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Kansas

The Prelude Implicit

Review by Gary Hill

This is the most recent Kansas album. It came out in 2016. It is perhaps not the most directly progressive rock based thing they ever did, but it is far more prog than some of their pop era stuff was. There is a real AOR element to this, and a lot of it rocks out pretty well. While there is a modern edge, and a lot of this has a more contemporary sound, I'd say that the retro stylings in keeping with the band's 70s output are the dominant factors. It's a strong album. While it's not one of their best, it's far from their weakest, and a good showing of Kansas music in the modern age.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
With This Heart
This comes in with a pretty arrangement that still has a lot of energy. Vocals comes in over the top of an arrangement that is built on piano and percussion at is core. As the song carries on, other instruments join. This drives with a cool progressive rock meets AOR sound. It is a modern sound, but it has a lot of classic Kansas texture in the mix, too. There is a solid instrumental section built into the piece, too.
Visibility Zero
This powers in with killer guitar based prog that is just about trademark Kansas. It drops back after the introduction to a movement that's a bit mellower for the vocals. The cut drives onward with some killer prog textures. I can hear hints of bands newer than Kansas on this like Spock's Beard and Dream Theater. Then again, I'm certain Kansas was an influence on those acts, so I suppose that makes it pure Kansas. My brain just hears it through a different filter. This is a powerhouse tune with some great shifts and changes built into it. It has some smoking hot violin work, too. This number really feels like a modernization of the classic Kansas sound.
The Unsung Heroes
An up-tempo jam with a lot of violin brings this into being. It works through the instrumental section, and then drops to a mainly piano based arrangement for a soulful vocal performance. It gradually builds upward and more instruments are added to the mix. The song eventually makes its way to more rocking zones for a powerful instrumental movement.
Rhythm in the Spirit
I love the smoking hot guitar work that brings this thing into being. It's decidedly Kansas, but it also has an almost metal vibe to it. As it shifts to the next riff, that's even more accurate. However, as it drops to a mellower movement for the verse, I'd chalk it up as the only mistake of the album. The early section of this more sedate movement seems a bit over-processed, feeling a bit like modern pop music. They don't stay there very long, though, bringing into harder rocking tones after the first few lines. It does drop back to that zone later, though. It seems a bit jazzier in the repetition, though, and that section doesn't last as long as the first iteration did. The cut works through some killer hard rocking prog as it drives forward, with that mellower movement eventually ending it.
Refugee
Intricate acoustic guitar brings this into being with a lot of style and emotion. Violin comes in to join it. The vocals come over the top as it continues. The number continues to grow with other instruments augmenting the mix. The cut is powerful and so evocative. It's a ballad, but it's also powered up in a lot of ways.
The Voyage of Eight Eighteen
The sound on this is trademark Kansas in so many ways. The extended introduction is a real powerhouse. The cut drops back after a time to a mellower movement for the vocals. The tune builds outward as it continues. This really is classic Kansas at its best.  Around the half-way mark we're taken into a smoking hot hard rocking instrumental movement that really brings that classic Kansas sound to the fore. It works through some variants and exploration as they continue. They eventually make their way back to the song proper for another vocal movement before another short instrumental treatment closes the number.
Camouflage
Organ brings this thing into being. Hard rocking Kansas sounds rise up as the introduction drives forward. It drops back for the first verse but gets more bombastic as it continues. I love the chorus on this. It's both meaty and accessible. There is some killer instrumental work built into this thing that lands on the harder rocking side, again linking this to the kind of music one expects from Dream Theater. A violin-infused mellower section is what takes us back to the song proper.
Summer
I love the driving violin on the scorching hot introduction to this. They strip the arrangement down a bit for the entrance of the vocals but keep a fairly driving tempo and intensity. This has some great hooks. There is a break after the half-way mark that has some killer rocking guitar. That gives way to a jam that allows various instruments to shine as they go along.
Crowded Isolation
Acoustic guitar brings this into being. That holds the cut for a time before a dramatic building movement threatens to take control. A hard rocking riff emerges to drive things into the song proper. There is a prog rocking instrumental section on this that's both extensive and very much what you expect from Kansas. It includes some killer work from various players along the road. They eventually make their way back to the hard rocking song proper.
Section 60
This comes in tentatively and a bit mysterious. Piano brings some melody and magic as the song evolves. Then, before the one-minute mark, it explodes out into the kind of bombastic prog you expect from Kansas. The violin creates some great melodies over the top as they continue to work this number through. Then the violin gives way to a guitar solo. There is a drop back to a percussion and violin movement later in the number. That section is mellow and has a bit of a martial, Celtic element to it. Eventually the violin exits leaving just the drums to close the song and the album.
 
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