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Kansas - The Prelude Implicit CD (album) cover

THE PRELUDE IMPLICIT

Kansas

Symphonic Prog


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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars `Comeback' works or even modern album releases from vintage progressive rock acts are a risky business. Often there's no fire or inspiration left in the group, the material has become too watered down and straight-forward to be accepted by the prog-snobs, or worst of all, the new works are simply dismissed or ignored altogether by all but the die-hard faithful. So it's completely unexpected that a fresh line-up of symphonic rockers Kansas, with founding and long-serving members Phil Ehart (drums), Billy Greer (bass), Rich Williams (guitars) and violinist David Ragsdale backed up by an amazing new vocalist Ronnie Platt and other skilled musicians have delivered a perfectly vital and very inspired new album in 2016, `The Prelude Implicit', and it's jammed full beginning to end with everything that Kansas fans love about the band, with not a filler track in sight.

Perhaps because Kansas already had the AOR sound present in their music right from their early Seventies debut that it's no surprise to find that element here, but it means the group avoid the accusations that befall so many older prog-rock groups of `selling out' or now being `too commercial'. Impeccably performed melodic rock/pop tunes with the warmest of soaring vocal harmonies, colourful instrumental displays and fleeting moments of prog grandiosity are the order of the day here, and it's actually quite comparable and not too far removed from the recent Ted Leonard-fronted Spock's Beard albums! In many ways, `Prelude' almost picks up right where 1977's `Point of Know Return' left off, so fans of the classic first five LP's of the band should feel pretty comfortable here.

Opener `With This Heart' is equally strong and gentle AOR with a comforting chorus, but if the Kansas faithful aren't immediately sold once Platt's voice starts gliding effortlessly with a melody that is instantly identifiable as the classic band, then the first sprinklings of grand piano, sturdy drumming and dignified violin should seal the deal nicely! The biting lyric of the even better `Visibility Zero' is well delivered by the dramatic guitars and endless washes of keyboardist David Manion's Hammond organ, with a soaring chorus that has been kissed to perfection by the gods of pop, and `The Unsung Heroes' is laid-back and jazzy with the first hint of a more powerful extended instrumental burst in the middle. But it's the six-minute `Rhythm in the Spirit' that delivers the first more overtly `proggy' moment, a mix of constant heavy grooving riffs, lightly programmed beats, careful orchestral-like synths and scorching hot Hammond with wailing twin-guitar runs (delivered by both Williams and new member Zak Rizvi), and there's cheeky call-backs in the chorus to themes from the title track off Kansas' 1975 classic `Song for America' that will have fans beaming (plus a surprise last-minute Mellotron and bass coda is very welcome!).

`Refugee' is a reflective ballad with soft acoustic guitars and Ragsdale's subdued weeping violin (don't forget, David's also pulled prog-duties on Spock's Beard and Glass Hammer discs amongst plenty of others!), and a deeply haunting ambient outro is very surprising to hear on a Kansas album. `The Voyage of Eight Eighteen' is the longest piece at over eight minutes and will surely become a firm favourite for fans of the group, holding the lengthiest instrumental stretches with all the musicians getting standout soloing moments (and Billy Greer's loud and upfront bass-playing throughout is a real highlight), and there's plenty of Deep Purple-like heavy riffing alongside thick organ on `Camouflage'.

`Summer' is a snappy and joyful up-tempo blast of unashamedly poppy rock energy, and the melancholic but ultimately lyrically hopeful `Crowded Isolation' is constantly driven by intimidating brooding drums, with an instrumental passage in the middle of eerie spacey atmosphere, flighty violin and bubbling synth soloing almost briefly calling to mind the Kansas-like 1977 `Black Noise' debut album from Canadian proggers FM. Finally, the fully instrumental `Section 60' (referring to the final resting place for fallen United States military personnel that served in Iraq and Afghanistan) is suitably dramatic and proud, full of noble piano and heroic guitar/violin themes in the typically powerful classic Kansas tradition - a `Song for America' indeed.

