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Kansas - The Prelude Implicit CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.81 | 298 ratings

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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!)

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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