RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Kansas – The Prelude Implicit
Inside Out Music

Rating: A

Okay… so Kansas took 16 years to make this album, so it better be good… right?

While it may have been that long since the band released a new album of studio material, these songs have not been sitting around in the dark during that time.  To be fair, several ideas were written a few years back by the latest member of the band, Zak Rizvi.  In fact, Kansas brought him in to the studio to work on his compositions and realized they should really make a spot for this guy in the band, thus he became the seventh member of the group.  It was an excellent decision for the band, both on this studio effort and when they take the stage. 

The classic sound of Kansas is back with a much improved attitude and work ethic.  Original members drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Richard Williams are joined by longtime bassist/vocalist Billy Greer, new keyboardist David Manion, new vocalist/keyboardist Ronnie Platt, longtime violinist/guitarist David Ragsdale and the aforementioned guitarist Zak Rizvi.  Kansas is a band.  There are no egos, no rock star attitudes and no going through the motions.  This is a band with a past, a present, and most excitingly… a future.  No one could have seen this coming, yet it is a wonderful sight, and sound, to behold.  A band that has been without new tunes for over a decade and a half is now changing things up and rediscovering themselves... and they are a force to be reckoned with.

No one had bigger shoes to fill than that of singer Ronnie Platt.  Steve Walsh was not only the original vocalist of the band, but he remains a true rock icon.  Imagine replacing one of the top singers of all-time; that’s exactly what Ronnie was challenged with.  Imagine writing lyrics in a band that had one of the best lyricists of all time in Kerry Livgren.  Again, Platt, with assistance from the band, stepped up to fill some big shoes... or sandals.  It was not just Platt, as all members of Kansas were challenged to create an album that would stand up next to the classic compositions of Walsh and Livgren.  It is not the first time facing missing components, as the band has had many incarnations... but it is the best of the ‘Walsh and Livgren-less’ efforts.  It is the best, hands-down.

It is unfair to judge this album against the bands platinum albums of the past, but suffice it to say there are songs on this sucker that would be very welcome on many of the classic releases.  The most ‘Klassic Kansas’ sound on the album is the epic tune “Voyage of 8:18.”  This one is so prog and so Song for America that hardcore fans will be swearing it must have been sitting in the vault for 30 years.  Yes… this song is that good, but it is not alone.  “With this Heart” is a wonderful tune.  The first single off the album, this song welcomes Platt to the band in a big way. The former Shooting Star vocalist has the chops to sing the phonebook and make it sound majestic... without misdialing. 

There is not a clunker, or any filler anywhere.  “Visibility Zero” has the same passion, yet a bit more of a rock ‘n’ roll soul.  Not everything is ‘Klassic Kansas’, however.  There are times where the listener is surprised with what this band comes up with.  “The Unsung Heroes” begins with the classic sound, but morphs into a verse where the band sounds as if they are playing in a smoky bar somewhere along I-70 in the middle of nowhere. Don’t fear, however, as the song does not disappoint.  The instrumental section features a guitar solo that will bring a smile to every Kansas fan’s face.  Speaking of heavy riffing guitars, “Rhythm in the Spirit” opens with one of the nastiest riffs in Kansas history. This is one of the standout tracks on the album.

It is not all rockers eithers, as the band slows it down for the very emotional ballad titled “Refugee.”  This is a masterpiece, lyrically, for Platt.  “Camouflage” is a strong driving, heavy track that allows Ehart to pound out a rhythm while the guitar players in the band crank it up.  After a strong opening, the tune drifts into a proggy Kansas style. The chorus has a strong hook that will ensure repeated listens.  “Summer” is another song that has ‘all things Kansas’ in it.  The opening guitar and violin give way to a galloping beat that builds to a huge pre-chorus and chorus.  “Crowded Isolation” begins with an lonely acoustic passage before Ehart and Manion slowly fill up the sound, which is soon taken over by a heavy guitar riff.  You know you have a good album when a song this good is placed at the ninth position in the track listing! 

The final track of the album is titled “Section 60” and is a heartfelt instrumental tribute to our men and women in uniform.  The song, and the album, end with Ehart providing a fading emotional drum line.  Before the end of the song, it must be mentioned that this is a song that, along with “Voyage of 8:18”, drip of that 1970s Kansas sound so much that one will swear those ‘other guys’ had to be a part of it.  Not so... this album is 100% the heart and soul of the seven men who in 2016 make up the band.  It is worth noting that all former members of Kansas are alive.  They just don’t all want to be in Kansas anymore.  The seven people in Kansas today not only want to be in the band, they have a passion to carry on both the tradition of the past and create new music for today. 

This is a band with renewed life, a new attitude and the desire to create once again.  Williams and Ehart have been with the band for over four decades, yet they are members of the band who stand right alongside stalwarts like Greer and Ragsdale and newcomers Manion, Platt and Rizvi.  They are respected for what they have accomplished, but they are all equally important to the sound, the feel and the creation of The Prelude Implicit

Kansas, my friends, is a band once again. 

Buy this one as The Prelude Implicit is destined to be near the top of any respected Best of 2016 album list.   

The album is available as a:
Special Edition CD Digipak, CD Digipak, Standard CD Jewelcase, Gatefold black 2LP+CD, Gatefold mint 2LP+CD, Gatefold silver 2LP+CD, Gatefold white 2LP+CD, Digital album, Digital album (Deluxe Edition)


Track Listing:
With This Heart
Visibility Zero
The Unsung Heroes
Rhythm in the Spirit
The Voyage of Eight Eighteen
Crowded Isolation
Section 60

By Jeb “The Voyager” Wright