1976 - September: Kansas “Leftoverture"

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Manage episode 297274106 series 2327470
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Leftoverture is the fourth and most commercially successful studio album by Kansas. Formed out of a complex merger between a band called Saratoga and a prog rock outfit called White Clover, Kansas takes its name from the band's state of origin, as their start was in Topeka. The band consisted of Steve Walsh (keyboards, vibraphone, vocals), Kerry Livgren (electric guitar and keyboards), Robby Steinhardt (violin, viola, vocals), Rich Williams (electric and acoustic guitars), Dave Hope (bass), and Phil Ehart (drums).

Kansas had achieved some success with their first three albums, but had failed to have a hit single. As the record company began applying pressure to the band to secure a hit, Steve Walsh began to experience writers block. Much of the songwriting for Leftoverture fell to guitarist Kerry Livgren, who wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album. On the last rehearsal day, he contributed one more song, "Carry On Wayward Son," which would become the groups first hit.

The album itself continues a progressive streak established by prior albums through pieces like the multi-part, 8+ minute closing track, "Magnum Opus," but brings a more accessible commercial appeal through songs like "The Wall" and "Carry On Wayward Son." This album and the follow-up "Point of Know Return" would push Kansas into national prominence for arena tours and on the Album-Oriented Rock scene.

Creative differences would eventually drive several members to split from the group in the 80's, but the band would reform by 1985 and continues to tour as of 2021.

Carry On Wayward Son
The hook-laden opening track features Kerry Livgren on lead vocals. Livgren wrote the track and considered this song a continuation of the song "The Pinnacle" from their previous album.

The Wall
Not released as a single, this introspective track is a deep cut both from a commercial and spiritual standpoint. Livgren was in the process of becoming a Christian at the time, and while not written with an overtly Christian message you sense the searching nature regardless.

What's On My Mind
This jam features violinist Robby Steinhardt on vocals, and has a theme of a break-up. The singer is recounting the path of the relationship. "Pardon me, my feelings are showing. I'm only saying what's on my mind."

Miracles Out of Nowhere
This song has Steinhardt and Livgren swapping off on lyrics. There is a mystical, fantasy feel that hearkens to their prog-rock roots. "Here I am, I'm sure to see a sign. All my life, I knew that it was mine. It's always here, it's always there, it's just love and miracles out of nowhere." And you can't go wrong ending the song with a gong!

ENTERTAINMENT TRACK:

Theme from the television series “Charlie's Angels"
"Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy." And Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith, and Farrah Fawcett-Majors would grace posters around the US for some time.

STAFF PICKS:

Smokin' by Boston
Bruce launches the staff picks with a rocking number never released as a single. Nevertheless, it is well known from Boston's debut album, as is virtually every track on that masterpiece. Brad Delp and Tom Scholz co-wrote this song as part of the "Mothers' Milk" demos from 1973.

Rock 'n' Rollers by Angel
Wayne's tune is off the eponymously named first album by Angel. It is a straightforward rock song about attending a rock concert. Gene Simmons of Kiss discovered the band who dressed all in white. The Angel logo was made as an ambigram, so it looked the same either right side up or upside down.

Roxy Roller by Nick Guilder and Time Machine
Rob's glam rock staff pick is from Nick Guilder, better known for "Hot Child in the City." Four versions of this song came out in 1976, this one and three from three different lead singers of the band Sweeny Todd, one of which was a teenager named Bryan Adams.

Don't Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult
Brian's pick is famous as the song with more cowbell! Buck Dharma received a lot of criticism for this song from people who believed it encouraged suicide. In reality it was about not fearing death - not living because of being anxious about the end of life. The spirit carries on.

INSTRUMENTAL TRACK:

Magnum Opus by Kansas
This double dipping instrumental is the first movement of an 8-minute epic off Leftoverture. It's subtitle is "Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat." We'll just leave it there.

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