Once upon a time, Kansas was one of my favorite rock groups. I don’t dare speculate about how many times I’ve listened to “Carry on Wayward Son” or “Magnum Opus” back in the group’s heyday. The material from that version of Kansas will always occupy a prominent spot in my collection.
These days it’s kind of hard to figure out what the deal is with the group that is performing as Kansas, particularly since all of them except for one have formed a new group called Native Window and are planning the release of a new album and embark on a tour, where, they will be opening for Kansas. Put another way: Basically they will be opening for themselves.
Native Window is comprised of drummer Phil Ehart, guitarist Richard Williams, Billy Greer who will take on bass and vocal duties, and violinist David Ragsdale. Vocalist Steve Walsh is the only current member of Kansas missing from the new group, perhaps because his inclusion would make an already unusual situation very unusual.
Seriously though, there’s no official word regarding the exclusion of Walsh, but according to Ehart, Walsh “has been very supportive of Native Window since it’s inception. He has wished us the best since day one.” So apparently, there’s no jealousy on Walsh’s part about his band mates putting something together on the side,” says Ehart.
Another strange twist to this story surfaced a few weeks ago when guitarist Richard Williams made some statements suggesting that fans probably didn’t care if Kansas ever produced any new material. Presumably, fans are expected to care about this new group called Native Window – a group that might as well be called “Almost Kansas.” Go figure.
Native Window’s self-titled debut album is expected to be released on June 23rd, followed by the tour, which means they will be the opening act for the Kansas tour. This may be the first time in rock history that a group has come this close to opening for themselves.
I suppose they deserve some credit for pulling double duty during the tour, which is admirable, especially considering that these guys are not youngsters anymore. Maybe Walsh is the smartest one of the group, figuring why work so hard now after a successful career and so much time spent on the road?
You can hear some of Native Window’s material on their MySpace page. After hearing a bit of it myself, perhaps they should indeed consider calling themselves “Almost Kansas.” It’s not that I think the music is terrible. It seems OK, but it is not hard to hear the “spirit” of Kansas in those tracks.
Richard Williams is probably hoping Kansas fans actually do have some interest in new Kansas material right about now, or at least he should be.
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