Music / Kansas

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"Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more
"
Kansas, "Carry On Wayward Son"

Kansas is an American Progressive Rock band from Topeka, Kansas. The band formed in 1973 and still tours in North America and Europe, though the lineup has changed over the years. They debuted with a Self-Titled Album in 1974 and have since become quite popular, becoming a staple on classic rock radio and having their songs played in movies and TV shows.

Supernatural and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy fans most likely recognize them as the creators of "Carry On Wayward Son", which is easily one of their most popular songs along with "Point of Know Return" and "Dust in the Wind" (all three of which may be priced slightly higher on digital distribution channels). Other well-known songs from the band include "People of the South Wind", "Play the Game Tonight", "Fight Fire With Fire", and "All I Wanted".

Kansas provides examples of:

  • Badass Boast: "Lightning's Hand" is a very threatening one from the point of view of a lightning god.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Said word for word in the third verse of "Sparks of the Tempest".
  • Canon Discontinuity: Very few "Best Of" compilations acknowledge anything past Drastic Measures. Some don't acknowledge the Elefante era either. This is also reflected in their live shows. Aside from "Icarus II" and songs from the recent The Prelude Implicit, you'd be hard pressed to hear them play any song later than "Fight Fire With Fire".
  • Christian Rock: Some of the members became born-again Christians in the early '80s and the music from then on reflects it. Even before then, however, there were some songs that had Christian themes. "Devil Game" is a good example.
  • Cover Version: "Bringing It Back"note  on Kansas, "T.O. Witcher"note  on In The Spirit Of Things, "Eleanor Rigby"note  on Always Never The Same
  • Darker and Edgier: Freaks of Nature. While the album does have a few songs that don't fit this trope, as a whole it's the darkest album that Kansas has ever produced. Special mention goes to the song "Black Fathom 4", which is the closest that the band has ever come to Progressive Metal, featuring a rather epic guitar/violin duet capped off with a Metal Scream by Steve Walsh. Notably, this is the first studio album with a violin since Vinyl Confessions, and the violin adds to, rather than detracts from, the album's mood.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: "Child of Innocence"
    I will comfort you, take your hand and see you through, I will take you through the door
  • Eagleland: The title "Song for America" suggests Flavor 1, but the lyrics are full-on Flavor 2 at times:
    Ravage, plunder, see no wonder, rape and kill and tear asunder/Chop the forests, plow it under...
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Expect this at least Once An Album. An example is the organ solo at the beginning of "Away from You".
  • Epic Rocking: As expected from a prog-rock band. Examples include the fittingly titled "Magnum Opus," as well as "Song for America", "Journey from Mariabronn", and, last and longest, "Incomudro—Hymn To The Atman".
  • Eyepatch of Power: Rich Williams wears one. Behold.
  • Fun with Homophones: "Point of Know Return", There's Know Place like Home.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The final verse of "Death of Mother Nature Suite"; pollution is the side effect of all of man's wondrous advances in technology. The last two lines (as sung by Robby) are "The ignorance of man will reach an end/And now she's gonna die", the last line being the same line that ends the first two verses. However, if the lyrics as printed in the album are Word of God, then Kerry Livgren originally ended the verse with "Cause now we're gonna die".
  • Grief Song: The moody acoustic guitars and lyrics waxing about the inevitability of death certainly make "Dust in the Wind" this. Subverted by the fact that one of the guitarists had simply come up with a fingerpicking exercise on his guitar, his wife complimented him on the melody and asked what the lyrics were, and the guitarist wrote up some lyrics to fit the tune. Nobody's grandmother or puppy died in the making of this song.
    Kerry Livgren: I thank God that it became so popular, but it was just a fingerpicking exercise.
  • Hard Rock: When they aren't playing Progressive Rock or symphonic rock music.
  • Instrumentals: "The Spider" from The Point of Know Return, "Musicatto" from Power, "T.O. Witcher" from In The Spirit Of Things, "Section 60" from The Prelude Implicit
  • Limited Lyrics Song: "Magnum Opus" is over 8 minutes, with just this one verse surrounded by instrumental work:
    This foolish game, is still the same
    The notes go flying off in the air
    And don't you believe it's true,
    The music is all for you
    It's really all we've got to share
    Cause rocking and rolling,
    It's only howling at the Moon.
    It's only howling at the Moon.
  • Long Runner: Hit the 40th anniversary of their first album in 2014, and they were still playing songs from it.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Carry On Wayward Son".
  • Mad Eye: Rich Williams. Sort of. He lost his eye as a child and wore a prosthetic eye early on in his career, which gives him a "lazy eye" look in some of the band's early photos (incidentally, the crazy looking man on the back of Audio-Visions with the Mad Eye is likely him). Eventually he got tired of fooling with the prosthetic eye and simply wore an eyepatch. See Eyepatch of Power above.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Ranges from 1 ("Dust in the Wind") to 5 ("Carry On Wayward Son", "Portrait (He Knew)") with even a few 6's ("Lightning's Hand" comes to mind). "Icarus II" gets up to 7, with two heavy metal sections.
  • Mood Whiplash: The second half of The Point of Know Return goes from regal yet tragic ("Closet Chronicles") to dark and intimidating ("Lightning's Hand") to soft and philosophical ("Dust in the Wind") to serious and cynical ("Sparks of the Tempest") to light and heartbreaking ("Nobody's Home") to experiential and introspective ("Hopelessly Human").
  • New Sound Album: Vinyl Confessions was more arena rock oriented and lacked the violin and progressive elements from previous albums. It was also the band's first album without Steve Walsh.
    • Power and In The Spirit Of Things mix the classic Kansas sound with 80's pop-rock.
