I’ve just listened to two Kansas albums back to back; first, “The Prelude Implicit” from last year (2016) and then from 1974 their debut album, “Kansas”. Listening to the two albums you’d hardly know that 42 years separates them. Both are full of verve and energy and also full of all that wonderful stuff which makes Prog, Prog; mulit-part arrangements, engaging melodies, anthemic themes and musical virtuosity to name but a few elements.
Keep Calm and…
I first encountered the band Kansas back in 1978 when the single “Carry On Wayward Son” made a brief appearance in the UK charts, it didn’t get very high in the charts, peaking at No. 51 but it did get some radio play and, once heard, never forgotten. The inevitable quest for albums then ensued, and the seminal works “Leftoverture” and “Point Of Know Return” (along with others) were soon acquired, albeit from second-hand record shops but I still have those vinyl LPs and even though I have in the intervening years also acquired them on CD, the vinyl still gets spun from time to time.
Kansas is in my opinion one of the “essential” Prog bands from the 1970s, their style is 70s Prog to a T, lengthy pieces of a complex nature with lots of keyboard work, exactly the sort of thing that I like so since first hearing Wayward Son Kansas has always been on my radar and indeed in my playlist. From a “Tragic Prelude” (if you know your Kansas you’ll know what I’m talking about but see below) to “The Prelude Implicit”, surely one of the most lauded Progressive Rock bands ever.
A short while ago when I was finalising my plans to visit Poland for a two day Prog Rock Festival in the city of Toruń (Festiwal Rocka Progresywnego w Toruniu) I realised that Kansas, as part of their European tour, would be playing in Poland while I was still in the country. Not only that but after the festival I was planning to visit Poznań and Poznań was exactly where Kansas were going to be playing. Of course, I bought a ticket.
So just what is the US government worried about?
Such then is the pity that Kansas have decided to cancel the European leg of their current tour citing “safety and security warnings issued by the United States government and various U.S. law enforcement agencies concerning Americans traveling in Europe this summer.”
Hmmm… what about the 740 million or more people who live in Europe and don’t have the option of not going there because it might be dangerous? And let’s face it, when terrorists strike they don’t just pick out the Americans. The concern here is Americans in Europe under threat but let us not forget the September 11th 2001 terror attack (9/11) on US soil; 2,605 US citizens we killed in that attack but also: 67 from the UK, 47 from the Dominican Republic, 41 from India, 28 from South Korea, 24 from Canada, 24 from Japan… the list goes on to include 55 more countries.
The following is from a widely publicised report by the American broadcaster CNN:
“Using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we found that from 2001 to 2014, 440,095 people died by firearms on US soil. (2014 was, at the time of publication, the most recent year for which the CDC had data for deaths by firearms.) This data covered all manners of death, including homicide, accident and suicide.
According to the US State Department, the number of US citizens killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2001 to 2014 was 369.”
So just what is the US government worried about that they advise their citizens not to travel in Europe? Looking at the figures it seems that any US citizens would be a lot safer in Europe.
Let’s go back to “Kansas”, the eponymous 1974 debut album, Side 1, track 1. A song called “Can I Tell You”:
Can I tell you something?
Got to tell you one thing.
If you expect the freedom
That you say is yours,
Prove that you deserve it.
Help us to preserve it,
Or being free will just be
Words and nothing more.
Kansas, surely you must see that if you simply give up because of some perceived threat of terror then the terrorists have already won. We preserve freedom by carrying on in the face of these threats. By going about our everyday lives we prove that we deserve our freedom.
An interesting if ironic fact about that first album is the cover artwork; the picture on the cover is a section from a mural called “Tragic Prelude“ which is in the Kansas State Capitol building in Topeka. Measuring some 3.5 m tall and 9.5 m across it was painted in the late 1930s by John Steuart Curry and the work depicts as its central character one John Brown, a fervent supporter of the abolition of slavery, that’s him with his arms held out, rifle in one hand, bible in the other.
Brown was disillusioned with the organised abolitionist movement, and is recorded as saying, “These men are all talk. What we need is action, action!” He went on to organise armed raids against slave owners, setting the slaves free and killing the owners. Brown’s intentions were to arm the slaves he had set free and with increased forces go on to liberate even more slaves. Many of the freed slaves however thought better of getting involved in armed rebellion.
In 1859, Brown led a raid on a federal armoury at Harpers Ferry intending liberate the slaves there and arm them with weapons from the arsenal, but the attack failed and many of Brown’s men were captured or killed. Brown himself was tried for treason against what was then the Commonwealth of Virginia, found guilty and hanged.
OK, this potted history has only scratched the surface but the point is that even now in the United States while some see John Brown as a hero, others see him as nothing more than a terrorist.