KANSAS – The Prelude Implicit
This classic progressive rock band Kansas returns with their first studio album since 2000’s "Somewhere to Elsewhere". Now that vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh has retired and new vocalist Ronnie Platt has settled in, the band feel energized to create a new set of original material. Which can be a bold proposition, considering the main songwriters Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh are no longer an active part of the group – but when you have this solid crew of musicians here, fears subside as this is a mature platter full of the rich, vibrant melodies and musicianship we’ve come to know and love from the band.
Right out of the gate "With This Heart" recalls more of the John Elefante years of the band, a radio-friendly number driven by a more Native American-theme musical arrangement and Ronnie carrying the chorus with uplifting charm and respectful emotion. A Beatles-esque vibe with the violin and keyboard work makes "Visibility Zero" another charmer, guitarist Rich Williams weaving in and out of the playful David Ragsdale violin strains. As the record plays forward, you get a lot of different dynamic textures – almost as homage to a lot of the great contemporaries of their heydays. The Eagles certainly comes to the forefront of my mind for the ballad "The Unsung Heroes", while also looking back at their own "Leftoverture" through "Monolith" high points on the 8:18 epic "The Voyage of Eight Eighteen". Kansas may not necessarily be dazzling in terms of speedier intricacies – their progressive nature comes out in the interplay combinations and part to part consistencies.
Those who worry about Ronnie’s range need to check out "Rhythm in the Spirit" and the powerful "Summer". He can hit the Steve falsettos and also bridge the Elefante AOR years of the band – he’s proving to do the classic material justice, so hopefully the Kansas legions give him a fair shot. The band appear comfortable to reign in those melodies with stellar progressive rock intuition – just in a more mature mid-tempo fashion. It’s difficult to assess at ten to fifteen playbacks in where "The Prelude Implicit" sits in the overall Kansas catalog – but it’s definitely as strong as the best 70’s records in their discography, and will gain much praise from the music community.
Welcome back, let’s hope there are a couple more studio records down the road.