The Prelude Implicit
This may sound like a back-handed compliment - and for that, please forgive me for saying so - but The Prelude Implicit (Inside Out Music) really had no business being made.
I mean, a classic rock band that enjoyed its biggest success way back in the 1970s huddling together in a studio to record a batch of brand-new original songs for the group's first studio album in 16 years? In 2016, when most bands with the pedigree of Kansas are content to simply just tour and live off their past? I might also add that Kansas entered the studio for the first time since 1982 without original and longtime lead singer Steve Walsh (an iconic rock star if there ever was), who retired a couple of years ago.
But thankfully for fans of well thought out rock music, Kansas ignored all the outside noise, entered into the studio and then emerged with The Prelude Implicit, an album that is surely destined to rank as one of the best for 2016.
This one folks, is classic Kansas all the way. Classic Kansas that's had a fresh sheen of paint applied to it for the journey through the New Millennium, that is.
Original band members Phil Ehart (drums) and Richard Williams (guitar) are bolstered by now longtime bass player and vocalist Billy Greer, as well as veteran guitarist/violinist David Ragsdale. The three newest cast members are keyboard player David Manion, guitarist/song-writer Zak Rizvi and lead vocalist/keyboardist Ronnie Platt. And that new blood seems to be just what the doctor ordered for Kansas, who is well into its fourth decade as a band.
Ehart, Williams, Greer and Ragsdale could have been content to just find a couple of decent players and plug them into the spots once so famously occupied by Walsh and guitarist/producer/composer Kerry Livgren. But instead, what the veteran members of Kansas did was find a trio of like-minded musicians who were more than up for the task of advancing Kansas' rich musical history to another level, instead of merely just treading water with all eyes looking backwards.
To these ears, this is simply the best non-Steve Walsh/Kerry Livgren album that Kansas has ever made.
Platt (who was at one time the singer for Missouri-based Shooting Star) proves he is a force to be reckoned with on The Prelude Implicit. His vocals on the lead single off the disc, "With This Heart," are just simply soaring and majestic. Not taking away anything from the legendary Walsh, but it's hard to imagine him singing this tune with the same emotional force that Platt conjures up. The song is a fitting way to welcome Platt into the Kansas fold. If there's any justice in this world, "With This Heart" will somehow find a way to make it into regular rotation on classic rock stations all across the globe.
There's plenty of heady progressive rock on The Prelude Implicit in the form of epic tune "Voyage of 8:18," a song that would not have sounded out of place on Song for America or Masque (a pair of albums that Kansas issued at the beginning of its career back in 1975). Kansas is not looking backwards, however, and proves so with the slashing stomp of "Rhythm In The Spirit," a cut that comes screaming out of the gate with loud, grinding guitars and challenges for one of the heaviest things the band has laid to tape. "Camouflage" is like a cool blending of "Voyage of 8:18's" progressiveness with the hard-and-heavy undertones of "Rhythm In The Spirit," complete with a killer chorus that's likely to get stuck in one's head. Very cool, indeed.
"Refugee" is a mid-tempo ballad that once again proves to be a showcase for Platt's vocal talents. The Prelude Implicit ends with the powerful and beautiful instrumental, "Section 60," which serves as a stirring tribute to our women and men in uniform.
It would be totally without merit to hold up The Prelude Implicit against Leftoverture or even Point of Know Return, Platinum-selling albums that put Kansas on the map of most mainstream music listeners back in the late '70s. Fact is, even had the band's lineup not undergone the changes that it's went through since then, then and now are two completely different times and eras for Kansas. The only thing that really matters is that The Prelude Implicit more than stands up on its own two legs and has somehow signaled the (unlikely?) rival of the mighty Kansas.
And that, my friends, is something that should not be taken lightly in 2016.
For all things Kansas-related, check out: http://www.kansasband.com.