Not simply some bunch of `tired all men', Kansas successfully achieve here with `The Prelude Implicit' what many oldies prog acts fail to do - release all-original new material that doesn't fall short of the quality and energy of their defining works and offer an album that can stand proudly on its own strong and modern merits. Devoted Kansas fans will likely be very happy with what they find here (as well as very surprised!), and hopefully this begins a whole new phase of inspiration for this rejuvenated version of the group.

Four stars (and bonus points for the wordy and proudly proggy album title!)

Report this review (#1616944)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars In my opinion, KANSAS is America's most important progressive rock band, and some of their releases are among my all-time favorites. Of course, after a 16-year wait, I was eager to listen to the combo's new album, "The Prelude Implicit", even though I knew that neither Kerry Livgren nor Steve Walsh participated in its creation. What I can tell you from the outset is that I liked the recording, albeit not as much as its predecessor, "Somewhere to Elsewhere", which, to my mind, is perfect in every respect. About one third of the songs on "The Prelude Implicit" have a more modern sound than the others, and while the instrumental arrangements are interesting everywhere on the album, on some of the tracks (such as the first two, for instance) those are rather short, unlike the vocals-based ones, which, in their turn, are rather straightforward there, the overall picture reminding me of a cross between "Power" and "Freaks of Nature", though with the latter outing mainly due to the presence of violin. Almost all of the other tracks have a classic Kansas sound, referring to the band's work in the second half of the '70s. Ronnie Plant is a very good vocalist, besides which his voice is very similar to Steve's, as also is his way of singing in particular. Most of the time I had the impression that I was listening to a logical continuation of the style presented on "Point of Know Return", as if "The Prelude Implicit", with its (mostly) grandiose musical palette, equally rich in elements of classic symphonic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal, is a follow-up to the band's 1977 masterpiece. Only within the movements that are driven by the Hammond, the music sounds slightly different than classic Kansas. I don't know whether it's Ronnie Plant or (another newcomer, keyboardist) David Manion, who plays it, but all the organ solos on the album are quite strongly reminiscent of those in Deep Purple. The acoustic ballad 'Refugee' isn't as strikingly impressive as 'Dust in the Wind', but it doesn't matter much, because it has a lot of its own merits (and there is no contradiction in what I said). All in all, I'm happy to say that the band didn't let my expectations down with this - their third - 'comeback' album.
Report this review (#1617069)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Ok, I´ve got to admit: I´m impressed. Very impressed. Kansas`s first studio album after 16 years was not something I was waiting eagerly. After all, I could not think of this band without Steve Walsh. Secondly, it seemed that the band really needed at least one Kerry Livgren song on the album to make it worthwhile. And now reduced to only two original members (guitarist Rich Williams and the indefatigable drummer Phil Ehart), none of them much of songwriters themselves, how could the "new" Kansas be of ay relevance, or even interest?

Well, thanks to some correct choices of new recruits, the band really resurrected from the ashes (the Phoenix on the cover is no coincidence). Not only they chose the right people to play, they also had some strong and convincing material to release. First think you´ll probably notice is how Ronnie Platt did the seemly impossible task of replacing Steve Walsh: the guy not only has a very similar voice but has also his emotional interpretation. Not a small feat for such an iconic and unique singer. He even plays the keyboards! The fact that the band decided to hire a second guitarist (Zak Rizvi, also a songwriter and producer) and keyboards player (David Manion) made the band sound stronger and closer to their classic line up.

Of course nothing of this would never had worked out without good new compositions. And the band delivered the good! The first three tracks were very good, but did not really move me, maybe because they were short ones. They were certainly strong enough to justify their inclusions but the "real" classic Kansas comes in full power from Rhythm In The Spirit onward. That song has all the right elements you´d expect from the good old days: prog stuff with great guitar, violin and keys interplay. The rhythm section is also on top form and added to the powerful delivering of Platt´s voice it becomes one of those tracks that would sit comfortably along with any other of their 70´s stuff. Better still, the following tunes were as good as this one! Sometimes in songs like the 8 minute+ The Voyage of Eight Eighteen you´ll feel like you´re hearing something lifted direct from Leftoverture or Mask. The semi-acoustic Refugee is another highlight, but really, The Prelude Implicit is one of those CDs you want to listen to again and again, without skipping a single track. Everything here takes you back to their glory days without really copying themselves: the music is different, yet so familiar and refreshing you cannot help but loving every minute of it.

