Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Greatest Progressive Rock Singer.

Steve Walsh.

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Kansas were a pretty unattractive band.

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Walsh isn't bad looking. But they all wore these ridiculous clothes (part of the fun of watching them from the 70s: 10 worse than the Brady Bunch) when they performed (they look more normal now). In the late 70s/early 80s Walsh had this "70s gym teacher" (or maybe it was "70s gay porn star") theme going on. Although I can't find it, there is one picture of Walsh that I have seen circa 1979 where he actually performs on stage wearing a weight-lifting belt.

Anyway, I thought some people might get a kick out of these pictures.

If you are more interested in seeing some live performances: Here are a few songs of Kansas at their best [Journey from Mariabronn and The Pinnacle]. Songs like these, in my opinion, put them on an equal level with Yes, Genesis, Rush and ELP. If you don't like the "art rock" genre, then you are not likely to dig these videos (but you might enjoy watching them for the bad outfits).

Kansas weren't as virtuostic as ELP or even Yes (as Kerry Livgren put it: "Nobody's a virtuoso, but nobody's a slouch). They probably sound more like Genesis. But as these videos show, there is much more to the band than Carry On Wayward Son and Dust in the Wind (but if you like those two songs, you can see videos for them here and here).

Steve Walsh's voice is absolutely haunting in those two videos, gives me the chills every time I hear him. It's a shame that he's lost a great deal of his tone. He had, up until recently a terrible drug and alcohol problem (used to perform wasted all the time), and literally screamed a lot of the tone out of his voice (compare the way he sounded in those 70s videos to how he sounded in the early 90s in this cover of John Lennon's "So this is Christmas"). The good news is, he has rehabilated his voice and sounds better than he did in the early 90s. The bad news is, he doesn't sound like he did in the 70s and never will. Listen here to see what he sounds like now.

Interestingly, Steve Walsh actually joined Yes in the 1980s when Jon Anderson left (his voice had already changed). It didn't work out. Although he didn't give a reason why, I speculate that the members of Yes expected Walsh to sound like he did in the 1970s, and when he didn't they didn't want him to replace Anderson who has a really high and smooth voice.

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