Phil Ehart - drums; John Elefante - keyboards, vocals; Dave Hope - bass; Kerry Livgren - guitar, keyboards; Robbie Steinhardt - violin, vocals; Rich Williams - guitar
Kansas made the transformation from weighty prog rock band to all-out pop/rock hit makers in the mid-1970s, when they issued a series of FM rock staples that included "Carry On My Wayward Son," "Dust In The Wind," "The Point Of No Return" and others. In the beginning, the six-man band had a creative brain trust consisting mainly of vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh and guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren. Together and on their own, they contributed the lion's share of material and overall direction of the band. By the late 1970s, a few years after the band hit its commercial peak with the aforementioned songs, the Walsh/Livgren relationship had become the source of most of the band's tension. Walsh had wanted to move in a more straight ahead rock 'n' roll direction, and Livgren had become a devout born-again Christian. Lyrically, his always-spiritual songs had now become clearly Christian odes.
So in 1981, after the band had completed the tour for their seventh album, Audio Visions, Walsh departed to form his own band, Streets. The rest of Kansas auditioned over 200 singer/keyboard players and settled on a 24-year-old unknown named John Elefante. Like Livgren, Elefante was a born again Christian, and that lifestyle was reflected in his contributions to the band. Still, Vinyl Confessions, the first Kansas LP without Walsh, spawned a Top 20 hit, "Play The Game Tonight," although it was the last chart success the band would see.
"We were surprised at the ease at which John fit in," said Livgren in a 1982 interview. "When we heard him sing we knew he was right as a voice for the band. We had no inkling at that point that he would walk into the band with a wealth of material that fit us like a kid glove." "If there was any band I had wanted to be in at that time it was Kansas," said Elefante. "They don't compromise; they are great musicians."
The group also enlisted ace producer Ken Scott to produce their new album. Scott was one of the hottest producers in the field during the '70s, and was responsible for the studio successes of David Bowie, Supertramp, Jeff Beck, Devo and many others. The band enjoyed a two-year run with Elefante, but ran out of steam when their next album, 1983's Drastic Measures, was a commercial flop. The band split shortly thereafter, when Livgren decided to focus on his solo Christian music career, eventually leaving rock music altogether to become a minister. As with most classic rock bands, nostalgia came a-callin' and they re-formed in 1986, with Steve Walsh but not Kerry Livgren. In 2000, however, the original lineup including both Walsh and Livgren reunited for a one-off album and tour.
This recording was made on the Vinyl Confessions tour, in Omaha, Nebraska, for the King Biscuit Flower Hour. Elefante is not only at his best when singing the Kansas material from that album, but he does a remarkable job presenting the old hits that Walsh had first established as classics.
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