I would not go as far as another reviewer that says this CD is their best since Point... but I must say that it´s very hard to find anything after that one that has the same balance between tracks, that sounds as good as a whole. Certainly it´s Kansas best in decades.

If you´re a fan of the band you can go no wrong with this album. It´s a real resurrection of a great group. I only hope it won´t take them so much time to bring us with such brilliant record. It was well worth the wait, though. Welcome back, my friends!

Rating: 4,5 stars. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#1617304)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Albums thrown together this late in a band's career are always a tricky proposition. This project was being completed without any assistance from Kerry Livgren. I think we'd all seen the track record when he's not involved (see "Freak of Nature"). So I was prepared for this album to be somewhere between Ho-Hum and Mailed-In. I am here to say that I was completely wrong. This album has many fresh moments and is often inspired. Kansas fans will be extraordinarily pleased and the general rank and file prog fan will enjoy this album as well. Is it on par with "Leftoverture" or "Song For America"? Nope. Is it the best offering they've thrown down since POKR? I think so, and I am an unapologetic fan of "Somewhere to Elsewhere" and "Vinyl Confessions". Newly found lead singer Ronnie Platt is Steve Walsh without the tight pant or huge ego. They've added a second guitarist for the first time since Steve Morse left them and the addition is impressive. The solo passages on this record are well executed. The vocal harmonies are crisp and fun, and the violin bits are the best David Ragsdale has given us. And while I'm at it, Billy Greer is underrated as a bassist. All in all, a solid effort from a bunch of geezer I'd written off. Well done
Report this review (#1618394)
Posted Tuesday, October 4, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars I just bought this album and feel that I will be listening to it, at least parts of it, for quite a while. There's a lot of musical depth here, reminiscent of the early days of Kansas. It's the first album with Ronnie Platt on lead vocals. His voice is clear as a bell, reaching the high notes with relative ease, sounding some combination of the early Walsh but with a softer feel, not the same stridency that Walsh sometimes got. The music is pretty solid throughout, and at its best, at least compares with such songs as Hopelessly Human or Closet Chronicles, thought not really coming close to the greatness that is Song for America or Magnum Opus.

With This Heart -- didn't really like this one at first, but it has grown on me with its uplifting feeling and lyrics

Visibility Zero -- lyrics seem to be about our current Congress! The music here is uninspiring until the lead violin comes in. Those instrumental interludes pop up a lot in the middle of songs, elevating them above the ordinary, as in ...

The Unsung Heroes -- a rather maudlin song is saved by the dual lead violin/guitar interlude. I can't help but think of Peyton Manning yelling, "Cut! That! Meat!"

Rhythm in the Spirit -- the first attempt at a real prog song. This one doesn't know whether it wants to be a heavy metal or a Kansas song, alternating between dissonant guitar crunching and a violin passage reminiscent of the end of Song for America. The slow coda seems like a missed opportunity -- this could have been extended and developed into a dramatic ending, a whole other section, or even a separate song.

Refugee -- what a beautiful and haunting song about the ongoing tragedy of human sex trafficking. The acoustic guitar intro sets the tone right away.

The Voyage of Eight Eighteen -- the longest song and a great one -- there's a lot of musical richness here, what with the guitar now playing an often somewhat dissonant counterpoint, rather than a harmony, to the violin, and unexpected sonorities popping up here and there. I feel like I'll probably discover more to it with each relisten. Lyrically, it continues the theme of Rhythm in the Spirit, reading as the yearning in all of us for our better natures, for the light of understanding to sweep away the darkness of superstition and fear, for evolution.

