Sea Of Tranquility

The Web Source for Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal & Jazz-Fusion
  Search   in       
Main Menu

Kansas: The Absence Of Presence

In all honesty, the 2016 album from Kansas, The Prelude Implicit, had no right being just as convincing as it was. After all, not only did it arrive some 16 years after the band’s previous studio outing, but arguably it didn’t feature any of their long-time main movers. Nowhere in sight was Steve Walsh, Robby Steinhardt or Kerry Livgren, and even with original players Rich Williams (guitars) and Phil Ehart (drums) still at the stern with long time associates Billy Greer (bass) and David Ragsdale (violin/guitar), three Kansaseers made their recorded debut with the band as they also played a strong part in the songwriting. That trio consisted Zak Rizvi (guitars), Ronnie Platt (vocals/keyboards) and Dave Manion (keyboards) and while the latter finds his place now taken by Tom Brislin, impressively that relative stability has paid dividends in quite spectacular style.

Considering that Prelude was very much a band affair in terms of song writing, that its follow up finds not one of the old hands contributing in that department should have been reason for concern, but massive credit is due instead to Brislin, Platt and Rizvi, who between them contribute all of the nine songs presented here. To suggest they’ve exceeded expectations would be a massive understatement, especially when you consider that not only have they delivered an album that’s quite simply stunning from start to finish, but they’ve also achieved that most difficult of endeavours by somehow making The Absence of Presence sound like classic Kansas while completely avoiding pastiche, or even retreading old ground. Rizvi also produced the album, along with co-producers Ehart and Williams, with the results being sonically scintillating, as the nuances of layered vocals, violin, keyboards, guitars, bass and drums are utterly conjoined, while still all being allowed to individually breathe.

And with the stage set, TAOP wastes no time in telling its story, the album’s title track immediately swirling violin round a mesmeric guitar melody that suddenly gives way to the commanding but sympathetic vocals from Platt. Less than two minutes into this near nine minute mini-epic and this album already has us in the safe hands of a band who last sounded this confident and relaxed in the 70s. All the requisite parts are firmly in place as a thunderous progressive march grinds to a halt and the guitars spark into a lick that then tumbles down a violin spiral that finds the stinging lead-axe work bouncing off booming bass and driving drums. A soaring motif then catches you just before everything hits the ground. Breathtaking!

Any thought that we’ve shot our bolt is then smushed to smithereens, “Throwing Mountains” having the temerity to bark out a riff that the first time I heard it genuinely made me extol out loud - “Come On!!” - so damn potent is it. As you’d expect, the journey from there throws out twists and turns but after the prog poignancy of the opener to have the confidence to toss out something so forceful really is a joy to behold. That it also in a way harks back to the Elefante era of the band - but in much more bullish terms - is also a nice touch.

And I could go on…. so I will! “Jets Overhead” one of those celebrations that only Kansas have ever been capable of, a corkscrewing play-off of guitar and bass allowing Ragsdale to dance a merry tune on the violin, before the short anticipatory instrumental “Propulsion 1” sets up for a powerhouse crescendo. Instead - and very cleverly indeed - The Absence Of Presence plays another trademark card of this band. Having always delivered their American prog was a capital A,O and R, “Memories Down The Line” pulls in the high vaulting whoops and shouts that have brought us to this point and instead offers up a heartfelt paean to days gone by and hopes of what’s to come. However, with a melody that’s so stick in the mind, the effect is much more dramatic than it is saccharine and somehow ends up being an album highlight - although, that said, it’s one of nine!

