Kansas


From Topeka, Kansas, these guys are probably my all-time favorite rock band, and their music never sounds dated.  Kansas is still around with four out of six original members, and they still sound great.


White Clover I
  • Phil Ehart - drums - b. 1951, Kansas.
  • Dave Hope - bass - b. October 7, 1949, Kansas; formerly with Plain Jane.
  • Steve Walsh - keyboards/synthesizers/vocals - b. 1951, St. Joseph, Missouri.

Kansas I (1970)
Kansas II (1971 - 1973)
  • Kerry Livgren - guitar
  • Lynn Meredith - vocals
  • Dan Wright - keyboards/guitar
  • Don Montre - keyboards/sax/flute
  • Zeke Low - drums - formerly in Saratoga (with Kerry Livgren).
  • Rod Mikinski - bass
  • John Bolton - sax/flute
Phil Ehart and Dave Hope reform White Clover II (with Steve Walsh).

White Clover II (1973)
  • Phil Ehart - drums
  • Dave Hope - bass
  • Steve Walsh - keyboards/synthesizers/vocals
  • Rich Williams - guitar - b. 1951, Kansas; formerly in Plain Jane (with Dave Hope).
  • Robby Steinhardt - violin/vocals - b. 1951, Mississippi.

White Clover III (1973 - 1974)
  • Phil Ehart - drums
  • Dave Hope - bass
  • Steve Walsh - keyboards/synthesizers/vocals
  • Rich Williams - guitar
  • Robby Steinhardt - violin/vocals
  • Kerry Livgren - guitar/keyboards/synthesizers
Personnel stays the same, but name changes to Kansas.

Kansas III(1974 - 1981)
  • Phil Ehart - drums
  • Dave Hope - bass
  • Steve Walsh - keyboards/synthesizers/vocals
  • Rich Williams - guitar
  • Robby Steinhardt - violin/vocals
  • Kerry Livgren - guitar/keyboards/synthesizers
Albums:
  1. "Kansas" (1974) - Singles: "Can I Tell You", "Lonely Wind" - My first exposure to Kansas was two songs from the first album performed live in 1974 on the King Biscuit Flower Hour ("Belexes" and "Journey from Mariabronn")...I was totally blown away that these guys could produce this music live and I've been a fan ever since.
  2. "Song for America" (1975) - Single: "Song for America" - The anthemic title track is probably the song I'd point to if I wanted someone to hear what Kansas was all about in a single song.  An all-time classic.
  3. "Masque" (1975) - Single: "It Takes A Woman's Love" - Except for the poppish-sounding single this is a lot more somber album than the first two, and it's probably my favorite Kansas album.  Contains what is probably my favorite Kansas tune(s): "Mysteries and Mayhem" / "The Pinnacle".
  4. "Leftoverture" (1976) - Singles: "Carry On Wayward Son", "What's On My Mind" - This is when most folks discovered Kansas, and it's one of their most commercially accessible albums.  Contains the epic "Magnum Opus", pieces of which are still in the band's live show.  Great stuff.
  5. "Point of Know Return" (1977) - Singles: "Point of Know Return", "Dust in the Wind" - More great stuff, although not quite as strong overall as "Leftoverture".
  6. "Two for the Show" (1978) - Single: "Lonely Wind" - This live album was originally release as a 2-record set on vinyl, and later as a single CD (minus "Closet Chronicles", a song about Howard Hughes).  If you want to hear how Kansas in their prime sounded live, this is it.
  7. "Monolith" (1979) - Singles: "People of the South Wind", "Reason to Be" - I like this album, even though it didn't do as well as some of their previous stuff.  Check out Ehart's drumming on "A Glimpse of Home".
  8. "Audio-Visions" (1980) - Singles: "Hold On", "Got To Rock On" - This is the last Kansas album with the original core members.  Overall not their best, but still contains some great songs.
Steve Walsh leaves and forms Streets.

Kansas IV (1981 - 1983)
  • Phil Ehart - drums
  • Dave Hope - bass
  • Rich Williams - guitar
  • Robby Steinhardt - violin/vocals
  • Kerry Livgren - guitar/keyboards/synthesizers
  • John Elefante - vocals/keyboards - b. 1958, Levittown, New York.
Albums:
  1. "Vinyl Confessions" (1982) - Single: "Play the Game Tonight" - The first of the Kansas Chrisian-rock albums, this was a different sounding Kansas than the original version, due in part to the loss of distinctive vocal stylist Steve Walsh, the addition of John Elefante, and a tendancy to use less violin.  There are some real good cuts here, but overall these are not my favorites.
  2. "Drastic Measures" (1983) - Single: "Fight Fire With Fire" - Continues the trend of down-playing the importance of violin in the band, resulting in loss of their signature sound.  As with "Vinyl Confessions", there are some good cuts here, but I like their earlier stuff much better.
Kansas disbands.  Kerry Livgren and Dave Hope form Christian-rock band AD (with Warren Ham, formerly with Bloodrock). Robby Steinhardt later forms Steinhardt-Moon.