  • Noodle Incident: Robby Steinhardt's first departure from the band was on very bad terms, and to this day no one except those involved knows the exact reason. The story seems to vary depending on who you talk to, though Phil Ehart has suggested that addictions may have had a part in it. Notably, the breakup was so bad that it would be over a decade before Robby and Kerry Livgren spoke to each other again (Robby was notably absent from the 1990 European tour that brought the original members back together).
  • Not Christian Rock: Some of Kerry Livgren's work before his spiritual rebirth follow this, most notably "Incomudro—Hymn to the Atman" from Song for America.
  • Orchestral Bombing: Present in every song on the symphonic rock albums Works in Progress and Always Never the Same. Very prevalent in "The Wall" on the former and "Miracles out of Nowhere" on the latter (not counting the non-rock sections, such as the preamble to "Song for America" or the orchestral, instrumental medley of Kansas songs), with both originally violin-heavy songs having even more violin usage plus other classical instruments.
  • Power Ballad: They have a lot of these. Notable examples include "Dust in the Wind", "Hold On", " Play the Game Tonight", "The Wall", and "All I Wanted".
  • Progressive Rock: Perhaps most famous example to come from the United States.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Attempted no less than four times with varying degrees of success.
    • The first time happened in 1985 after the band dissolved following the release of Drastic Measures when Steve Walsh and Phil Ehart met and talked about reforming the band. The only original member they could get to join, however, was Rich Williams.
    • The second time happened in 1990, when a German promoter arranged for all the original members of Kansas to come together for a reunion tour. All of them except Robby Steinhardt came on for the tour, though Dave Hope left immediately following the tour and Kerry Livgren left soon after.
    • The third time happened in 2000 with the release of Somewhere to Elsewhere, which featured all of the original members of the band (and Billy Greer). Kerry Livgren and Dave Hope didn't stay with the band, however.
    • The fourth time was scheduled to happen on March 1st, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the band's 40th anniversary. All of the original band members were scheduled to perform and it would have been the first time in over thirty years that the original band would perform together on stage. However, Robby Steinhardt suffered a heart attack days before the concert and was unable to participate.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure / Royals Who Actually Do Something: The king in "Closet Chronicles" was one before becoming a recluse. Word of God says the song is about Howard Hughes.
    Once proud and full of passion, he fought the cause of man.
    Many people loved his courage, many followed his command.
    He changed the old into the new, and the course of things to come.
    And then one day they noticed, he was gone.
  • Refrain from Assuming: Its "Carry On Wayward Son", not "Carry On My Wayward Son".
  • Self-Titled Album: Their debut album.
  • Sequel Song: "Carry On Wayward Son" was written as one to "The Pinnacle".
    • "Mysteries and Mayhem" and "The Pinnacle" were once one song before they were split apart, meaning that "Mysteries and Mayhem" leads to "The Pinnacle" leads to "Carry On Wayward Son"
      • This video does a good job of recombining "Mysteries and Mayhem" and "The Pinnacle" into one song.
  • Single Stanza Song: "Can I Tell You", gutsily released as their first single and the first song on their first album.
  • Something Completely Different: "Works in Progress" and "Always Never the Same" are much, much more symphonic than most of their work. (Normally, their style limits it to a few instruments not associated with non-progressive rock such as a violin, saxophone, or flute.)
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Billy Greer on "Look at the Time" on Somewhere to Elsewhere and "Summer" on The Prelude Implicit, his only lead vocals in studio (see Vocal Tag Team). Robby Steinhardt has stepped away from the band on a full time basis, but does show up to sing and play violin on a couple of shows per tour.
  • Uncommon Time: Many of their songs, and they can get ridiculous at times. "The Spider", for example, begins in 11/16 and goes just about everywhere from there.
    • There's also "Miracles out of Nowhere", which follows a seemingly random pattern consisting of 4/4, 7/8, 9/8, 11/8, and 13/8 in the intro. There's also an instrumental break halfway through the song that is in 7/8 before a reprise of the intro.
    • "Point of Know Return" changes time signatures liberally. Verses have 4+4+4+3/4 while choruses have 7+7+4+4/4. There are some measures of straight 4/4 before the choruses.
  • Updated Re-release: Some of their albums have been remastered over the years. Although The Best of Kansas cut "Perfect Lover", later releases added a bit more in return.
    • Rereleases of their live album Two for the Show have added almost twice the songs to the album.
  • Vocal Evolution: Steve Walsh's voice deteriorated significantly over the years, largely due to never having a vocal coach, to the point that many casual fans who listen to their newer work often question if it's the same vocalist. It only got worse over the years, too, and may have been a contributing factor to his retirement in 2014.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Happens on most of their albums. Steve Walsh has sung the majority of the band's output (including all of the hits when he was a member of the band), but Robby Steinhardt has had a role in many of their other well-known songs, such as "Down the Road" and "Miracles out of Nowhere". Vinyl Confessions was an Elefante/Steinhardt tag team as well. With Steve Walsh retiring and Robby Steinhardt amicably splitting from the band, the team is now carried by Walsh's replacement Ronnie Platt and bassist Billy Greer, usually singing Steve and Robby's parts respectively (except, of course, those concerts where Robby comes back for a couple of songs).
  • Weird Moon: The man on the front of the cover of Monolith has an enormous moon in the sky behind him.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The name of the song "Point of Know Return" and the album There's Know Place like Home intentionally misspell "no".

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Music/Kansas