Illustrating the long lost art of album pacing (please listen to this beast in the order that was long thought over) “Circus Of Illusion” and “Animals On The Roof” re-crank the handle. The former swooping and diving while holding on to a melancholy that Ragsdale revels in, while the latter broods and boils with an echoing guitar solo and Hammond organ thrust that keeps you hooked right in. “Never” again takes the pot off the stove just as things threaten to bubble over, holding you in its arms as Platt once more proves how perfect his voice is for this band. Although it’s actually keyboard man Brislin who delights with a lead vocal on the closing “The Song The River Sang” and while much of this endgame is instrumental, it has to be said that the atmospheric vocal delivery is every part its equal as the keyboard-man, in places, reminds of the much missed Brad Delp (Boston). That he does so over a track that dares to maybe be this album’s most angular and progressive statement isn’t just a smart move, but one that leaves you wanting more… but sadly, there isn’t any. Instead, things come to a sudden stop and all that’s left to do is to begin the journey again and again and again. And that is exactly what I did and I’ve no doubt you will too as Kansas serve up an album that genuinely harks back to their halcyon days in not just sound but also in stature.

Track Listing
1. The Absence of Presence
2. Throwing Mountains
3. Jets Overhead
4. Propulsion 1
5. Memories Down the Line
6. Circus of Illusion
7. Animals on the Roof
8. Never
9. The Song the River Sang

Added: June 28th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Kansas online
Hits: 2860
Language: english

[ Printer Friendly Page Printer Friendly Page ]
[ Send to a Friend Send to a Friend ]


[ Back to the Reviews Index | Post Comment ]

» Reader Comments:

Kansas: The Absence Of Presence
Posted by Anonymous on 2020-07-24 16:24:17
My Score:

When you get a new release from a band who’ve been around for fifty years and who have also produced many a bona fide classic album, you always wonder if this will be the one that doesn’t quite cut it, subsequently letting the side down. All Kansas fans can now breathe a huge sigh of relief because I can tell all of them that ‘The Absence Of Presence’ is another wonderful record by one of the greatest acts to ever walk this Earth. Yes, I’m biased, but I don’t think that Kansas have ever let us down and I’m confident you’ll be in complete agreement when you hear this new album by them. There are only nine songs this time and apart from the title-track, which clocks in at roughly nine minutes, the others are all short by Kansas’ standards, and yet they don’t feel it when you listen to them. They have an epic quality that makes them all seem like they're twenty minutes in length and the more you listen to them the more that sense of epic-ness grows. The title-track starts the album off in style and straight away you know you’re listening to classic Kansas. The standout instrument is David Ragsdale’s violin, which is all over this song and nearly every other one and this helps elevate the music to great effect. However, it’s the way these musical veterans work together that is the true joy to witness. Phil Ehart, Rich
Williams, Billy Greer, Ragsdale, Ronnie Platt, Zak Rizvi and Tom Brislin have really pulled out all the stops on this new release and have shown all those who think classic rock bands can't make new music that they are very wrong about this.
The first single ‘Throwing Mountains’ and the amazing ‘Jets Overhead’ follow and both are beautifully performed and arranged. The ballad ‘Memories Down The Line’ and ‘Circus Of Illusion’continue this wonderful musical cavalcade and the two tracks reminded me a lot of the John Elefante-era of Kansas. There's also the superb Prog workout ‘Animals On The Roof’ where vocalist Platt is on top form and the rest of Kansas are superb too to check out; Brislin’s keyboards are stunning and Rich Williams shows why he’s one of the best guitar players in Prog today or any day. Closing number ‘The Song Of The River’ is another old-school Kansas song with elements of ‘Miracles Out Of Nowhere’ running through it and it’s by far my album favourite. The new Kansas CD is absolutely essential for all fans of the band and those who aren't because they really don’t make albums like this anymore, more’s the pity and you all need this record in your collections as soon as is humanly possible.

PS: Saw the review Pete and my very good friend Steven Reid did on youtube which was spot on but have to say that the special ear-book edition is different from what they thought it was. Each band member has written an essay for the booklet and the bonus/extra? disc contains a 5.1 mix of the album which is wonderful and a super stereo version as well though I've not heard that as of yet, IMHO definitely worth getting if you're a Kansas nut)

(Taken from my review in Fireworks issue #91)

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
For information regarding where to send CD promos and advertising, please see our FAQ page.
If you have questions or comments, please Contact Us.
Please see our Policies Page for Site Usage, Privacy, and Copyright Policies.

All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments are property of their posters, all other content Sea of Tranquility

SoT is Hosted by