In 2016, Kansas released a new album—the first by the band in 16 years. That album, The Prelude Impact, received generally good reviews and made the Billboard Top 200 chart.
Today, the group continues to consistently tour, even though original lead guitarist Kerry Livgren and lead vocalist Steve Walsh are no longer in the lineup. Kansas will be stopping by Morongo Casino Resort Spa on Friday, June 1.
I talked by phone with bassist Billy Greer—a member of Kansas since 1985—while he was on a tour stop in Iowa. He discussed The Prelude Impact.
“I think, in essence, we captured the old progressive rock of Kansas,” Greer said. “We signed with a German record label called Inside Out, and they’re known as a progressive rock label. They gave us a bunch of freedom and didn’t put any restraints on us, like, ‘Hey, we need two or three songs that might be hit records.’ They just wanted a Kansas album, and that’s what we gave them.”
Greer said the recording sessions offered the band a clean slate.
“It was more exciting, and everyone was into it,” Greer said. “We had new blood and new faces in the band. Kerry had always been the main writer, and Steve was also one of the main writers as far as lyrics and music. Steve retired and wasn’t interested in trying to record new material. We finally got Ronnie (Platt) as our new lead singer, and David (Manion) as our new keyboard player; our new guitarist, Zak (Rizvi), who was producing the record, brought in a bunch of material he had written for this band 15 to 20 years ago when he was trying to pitch songs to the band, which we ended up recording (on The Prelude Impact).”
Greer said that it’s frustrating, as a classic rock band, to try to get new material used for commercials, television shows and soundtracks.
“They’re usually only interested in ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ or ‘Dust in the Wind,’” Greer said, citing two Kansas classics. “They want the old the hits that have been played 5 million times that everyone is familiar with. Everything has changed. The music business has changed; the radio business has changed; and the concert business has changed. You have to be creative in how you market yourself and how you get people to listen to your new stuff and know it’s available.”
Those aforementioned two best-known Kansas songs could not have been bigger hits.
“If you put all of the times that ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Dust in the Wind’ played on a tape loop, they’d be played nonstop for 5 years—they’ve been played that much,” he said. “That was about four or five years ago when Kerry received those awards from the Recording Industry Association of America for that.”
The lyrics in many of Kansas’ older recordings reference a lot of subjects related to philosophy and religion. However, that is not the case with the newer material.
“Kerry was the main lyricist of the band,” Greer said. “Kerry is, without question, a very spiritual person, and when he left the band (the first time), he and our old bassist, Dave Hope, put together a band called AD, which was a Christian rock band. Some of those religious lyrics are kind of masked where they can be construed to mean other things, but they’re there, and people know that, and we don’t try to hide that. The lyrics we write now are not so much as spiritual as when Kerry was the lyricist.”
There are plans for another new album, Greer said.
“We do have a new album in the works, and we’re already behind on it,” he said. “We were supposed to be in the studio back in January and February, but we had been on tour for our 40th anniversary of our album Leftoverture, and it’s something that was larger than anything we had ever done before.
“That was 2 1/2 hours of nonstop entertainment without a bathroom break,” Greer added with a laugh.
Kansas will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, June 1, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $39 to $59. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.