July 15, 2020 Kansas – The Absence of Presence (Album Review)
Formed over forty years ago, Kansas were Progressive Rock pioneers before it was even a term. Come together in Topeka, Kansas, the band’s mainstream legendary status is thanks in part to timeless classic Rock-n-Roll staples such as 1976’s “Carry On Wayward Son,” along with 1977’s “Dust in the Wind” and “Point of Know Return.” Yet still, Kansas’ legacy runs far deeper than such singles, as they continues to produce album-oriented Rock-n-Roll consistently through the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.
Releasing a lone album at the start of the new millennium, 2000’s Somewhere to Elsewhere, Kansas remained thoroughly active performing live in the years to follow. Then, in 2016, after a lengthy gap out of the studio, Kansas returned with a refreshed prospective on their fifteenth studio album, The Prelude Implicit. An album which received fan and critical acclaim, it was the first to feature new Lead Vocalist/Keyboardist Ronnie Platt, Keyboardist David Manion, and Guitarist Zak Rizvi. Clearly the spark the band needed to get the creative juices flowing again, four years later they are back with their latest collection, The Absence of Presence.
Set for release on Friday, July 17th, 2020 via InsideOut Music, The Absence of Presence sees the return of Platt and Rizvi, along with founding Guitarist Rich Williams, as well as Drummer Phil Ehart, plus longtime Bassist Billy Greer and Violinist David Ragsdale. Joining the bunch is accomplished Keyboardist Tom Brislin, who has worked with everyone from Yes to Meatloaf. An extremely solid core of players, Kansas opted to self-produce the album themselves once again, and exchange, bring together nine songs lasting just under an hour of music.
Now, if you are a Kansas fan, you more than likely remember the distinctive voice of Steve Walsh retired from the band back in 2014. Unfortunate, although not the end of everything, Platt has stepped in and done a fanatic job providing new energy on stage and an impressive debut with The Prelude Implicit. Now gelling more than ever, they bring fans a fresh sounding album that fits comfortable on the shelf alongside classic Kansas vinyl such as 1976’s Leftoverture.
Starting out with the album’s title-track, lasting for over eight minutes, Kansas immediately engulf you with their brilliant instrumental skills. From here songs such as the hard rocking “Throwing Mountains” and “Jets Overhead” fit nicely next to the more retro “Propulsion 1,” as well as the emotional, thoughtful ” Memories Down the Line.” All quite impressive, there is a calmness that continues as the album plays on and Kansas take you by the hand guiding you song by song telling a story. While the arrangements are often complex, the presentation is magnificent because it allows to absorb everything without being overwhelmed.
Additionally, while the keys, violins, drums and guitar work are top-notch, the vocals of Platt are also powerful and dynamic In enough words, he knows when to reach high and when to go low with his voice to deliver the mood intended. This continues on the compelling “Circus of Illusion,” the modern retro vibe of “Animals on the Roof” and the extremely beautiful “Never.” This is while the heavily instrumental “The Song the River Sang” closes the adventure out in a colorful, engaging manner.
Overall, The Absence of Presence offers well-composed songs that are crispy sounding and never dull. Taking you on a journey outside time and space, you are allowed to create your own vision of reality, thus become empowered by imagination. Platt proves to be a fantastic addition to the band possessing a voice that is calm, yet intense at the same time. A Rock-n-Roll trip that takes you deeper and deeper with each listen, Cryptic Rock gives The Absence of Presence 5 out of 5 stars.