Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kansas: Dust In The Wind

In 1977, I had tickets to see Kansas and Styx in concert in Huntington, WV – but for reasons I don’t remember, that show was cancelled. While I got to see Styx in concert in Charleston, WV in 1981, I never had the opportunity to see Kansas live. Their best selling single, “Dust in the Wind,” has become a signature tune for the group from the Sunflower State.

It fits our week long look at the violin as band member Robbie Steinhardt provides an excellent solo that is underscored by a viola track which he also plays. A viola is tuned a fifth lower than a violin and an octave higher than a ‘cello at C-G-D-A. The violin is tuned G-D-A-E.

Violin and big brother Viola

The song also is our TV Thursday cut as it was used in a Subaru Tribeca commercial from a few years back. The guitar part on “Dust in the Wind” features two acoustic guitars playing in unison. One is tuned to standard tuning while the other is “high strung” like the octave strings of a 12-string guitar. This tuning configuration has been also called “Nashville Tuning” as it was used in many sessions recorded in Music City, USA.

I keep a guitar tuned this way, but it has been years since I’ve used it for anything. Perhaps, I get it out and fool with it soon. It really adds a nice touch to recordings. On Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” LP he used a standard six string on one channel and a “high strung” acoustic on the other channel. With headphones, it was like you were in the middle of a 12-string guitar. It was a very nice effect.

But we are here to discuss the violin aren’t we? Our feature violin tune charted at #6 and was Kansas’ only top ten single. Its LP, “Point of Know Return,” was their highest charting album at #4, but not the band’s best seller. While “Point of Know Return” was certified quadruple platinum, “Leftoverture” (that peaked at #5) was quintuple platinum. Former Kansas member Kerry Livgren wrote this tune.

Alternate Live Version

This live version from a few years ago is an “unplugged” version that features a string quartet. The string arrangement is varied from the original Robbie Steinhart viola/violin collaboration. Robbie plays an electric violin that appears to be processed via MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) with a synthesizer.

The string quartet has the typical arrangement of first and second violins, viola, and ‘cello. I like the pizzicato effect they use on “just a drop of water” line. It is a nice alternative, but I am still partial to the original.

Subaru Tribeca Commercial

Kansas Extra – Live & Studio

Here’s a cut that introduced me to Kansas back in 1974. It was during summer break and I was back home and caught Kansas on a rerun of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. The original episode ran in February, but I apparently missed that show. I was blown away by the whole experience. The song “Can I Tell You” comes from their self-titled debut album and features the fiddle of Robbie Steinhardt.

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