Vintage Guitar - June 2018 - open - 28
Kansas' Team Player
nleashing pent-up creativity is a gratifying experience for a band, as Kansas
guitarist Richard Williams can attest. The
band known for the prog-/hard-rock hybrid
exemplified by "Carry On Wayward Son"
and "Dust in the Wind" recently released
Leftoverture Live & Beyond, which included
the 1976 classic Leftoverture performed in its
entirety along with material from 2016's The
Original members Williams and drummer Phil Ehart today lead a rejuvenated
lineup that includes longtime bassist Billy
Greer, violinist David Ragsdale along with
three new members - vocalist Ronnie Platt,
keyboardist David Manion, and guitarist Zak
Rizvi. Their collective excitement is palpable
on both Leftoverture Live & Beyond and The
Leftoverture Live & Beyond is 19 songs
recorded at 12 shows in early 2017.
"The only song we'd never played live from
Leftoverture was 'Questions of My Childhood.'
And we didn't re-record anything or go back
in and do overdubs," Williams said.
"Traditionally, we've done a lot of rearrangements of Kansas songs - sometimes for
good, sometimes for not so good. With this
new lineup, we've gone back as much as we
can to the way the songs were written and
recorded. We're trying to lean more on the
Before they started work on The Prelude
Implicit, the band toured, and it went so
well, he said, "...the restraints were off of us,
musically." At first, doubts nagged about their
ability to write new songs because former vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh and guitarist/
keyboardist Kerry Livgren had always been
Kansas' primary songwriters; Somewhere to
Elsewhere was Livgren's material with the
original members performing, but Williams
said it was "an assembly-line thing" with parts
Richard Williams: Mark Schierholz.
"It's not the same as sitting in a room
with a bunch of guys, developing ideas.
That ebb and f low is really where some of
our best stuff came from - not just from
one person but by the combination and
effort of everybody. We didn't have that on
Somewhere to Elsewhere. That's what we had
on The Prelude Implicit again," he said. "We
made the album for us as much as we made
it for anything else. We didn't know what it
was going to be going into it. We had never
done it this way before. We wanted to be
quintessentially Kansas from the artwork to
the lyrics to the music to the variety within
the music - very well-thought-out to be as
Kansas as we possibly can."
Williams' main concern has always been
about what's best for Kansas as a whole.
"I'm a team player. There's no Richard
Williams solo album. I've never had a desire
to do a solo album," he said. "In my opinion,
Kansas has always been the sum of its parts,
not so much the talent of any one person. I've
always just been very comfortable in the role
of a team player."
His attitude applies to working with other
guitarists in Kansas, whether it's been Livgren,
Steve Morse, or Rizvi.
"In our early days, we were doing an interview and they asked Kerry, 'Who's your
biggest influence?' He said, 'Probably Rich,
because we play together all the time.' We
were working on equipment together and
guitars and guitar tones and different things.
You're not in competition, but constantly
working together. That's all very positive,"
For more than 30 years, Williams' main
electric has been a PRS Custom from '84 or
'85. Early in Kansas, he played a Gibson L-6S
that's still part of his collection of about 30
guitars. He also plays a Martin D-28 based
on the one he used on "Dust in the Wind."
The uncertainty nipping at Kansas' heels in
recent years has been replaced with forwardthinking confidence; pending is a tour during
which they'll perform 1977's Point of Know
Return in its entirety, and they're set to record
a new studio album.
"The quality of the shows and the performance level of the band is at an all-time
high," said Williams. "The energy level, the
crowd enjoyment - everything - is greater
than it has been since the early days. It feels
much like it did on the second, third, and
fourth albums," said Williams. "It's that type
of focused energy. It's been a tremendous
experience. None of us are looking back,
remembering when. Our best days are in
front of us." - Bret Adams