Camouflage -- this one gets darker, with the lead guitar and organ carrying the instrumental passages, appropriate for the lyrics which point at someone who is about to be exposed.

Summer -- this song brings in something from the early days that's missing in most of the album. Tempo. Velocity. Pace. Fast enough to get you up and dancing, in the tradition of such boogie-woogie rockers as Can I Tell You, Down the Road, Carry On, Wayward Son (at least the coda), Point of Know Return, Lightning's Hand, or even Stay out of Trouble. You can almost feel the older band members shedding about four decades for this one.

Crowded Isolation -- another standout song. Is that a Moog I here in the instrumental? It's wonderful, whatever it is. The driving guitar with its octave intervals pounds this song into the brain, and the organ solo ends it in a flourish.

Section 60 -- a tribute to fallen soldiers needs to be elegaic and soaring, and this one is, ending appropriately on a rudimental drum outro.

Bonus Tracks -- I like the instrumental Oh Shenandoah! the better of these two, probably because I'm not wild about either song.

Overall rating -- This is hard. I want to give it 4 stars, but really, is it as good as Point of Know Return? Maybe; comparing The Voyage of Eight Eighteen with Helplessly Hoping, it's hard to say, but I think the shorter tracks on PoKR are stronger. Is it really an "Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection?" It's definitely not up there with "Leftoverture," but that's a legitimate 5-star album. I think The Prelude Implicit is at least 3.5 stars, so I'll be generous and round it to 4.

Report this review (#1620308)
Posted Saturday, October 8, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review #35. Starting this piece I should mention that I was never a fan of Kansas. I respect them a lot, I like their music the normal amount, I have some of their albums in my music collection, but that's all. So, when I heard about the release of the new album I didn't pay much attention. So, I am not going to write a detailed review, but I will write some of my thoughts instead.

The Prelude Implicit is the first album that the band released after 16 years of silence. Their previous studio work was 'Somewhere to Elsewhere' that was released in 2009. I wasn't sure if that album was a good idea, especially since two of their most important members are not in the band anymore. (For those who are not so familiar with Kansas, I should mention that Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh, who used to be the basic songwriters are not a part of Kansas anymore). But despite all that, I decided to give the album a try, and I was really surprised!

The Prelude Implicit is a very good album and it includes all the classic elements and the typical sound of Kansas, that the band became famous for, and it is very pleasant to the ears. But further than the sound, there is one more very important matter. The singer! Steve Walsh had a very characteristic voice, and it is always a risk to replace the singer. But in this case, there is no problem at all. His replacement (Ronnie Platt) has a very similar voice and his overall performance is excellent!

The album includes some fine moments, starting with the beautiful With this Heart, which is the opening song. As for the Progressive Rock fans, they will surely love 'The Voyage of Eight Eighteen', the longest song in the album, which is simply wonderful! The truth is that, The Prelude Implicit requires a few listens in order to fully appreciate it, so give it some time before you make your final decision.

In general, the album sounds 'fresh' enough, and the band seems to be in a good form. I definitely recommend this album, not only to the 'hard-core' fans of Kansas, (who already bought it I guess), but to all those who, like me, respect this great band and can appreciate a really good album. My rating would be 3.5 stars, but I will give 4. P.S: I think that as some point PA should allow us to rate the albums more detailed, and give half stars as well. Not only 1-2-3-4-5.

Report this review (#1635206)
Posted Monday, October 24, 2016 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Know return to the point of know return

America's premiere progressive Rock band has finally returned with a new studio record - their first in 16 years! The current version of the band has a massive seven man line-up with some old faces and some newer faces. The leader of the band is drummer Phil Ehart who also is the band's manager. Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams are the only two founding members still with the band. Bass player Billy Greer has been with the band since 1985 while violinist David Ragsdale's association with the band goes back to the early 90's. Three new guys have now entered the band: Ronnie Platt on lead vocals, David Manion on keyboards, and Zak Rizvi on guitars.

