I found this great article about our boys!
Opinions and Theories
Kansas. Underrated Prog Rock?
By Wilton Said…
I've been listening to a lot of Kansas lately, especially the
2CD/1DVD box set "Sail On". It got me thinking that I don't see
Kansas' name crop up that often as one of the great major prog rock
artists. Usually it's Yes, Genesis, ELP, and sometimes Jethro Tull,
but not Kansas. While they had some Pop hits throughout their career
such as "Play the Game Tonight", "Hold On" and "Dust in the Wind",
they also had quite a bit of complex prog rock material. To me, songs
such as "Journey from Mariabronn", "Song for America", "The Devils
Game", "Pinnacle", "Miracles Out of Nowhere", "Paradox", and the wacky
"Magnum Opus" all rival anything done by the groups mentioned earlier.
Musically, I find it amazing that a band with at times 5 melodic
instruments (Bass, Guitar, 2xKeys, Violin) could have such intricate
counterpoint arrangements that work. For me this is best heard on a
song such as "Paradox", especially the instrumental section.
Kansas were also able to give that huge wall of symphonic sound.
Take a listen to the intros of "Lamplight Symphony", "Incomudro",or
"Magnum Opus" and that wall of sound hits you square in the face. For
me, it rivals what Yes has with their song "Awaken" (the section after
"Shall we now bid farewell farewell").
If odd time signatures are your thing, Kansas also had plenty of
this. Listening to any of the songs mentioned above should confirm
that they knew their rhythms and how to play them.
As far as individual musicianship is concerned, they might not have
been the prodigy players as Wakeman, Emerson, Howe or Bruford, but
they could still hold their own. Richard Williams' guitar solo in "On
the Otherside" and "Angels Have Fallen" are as soulful as David
Gilmore. Kerry Livgren's Key solos in "Magnum Opus" are fantastic.
Drummer Phil Ehart manipulates through the time changes and mood
changes of "The Pinnacle" with ease. Vocalist Steve Walsh has a clear
distinctive sound that's able to cut through with lyrical clarity.
Bassist Dave Hope is able to play both, the driving solid bottom end,
and the melodic delicate lines which best suit the song. Lastly, we
have Robby Steinhardt whose violin lines and solos helped make Kansas
unique in the world of rock. (Much like the way Ian Andersons flute
make Jethro Tull unique).
So there you have it. My take and opinion of one of the most
under-rated Prog rock bands. I asked around for other opinions, and
here are some of the answers I got...
Wilton Said... is a singer, songwriter, performer, and editor.
Very nice Wilton, I agree 100 per cent!!!!! Masque, Song, and the
debut are amazing and listen weekly still!!!! The live album is
really good as well, I love all the albums, some feel they r way to
poppy or whatever to be considered in the prog realm, I disagree
respectfully with that, Kansas was pretty complex stuff for the time
and what was popular, essential stuff, the remasters r wonderful!!!!!
Pauc - member of the "Progressive Music Society" Yahoo Group.
Underrated, perhaps. Certainly undeserving of some of the negative
comments thrown their way. Kansas were amazingly talented musicians
and composers and they left us with 3 completely solid complex works,
at least 2 more that were mostly amazing works, and lots of fond
concert memories. The recent archival release and subsequent
reformation of Proto-Kaw suggests that their progressive roots were
well established before they took the name Kansas.
For my money, Masque is about as good a prog album as you will find
anywhere. It also has that uniquely "in your face" heaviness
associated with midwestern US rock that I find incredibly appealing.
Other examples would include Kopperfield, Bullangus, Easter Island,
Their run from the debut up to at least Point of Know Return should
firmly establish that they do belong in the upper echelon of prog.
And we can forgive a "Dust in the Wind" when we can opt instead for
Song for America or Mysteries and Mayhem/The Pinnacle.
We should also take notice of some bands that were influenced by
Kansas and their contributions to the prog world. Although more
strongly influenced by Gentle Giant, and to a lesser degree King
Crimson, Kansas certainly had a hand in the formation of the Texas
band Prism, who would be later known as Hands - which is certainly one
of the undiscovered masterpieces of American progressive rock.
Shooting Star has some modest success in their early days when they
were the next best thing to Kansas.
Bob - member of the "Progressive Music Society" Yahoo Group.
I would certainly consider Kansas prog, at least in the first Steve
Walsh era. Prog infused with a slab of old fashioned corn-belt
boogie. As someone actively involved in trying to play original prog
in the late 70s, Kansas was a source of inspiration along with
Starcastle, Ethos and Fireballet. The fact that they were on a major
label, and punched through to commercial success kept the carrot of
hope dangled in front of me, and many a wannabe progger like me. And
even the more overtly commercial hit tunes always had something to
say. Oh for commercial rock of this caliber today...
Steven - member of the "Progressive Music Society" Yahoo Group.
This has come up in other groups, Said, and it is a very good point.
Kansas certainly were an excellent band. I loved their work, but it
was Steve Hackett's first solo album that featured Kansas folks on it
that made me take note of them as a progressive force. And they
I can't help but if it was the fact that they had top twenty hits
that accounted for them being ignored by the prog community. In some
ways, the prog community seems to frown upon the very success they so
desperately struggle for! The fact is there are some artists that
have achieved success but are not considered 'prog' by the prog
community. For instance, U2. Certainly not every bit of music they
ever did would be considered prog, but I can't help but feel that had
'Unforgettable Fire' been released by a major prog band, it would have
been hailed as a work of high accomplishment. Yet their success seems
to work against them, and to mention them with the higher powers in
prog would be tantamount to sacrilege.
There are many great new prog bands appearing on the scene these
days. One of them is Porcupine Tree. Now, it may be that they are on
the verge of some very successful days ahead of them. Will we hear
the tire dold refrain of 'they sold out' about them if they do?
The fact is, Kansas were a great band, and deserved all the success
they had, and more! The fact that they achieved a certain amount of
success should not stand against them as an established prog band.
There's almost a level of hypocrisy in the whole thing; we work hard
to develop success for our
favourite bands, but when they actually achieve that success, we turn
from them. The truth is, the prog community suffers from a very false
ideal; we seem to feel that the unsuccessful, struggling artist makes
better music than the one who can devote all of their time on their
craft. For myself, nothing could make me happier than to see the
artists Canprog supports rolling in wealth. Certainly they deserve
to. If talent alone were the prime consideration, artists like Steve
Cochrane and Wilton Said... would be among the elite aritsts in the
world. But they're not, so we have these treasures all to ourselves.
For now, anyway. We can only hope the world wakes up to the
incredible music they can make.
Doug LeBlanc. Moderator of "Canprog" Yahoo group.