Kansas: Steve Walsh (vocals, keyboards); Kerry Livgren (guitar, vocals); Rich Williams (guitar); Robbie Steinhardt (violin, keyboards, vocals); Dave Hope (bass); Phil Ehart (drums).
Like their contemporaries Styx and (early) Journey, Kansas combined the influence of British prog bands Yes and King Crimson with a more straightforward pop-rock sensibility. Those seemingly disparate elements were never more sharply juxtaposed for Kansas than on their self-titled 1974 debut. The album leads off with two short, punchy rockers ("Can I Tell You," "Bringing It Back") that could have come off a James Gang album. The violin-and-piano-led power ballad ("Lonely Wind") is the transition point, after which Kansas leaps fully into the prog-rock breach. It's hard to imagine more prog-sounding titles than "Journey from Mariabronn" and "Death of Mother Nature Suite," and the tracks live up to their names, with daunting time signatures, dazzling solos, complex counterpoint, and flashy synth, guitar, and violin riffs darting to and fro like the American Midwest's answer to THICK AS A BRICK. The two sides of Kansas's musical personality would become more integrated over time, but it's interesting to hear them in this early stage of development.