Notable for their absence are Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh, but despite the absence of these important men the band manages to stay faithful to the sound and spirit of the original band and the new guys do a very good job. The result is a true Kansas album, clearly modelled on the band's classic works from the 1970's. In my view, this new album is not quite as good as the band's previous album Somewhere To Elsewhere from 2000 (and neither is it as good as the first two albums by Livgren's excellent band Proto-Kaw), but The Prelude Implicit is however better than the Kansas albums from the 80's and 90's.

The album holds ten tracks, ranging from four to eight minutes in length. Most of the songs are good and thoroughly enjoyable, but there is no real standout track like the majestic Icarus II from the aforementioned Somewhere To Elsewhere, and nothing here is as good as the band's greatest classic works from the 70's. The weakest spots on the album are the lame chorus of Summer (sung by Greer) which reminds me of Uriah Heep (Bernie Shaw-era) and the lounge-boogie of Unsung Heroes. Refugee is a strong tracks and this album's Dust In The Wind. It is a very emotional song and a plea to protect the refugee children and is thus very apt for the times.

The Prelude Implicit is a definitely a worthy album, and a very welcome return of one of my favourite bands. Recommended for all Kansas fans, but not quite an excellent album for me.

Report this review (#1702308)
Posted Wednesday, March 15, 2017 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars I remember the disappointment I felt in 2000 when Somewhere to Elsewhere was released, not that it was a bad album, because it is pretty decent, but there was no magic. In that moment I felt that the KANSAS studio album years were over and they would have to survive as a cover band of their early glorious years. But yesterday I listened The Prelude Implicit and was really impressed, specially because I expected nothing above average.

Some people complain that the original members of the band are away and that's true, but let's be honest, Steve Walsh had lost the voice long time ago and Ronnie Platt has a very similar range, Dave Hope never was a key member and Billy Greer is more important to the band both as bassist and singer. Dave Ragsdale is a long time member of KANSAS successfully replacing the the once irreplaceable Robby Steinhardt, so with this guys the two original members who keep getting better plus Zak Rizvi and David Manion, the band is sounding as in their best days'..The only problem is the absence of Kerry in the composition, but seems they can survive without him with all the band joining efforts in songwriting.

Now let's talk about The Prelude Implicit, an album that sounds to me as a visit to the band's history, where each song represents a stage in the early development of the band.

With this Heart reminds me of Song for America with songs that flow gently based in a simpler but fluid violin sections. Visibility Zero is a nice homage to harder tracks like Carry on my Wayward Son, but with a nod to the AORISH sound of the late 70's. As a comment, it's nice to listen Dave Ragsdale leaving his classical oriented comfort zone towards a more aggressive sound that is typical of the band and reminds us of Robby.

The Unsung Heroes is one of my favorite songs, being that they blend a powerful but nostalgic blues based ballad with the pomp so characteristic of the band recreating the spirit of the mid 70's.

Ok now is the moment of change and Rhythm in the Spirit marks a turning point, even when they start with a pompous intro as in many Leftoverture tracks plus the violin and keyboard sound of Point of Know Return, they add a modern touch with more emphasis in blues and rock. A nice blend that I believe they should explore more.

Refugee IMO inspired in Cheyenne Anthem, they go for a more mystical and nostalgic approach, simply delightful from start to end and Ronnie Platt does an outstanding job well supported by David Manion on the keyboards. Another high point.

After listening the first notes of The Voyage of Eight Eighteen, songs as Opus Insert, Lamplight Symphony and Song for America come to my mind and even when they change their approach repeatedly jumping from pristine Symphonic to Heavy Rock, it's like a time machine that takes me back to 1977, the best track of the album by far.

Camouflage reminds me of Freaks of Nature, more oriented towards good classic Rock rather than Prog, very nice song, but the least transcendent, luckily is followed by the amazing Summer, the perfect balance between artistic and commercial music.

