. Its
sharpest criticism came from racist rock critic Robert Christgau who stated that "the album lacked the intelligence and conviction of European progressive rock" and that the "self-deprecating humor implied in the song and album titles is completely absent from the record itself".
In 1977, the band released their fifth album titled 'Point Of Know Return'.
The huge success of Kansas brought a new kind of pressure. While they were no longer desperately poor and starving for a hit, the band wondered whether they would be able to build on or, at least, maintain the level of achievement the years of recording and touring had brought them.
The sessions for 'Point Of Know Return' were filled with tension as Steve Walsh, who had always been uncomfortable with the artistic direction of the band, left the group briefly. Years later, Walsh would admit in an interview with nationally-syndicated radio host Redbeard on the weekly rockumentary series In The Studio that he had been something of a primma-donna at this point.
The other members of the group talked him into returning and the sessions continued. As with the previous album, it was a last-minute addition to the track line-up that would prove to be a huge success.
There were many outstanding tracks on the album 'Point Of Know Return' but the most important track of all was a ballad titled 'Dust In The Wind'.
In the liner notes of the remastered CD in 2008, drummer Phil Ehart was quoted as saying that "radio stations all over the US played it. It was a song that was fitted into every formatrock, pop, country and easy listening".
The song peaked at #6 on the week of April 22, 1978, making it Kansas' only top ten Billboard Hot 100 charting single. The 45-rpm single was certified gold for sales of one million units by the RIAA shortly after the height of its popularity as a hit single.
More than 25 years later, the RIAA certified Gold for the digital download format of the song, Kansas' only single to do so certified as of September 17, 2008.
The actual inspiration came from a book of Native American poetry, which includes the line "for all we are, is dust in the wind".
The album marked the commercial peak of the band. A subsequent tour brought them to the largest venues in the country, such as Madison Square Garden which was a sold -out and a wild New Year's blowout at Long Beach Arena with Cheap Trick as the opening act.
The band became a staple on FM rock radio at this point, and during this period they were one of the most popular rock acts in the United States.
By 1980, the band was on the decline.
One of the interesting developments during this period was guitarist Kerry Livgren's first solo album which was titled
'Seeds Of Change'. One of the most interesting tracks is a track with Ronnie James Dio, who at that time was with Black Sabbath. The song was titled 'Live For The King' and could have easily been a Rainbow song.
In 2000, Kansas released 'Somewhere To Elsewhere' with the original line-up back in action. This included original bassist Dave Hope who only played on two tracks while Billy Greer plays on the rest of the tracks.
Kanas are an American institution. A band that is inducted in the Kansas Music Hall of Fame as well as the Georgia Music Hall and Fame and hopefully the Rock and Roll Hall of fame to follow.
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