WELCOME BACK TO KANSAS
With revamped lineup and first new album in 16 years, classic band catches its second wind
B Y D E W E Y G U R A L L
As the 21st century unfolded, Kansas found itself on turf familiar to most veteran acts. Even band members began referring to their “touring years,” code for the creative wellspring running dry.
From a fan perspective, things commenced favorably via 2000 release
Somewhere to Elsewhere—reuniting the band with original chief songwriter Kerry Livgren, who had left in 1983 after 13 years.
Touted as a “reunion album” (all five original members contributed), it really wasn’t, however. “That was not a true Kansas album in the sense that Kerry wasn’t in the band anymore,” says guitarist Rich Williams, today one of the group’s two remaining original members along with drummer Phil Ehart. “We were just slugging it out on the road. Those were kind of dark days. Classic rock wasn’t making much of a comeback yet and Kerry mentioned he had some songs that might be fun to record. So we thought, why not?
“I like the record, but [vocalist/keyboardist] Steve Walsh was working on a solo album, so he wasn’t there. He mailed his parts in from Atlanta. Dave Hope [original bassist] came up, put bass on a song, went home. Billy Greer [bassist since 1985] came in and cut the rest, then left. So it was Phil, me and Kerry flying people in and out, assembling the record. It has some great material on it but it wasn’t, in the truest sense, a band working together on songs and making an album. It was a different way of
Kansas’s most recent prior studio album of all-new material was 1995’s Freaks of Nature, also far from exemplary, Rich admits. “I loved the sound of that record—tremendous playing—but I’m not too crazy about the material. It’s got some really good passages, but overall it just kind of misses on a lot of levels.”
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