Kansas V (1986 - 1988) (reformed) Albums:
  1. "Power" (1986) - Single: "All I Wanted" - Kansas meets The Dixie Dregs...with the addition of guitar-whiz Steve Morse, this band really cooks.  This is a leaner Kansas without the signature violin sound, so it's more of a straight-ahead rock album.  There's plenty of good stuff here.  If you're a Kansas or Steve Morse fan, you don't want to be without this.
  2. "In the Spirit of Things" (1988) - Continues the ground blazed in "Power", although the songs (for me) are less memorable.  Still, an enjoyable album.
  3. "King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Kansas" (1998)
Steve Morse reforms The Steve Morse Band, and later joins Deep Purple.

Kansas VI (1989 - 1997)
  • Phil Ehart - drums
  • Steve Walsh - keyboards/synthesizers/vocals
  • Rich Williams - guitar
  • Billy Greer - bass/vocals
  • Greg Robert - keyboards
  • David Ragsdale - violin/guitar
Albums:
  1. "Live at the Whisky" (1992) - With their signature violin sound back in the form of multi-instrumentalist David Ragsdale, Kansas is able to effectively recreate their classic songs live.  Although Walsh's vocals are beginning to sound a bit strained, this is a solid live album containing most of the band's hits and some of their better album material.  "Live at the Whiskey" was also released on VHS-video, and is a sampling of a powerful show (if you can find it); Kerry Livgren guests on "Dust in the Wind" and "Carry On Wayward Son".
  2. "Freaks of Nature" (1995) - Probably the hardest-rocking Kansas album to date, with some of the best songwriting since their late-'70s era.  It takes a little getting used to, but gets better with each play.  I like it.
David Ragsdale leaves to pursue solo career.  Greg Robert leaves to spend more time with his family; he's currently selling real estate in Atlanta, Georgia.

Kansas VII (1997 - 2000)
  • Phil Ehart - drums
  • Steve Walsh - keyboards/synthesizers/vocals
  • Rich Williams - guitar
  • Billy Greer - bass/vocals
  • Robby Steinhardt - violin/vocals
Album:
  1. "Always Never the Same" (with The London Symphony Orchestra) (1998) - The return of Robby Steinhardt on violin and helping with the vocals makes Kansas sound closer to their original sound than they have in years.  This album contains interesting versions of some of their best songs, and is a good, nostalgic album representing a strong effort for a band that still rocks.

Kansas VIII (2000)
  • Phil Ehart - drums
  • Steve Walsh - keyboards/synthesizers/vocals
  • Rich Williams - guitar
  • Billy Greer - bass/vocals
  • Robby Steinhardt - violin/vocals
  • Kerry Livgren - guitar/keyboards/synthesizers
Album:
  1. "Somewhere To Elsewhere" (2000) - Featuring the return of Kerry Livgren (at least in the studio), and wrote all songs on this album.  Great music...and it sounds like it could have been written just after "Point of Know Return".  The band is as tight as ever, the songs are all strong, and this CD is equal to anything the band has ever recorded.  Nice job, guys!

Kansas IX (2000 - Present)
  • Phil Ehart - drums
  • Steve Walsh - keyboards/synthesizers/vocals
  • Rich Williams - guitar
  • Billy Greer - bass/vocals
  • Robby Steinhardt - violin/vocals
Album:
  1. "Device Voice Drum" (2-CDs) (2002) - Live set recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, in June 2002 for the Kansas DVD production of the same name. Great recording of a a very nice selection of Kansas tunes spanning their entire history featuring the band on a very good night.  Highly recommended.  Kansas fans should not be without this.

Steinhardt-Moon:
  1. "Steinhardt-Moon" (1996)

Streets:
  1. "1st"
  2. "Crimes in Mind"
  3. "King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Streets" (1997)

Steve Walsh solo:
  1. "Schemer Dreamer" (1980)

David Ragsdale solo:
  1. "David and Goliath" (1997)

Compilations:
  1. "The Best of Kansas" (1984) - In my opinion, a misnomer...most of Kansas' best songs were not necessarily hit singles.  This album has one previously unreleased song from the John Elefante era, and also contains the two hits from that era, "Play the Game Tonight" and "Fight Fire With Fire".  This is OK if you aren't much of a Kansas fan.
  2. "The Kansas Box Set" (1994) - Contains all of their hits and most of their best material from their classic period (1974-1981).  There are a couple of previously unreleased live versions of a couple of cuts, plus a new Livgren composition, "Wheels".  Highly recommended.
  3. "The Ultimate Kansas" (2-CDs) (2002)


DVDs and Videos:
  1. "Device Voice Drum" (2002) - DVD - Buy this...it is the only DVD release for Kansas, and has a great selection of songs played by the band on a very good night.  Fans of Kansas can't go wrong.


Hartman Recommends:
Of course, I'll tell you to buy everything Kansas ever put out.  If you don't want to do this but like their music, you simply can't go wrong with "The Kansas Box Set".  It has most of their strongest material plus a few extras and is a good cross-section of the classic part of their career.  It also includes a nice booklet with a history of the band and lots of photos.  You'll love it!


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Last Revised:  November 1, 2002
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Gary S. Hartman.  All rights reserved.