Quite a few years ago, back in the 80s, in rock discos and heavy metal clubs in many cities, after the DJ gave a good dose of powerful rock to blow off steam and headbange on the dance floor with AC/DC, Rainbow, Iron Maiden etc It was customary that for about 40 minutes the music was much calmer and ballads were played to slow dance with your girl or your boy. And the list was almost always the same: “Still Lovin’You” by the Scorpions, “Hotel California” by the Eagles, “Is This Love” by Whitesnake and of course… “Dust In The Wind” by Kansas.
Perhaps due to the immense popularity that this ballad achieved both in Spain and in practically all the countries in which it was released, the image of this excellent group may have been somewhat distorted and the musical perception that one has of them does not match to reality. Kansas was always so much more than “Dust In The Wind.” Together with the Eagles, Styx and other somewhat lesser known bands, such as the early Reo Speedwagon, in the 70s they formed a highly peculiar and personal style of solid, although nuanced and melodic American hard rock, close to what would later become called AOR, but with a very important influence of symphonic and progressive rock, touches of country and an experimental touch that was incorporated in the case of Kansas, the violin. I remember that my dear friend and partner in the trenches in music journalism Jordi Tardá once defined them for me as a cross between Genesis, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull.
Although their fundamental success was experienced in America, throughout the 70s they also enjoyed great popularity in Europe and albums such as ‘Song For America’ (1975), the most progressive and experimental of their entire career, ‘Leftoverture’ (1976) or ‘Point Of Know Return’ (1977) reached high positions in the charts of the old continent in their day.
In fact, to this day, Kansas have released 16 studio albums and five live albums, having officially sold more than 30 million copies of their records worldwide. They have earned eight gold records, three six-times platinum albums (‘Leftoverture’, ‘Point of Know Return’ and ‘Best of Kansas’), one platinum live album (‘Two for the Show’), and their single “ Carry On Wayward Son” was certified quadruple platinum, while “Dust In The Wind” went triple platinum. It’s no surprise then that “Carry On Wayward Son” continues to be one of the top five most played songs on classic rock stations, and that “Dust In the Wind” has been played on US radio more than three million times. .
Kansas will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its formation in 2023 and for this reason, in this last ‘Papeles del Rock’ of 2022, the group gives themselves and gives us an early birthday present, one of the most attractive releases of these last weeks of 2022 and first of the new year: the German label Inside Out Music, which in recent years has been doing important work to recover many great bands from the 70s, releases the compilation album ‘Another Fork In The Road: 50 Years Of Kansas ‘, a collection of the group’s career-spanning songs handpicked from across their discography, as well as a new version of “Can I Tell You” originally recorded and released on their 1974 debut, which the band’s current lineup has re-recorded giving a complete perspective of its long and continuous history. “The song “Can I Tell You” may not have been our biggest “hit”, if we talk about charts and sales figures, but it is one of the most important songs in the band’s career,” said the guitarist. Richard Williams. “’Can I Tell You’ was the first song on the demo that we sent to Don Kirshner and it was on that track that we landed our first record deal. Re-recording it for this compilation, 50 years later, seemed like a good way to close the circle”.
Phil Ehart, drummer and founding member of the band, comments: “We’re truly honored by the commitment Inside Out Music has made to the release of ‘Another Fork in the Road.’ This is so much more than another greatest hits album. ‘Another Fork in the Road’ is an in-depth representation of our group’s ever-growing and evolving musical journey since we first got together to rehearse 50 years ago.”
‘Another Fork In The Road: 50 Years Of Kansas’ is released in a triple CD digipack format that includes extensive text by journalist Jeff Wagner, as well as rarely seen memorabilia and archival footage, all overseen by Phil Ehart himself. . Among what I would personally highlight from the entire compilation as a whole, in addition to the best-known singles, more contemporary pieces that are certainly less popular, but of undeniable musical value and that precisely for this reason I want to recommend. “The Absence Of Presence”, the song that gave the title to the band’s last album of 2020 together with the forceful “Throwing Mountains”, which except for the violin could have been perfectly recorded by the most heavy metal Rush, are justified in my opinion. and well-deserved presence on the tracklisting. I also want to call attention to two tracks from one of the most overlooked albums by more contemporary Kansas, 1995’s ‘Freaks of Nature’: the power ballad “Under The Knife”, and “Desperate Times”, with the ubiquitous violin. by Ragsdale matching Ehart’s drums.
The second disc is based mainly on songs from the early 80s taken from albums such as ‘Audio-Visions’ from 1980 and ‘Vinyl Confessions’ from 1982, the album in which John Elefante replaced the late Steve Walsh as singer, as well as like the always vindicable “On The Other Side”, “Angels Have Fallen” and “How My Soul Cries Out For You”, from his 1979 ‘Monolith’. Some live cuts from ‘Two For The Show’ open the third album , among which we find the inevitable “Carry On Wayward Son”, “Portrait (He Knew)” and “Sparks Of The Tempest”, as well as “Miracles Out Of Nowhere” and “Magnum Opus” from the hits ‘Leftoverture’ and ‘ Point Of Know Return’ along with songs from the earliest Kansas: “Child Of Innocence” from ‘Masque’, as well as “Down The Road”, “Song For America” and “The Devil Game” from ‘Song for America’, to end with a trio from the band’s self-titled debut album, including “Death Of Mother Nature,” the rocking “Belexes” and “Journey From Mariabronn.”
It has also been confirmed that to support the release of this work, they will begin an extensive tour of the United States next spring with a line-up that currently includes original drummer Phil Ehart, bassist and vocalist Billy Greer, keyboardists and also singers Ronnie Platt and Tom Brislin, violinist and guitarist David Ragsdale, and original guitarist Richard Williams. That this tour reaches Spanish stages is our request to the wise men for 2023. As well as continuing to share good music with all of you on these pages. Happy 2023.