Tuesday, September 04, 2007

History of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal: Kansas

Kansas is an American progressive/hard rock band who became a popular arena rock group in the late 1970s, with hit singles such as "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind." Kansas has remained a classic rock radio staple and a popular touring act in North America and Europe.

Dave Hope (bass), Phil Ehart (drums), and Kerry Livgren (guitar, and later keyboards) formed the progressive rock group named Kansas in 1970 in their hometown of Topeka, Kansas, along with vocalist Lynn Meredith from Manhattan, Kansas, keyboardist Don Montre, keyboardist Dan Wright, and saxophonist Larry Baker.

In the meantime, Ehart and Hope formed a group called White Clover with Robby Steinhardt (violin, vocals), Steve Walsh (keyboards, vocals) and Rich Williams (guitar). They changed their name to Kansas when they recruited Livgren from the second Kansas group, which then folded.[1] The third line-up of the band, called Kansas III, received a record deal with Don Kirshner's eponymous label, and they recorded the first Kansas album shortly thereafter.

The debut album, Kansas (#174), which was released in 1974, showcased Kansas' signature mix of guitars, keyboards, vocals, and Steinhardt's violin style, which merged American-style boogie-rock with complex, symphonic arrangements and changing time signatures. Their sound bore the marks of late-1960s, early 1970s progressive rock, such as Genesis and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Promotion by Kirshner and touring behind the debut album and its two follow ups, Song for America (#57) and Masque (#70), increased awareness of Kansas'.

On the strength of the major hit single "Carry On Wayward Son" (#11) the band's fourth album, Leftoverture, released in 1976, on which Steinhardt added viola and Walsh added vibraphone to their work, (#5), was a hit which garnered a lot of airplay on the burgeoning AOR radio format. The follow up Point of Know Return (#4), released in 1977, featured the title track (#28) and "Dust in the Wind" (#6), both hit singles.

Both albums had unique album covers, with Leftoverture featuring a DaVinci-like old man on the cover, and Point of Know Return depicting a ship teetering over the edge of the world. Both albums have sold over 4 million copies in the USA alone. Both Carry On Wayward Son and Dust in the Wind were certified Gold singles, selling over one million units each.

Kansas self-produced their follow-up to Point Of Know Return. The 1979 album Monolith (#10) featured lyrics influenced by The Urantia Book and Native American themes. "Kansas" itself is a toponym derived from the Kansa tribe, whose name is widely believed to mean "People of the South Wind."[2] The starkly expressive album cover depicts Plains Indians in traditional dress and space suit helmets living in a settlement under the ruins of highway overpasses. While the album produced a top 40 single in "People of the South Wind" (#23), both the band and the label were disappointed in Monolith's failure to produce sales or radio airplay close to its two predecessors.

Kansas has continued to tour and release albums with various lineups.

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