KANSAS has never been a massive name in Finland, and I’ve only heard ”Carry On Wayward Son” on the radio once or twice. However, the band’s prog rock associations and seeing the documentary Miracles Out of Nowhere earlier this year convinced me to check their first five albums out. While the quality of these classic records is a little inconsistent to my ears, the band’s overall sound, with strong vocal harmonies, rocking songs, and creative use of violin is appealing. After the 1970s, KANSAS‘ popularity slowly declined, and the band hasn’t released new material since 2000. However, that changes with “The Prelude Implicit,” which is the first KANSAS studio release to feature new members Ronnie Platt (lead vocals, keyboards), David Manion (keyboards), and Zak Rizvi (guitar).
The album opener, “With This Heart,” is a good choice for first single, as it includes a nice piano melody and showcases Ronnie Platt‘s vocal range pretty well. The tone of his voice is slightly reminiscent of his predecessor Steve Walsh‘s, which makes him a good replacement. A lot of the material is very vocal-oriented, but the middle section of the 8-minute track “The Voyage of Eight Eighteen” and the violin-driven instrumental closer “Section 60” put the focus on the instruments. My personal highlights on the album are the acoustic and melancholic ballad “Refugee,” the hard-hitting “Camouflage,” and the upbeat “Summer.” Unfortunately, most of the remaining tunes blend into each other and feel formulaic because of the similar radio-friendly mid-tempo rock vibe, making it a little difficult to remember which melody comes from which song. “Visibility Zero” and “Rhythm in the Spirit” in particular are like musical siblings with their hard rock riffing, and while “The Unsung Heroes” is more melodic in vein of “With this Heart,” it’s got a similar tempo to the aforementioned two songs, which makes the first half of the album rather samey and homogeneous. Things get more interesting in the latter half, but the shaky start hurts the album’s pacing and it never completely recovers from it.
Due to the modern production, which includes the occasional use of electronic drum loops, and the absence of both Steve Walsh and Kerry Livgren, who used to be the band’s main songwriters back in the day, it’s hard to compare “The Prelude Implicit” to the classic KANSAS material. You can definitely hear some of the band’s original spirit in the music, and the musicianship, performances, and production are all rock solid, but the most crucial aspect of all – the material – is rather sterile and lukewarm at times. A few more energetic and up-tempo tunes would give the album balance and shake off the feeling that the band is holding back and playing it safe. To be fair, the remaining founding members, Rich Williams (lead guitar) and Phil Ehart (drums) aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore, and very few artists – RUSH being the only exception I can think of – release remarkable material over 40 years into their careers, but I’m sure that musicians of this caliber are capable of more adventurous and exciting music, especially when there are clear glimpses of it on this album. Who knows, maybe “The Prelude Implicit” works better for the longtime KANSAS listeners who have been around to experience all the different phases of the band’s career, and perhaps they’ll see it as a great comeback and return to form?
Written by Wille Karttunen
- With This Heart
- Visibility Zero
- The Unsung Heroes
- Rhythm in the Spirit
- The Voyage of Eight Eighteen
- Crowded Isolation
- Section 60
Ronnie Platt – vocals
Rich Williams – guitars
Zak Rizvi – guitars
David Manion – piano, keyboards, organ
David Ragsdale – violin
Billy Greer – bass
Phil Ehart – drums
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