STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Since its release 40 years ago, the album “Leftoverture” by the progressive rock group Kansas has sold more than 6 million copies.
Guitarist Rich Williams (the one with the eye patch) framed in a phone interview what a critical, high-stakes release it was for the band. “We had made three records with (manager, producer and music publisher) Don Kirshner (by 1976). He was our benefactor; he was paying for everything. We were young men, almost boys, when we recorded it. There was a lot of pressure on that album,” he said.
So indebted were they to Kirshner that “when that album went gold, we broke even.”
Featuring fan favorites, such as “The Wall,” “Miracles Out Of Nowhere” and “What’s On My Mind,” plus envelope-pushing longer compositions like “Magnum Opus” and “Cheyenne Anthem,” what contributed most to “Leftoverture” becoming Kansas’ breakthrough was the opening track and hit single (and enduring classic rock radio staple) “Carry On Wayward Son.” “It’s job security because of that,” commented Williams, who is one of just two current members of Kansas that were in the band during the “Leftoverture” sessions.
When asked about the various cover versions that have been done of “Carry On Wayward Son,” Williams mentioned The Oak Ridge Boys’ as one of the most memorable, as well as renditions by marching bands. “That has to be quite a workout for the tuba players,” he smiled.
To celebrate “Leftoverture’s” 40th anniversary, for the first time in its history, the band will be performing the album in its entirety. It’ll be the first time ever that Kansas has presented the Steve Walsh/Kerry Livgren song “Questions of My Childhood” on stage.
The tour begins in Pittsburgh Sept. 30, then the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia Oct. 1. “Pennsylvania has probably been our best state, always,” said Williams, recalling that college radio airplay of their earliest albums in Pittsburgh fueled what he described as a Beatlemania-type reception when the Topeka, Kan., band first arrived in the Steel City.
Williams is taking a break from finalizing a song called “The Voyage of Eight Eighteen” from a forthcoming album, “The Prelude Implicit.” With a Sept. 23 release date, it’s Kansas’ first new music in 16 years.
Williams said the two-hour show will also feature half of “The Prelude Implicit,” and noted that it’s available at www.kansasband.com. He confessed that his mind wanders during “Dust in the Wind” because he’s played it so many times, but that will not be the case with the new works, which he described as musically challenging.
The guitarist also promised some deep cuts dating back to the band’s 1974 self-titled debut album. “I look at the set list, and it’s like ‘wow!,’” he said.
Kansas lead singer Ronnie Platt, who joined in 2014 after Walsh retired, said in a press release: “This is going to be really special for both the band and our fans. It has been really wild recording ‘The Prelude Implicit.’ We are anxious to perform some of the songs for live audiences. To be able to do that while also performing ‘Leftoverture’ in its entirety, and more; this is going to be a blast! Who knows, we may even have some more twists added in!”