Crowded Isolation took me by surprise, this is something new, seems that this could be the sound that the new formation is looking for, and it's very good, with radical changes and great choirs'.It's interesting to notice that Phil Ehart maintains the high level despite the years passed, the guy is really a fantastic drummer.

The official release ends with Section 60, another track that takes me back to Point of Know Return era, simply breathtaking and the perfect closer for the official record.

The Deluxe edition has two bonus cover versions of traditional American songs Home On The Range (Hymn of Kansas) and Oh Shenandoah , as a tribute to their state and nation, but I always rate an album in base of their official songs, and The Prelude Implicit deserves no less than 4 solid stars, being that is their best release since Point of Know Return, but without reaching the level of their peak.

I won't ever make the mistake of dismissing KANSAS again, so will be waiting for their next album, seems that KANSAS still has gas for a few more years without having to survive as a caricature of their early years like other classic bands that looked at the Topeka boys over the shoulder in the 70's.

Report this review (#1737436)
Posted Saturday, June 24, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is one of the better second progressive rock comebacks. The first real Kansas comeback was in 2000 with all original members in a great shape. Now remains only the original drummer and guitar player that are no strong composers. The new members are proficient enough to take the empty seats and take as for the ride over Kansas prairie with large landscapes. The vocalist does a decent job, can reach high notes, although he is distinctively different from 70's Steve Walsh.

The sound retains the trademark sound of old Kansas although is slower and more laid back - no surprise. Some compositions are quite close to Kansas work, some have more modern look. The album opener has a strong and slightly melancholic melody - any Kansas fan will raise the level of attention. The third track has even distant violin noodling of "Song for America". The longest track is naturally the most epic one - but even in this composition, playing is not so intricate as on the 70's albums. Towards the end of the album, there are nice instrumental parts that keep the listener's attention until the very end.

One of the best albums of a 70's prog band in 2016, well there are not many anyway anymore ;(.

Report this review (#2054762)
Posted Sunday, November 11, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars "What a comeback album!"

Two years ago a dream came dream when I witnessed a Kansas gig, of course in the Dutch progrock temple De Boerderij. Unfortunately I totally overlooked the brandnew Kansas album, and still wonder why ?

Because this 15th studio-album (the first in 16 years after the previous, pretty disappointing Somewhere To Elsewhere) is an onverwhelming muscial experience, I am really blown away how powerful, exciting and alternating Kansas sound on this latest effort (2016): the one moment heavy guitars and sumptuous Hammond waves (strong opener With This Heart), the other moment tasteful AOR (The Unsung Heroes), a ballad with warm acoustic guitar and tender vocals (Refugee and Home On The Range) or Heavy Prog with cascades of soli in the vein of Old School Kansas (The Voyage Of Eight Eighteen and Crowded Isolation). And a big hand for the excellent lead vocals by Ronnie Platt and the mindblowing violin work by David Ragsdale (especially in Camouflage and the emotional Section 60), their contributions give the songs an extra dimension.

This Kansas album (I own the digipack version featuring the wonderful patriotic instrumental bonus track Oh Shenandoah) is a great example that the musicians and tunesmiths from legendary Seventies era bands can still make very good music, after more than 40 years, highly recommended!

Report this review (#2110055)
Posted Friday, December 21, 2018 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Of all of the albums by 1970's prog bands still hanging on after 40-or-so years, this one surprised me the most.

With only guitarist Rich Williams and drummer Phil Ehart remaining from the first Kansas album, with bassist Billy Greer and fiddler David Ragsdale from the 80's and beyond, and three newcomers, I wasn't expecting much.

First of all, Ronnie Platt's vocals sound almost identical in tone and delivery to Steve Walsh.

The songs, even without Walsh & Kerry Livgren contributing, are remarkably similar in style to the early, classic Kansas albums.

While the compositions don't quite reach the complexity of the best tracks of the seventies, they have the same feel as the old albums we know and love.

I am looking forward to hearing more from this version of Kansas.

Report this review (#2338115)
Posted Monday, February 24, 2020 | Review Permalink

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