[Review] Kansas – The Absence Of Presence

Kansas is a band that certainly needs no introduction, anyone who listens to music knows it well. With a career spanning over 45 years, which has seen them and still sees them at the top of the ratings rankings, having recorded eternal masterpieces. Over the course of their memorable career the band have released 16 studio albums, the most recent being “The Absence Of Presence” released on June 17, 2020 via InsideOut Music, one of the most prestigious labels in business. Containing 9 medium length tracks, it is available in different formats in LP, CD and Digital, showing a sound that has remained fresh and full of ideas over time. The opener and title track “The Absence of Presence” is the longest of the album, and starts with a powerful Prog theme developed with melodic interweaving between keyboards and violin. So the vocal enters, warm and expressive as well as in pure Kansas style, alternating solo moments with other choirs. The rhythmic structure is solid and load-bearing, while in the first part the vocal and instrumental parts alternate pleasantly. The second part, on the other hand, is characterized by a long instrumental section in which the band delights in a real Prog music lesson, with solos of the highest level. A track that immediately immerses us in the atmosphere of the album, with the classic Kansas style sound. “Throwing Mountains” is a stronger song than the previous one, with the keyboards adding power to the sound, perfectly intertwining with the guitars. With an easy-to-grasp refrain and the various solutions given by violin, keyboards and guitar, combining the sounds of the 70s with the most modern Prog. The tempo changes are remarkable, passing from more symphonic openings to more Heavy ones, a track with an incredible, powerful and engaging performance, with excellent instrumental sections. “Jets Overhead” is an easier track than the previous ones, nevertheless the structure is always very well elaborated. The melodies are more catchy and the structure more linear, although there are first violin and then guitar inserts of fine workmanship. The layers of keyboards and the violin develop on a solid rhythmic session, a piece that surely remains in the head to be hummed after listening to it. “Propulsion 1” is an entirely instrumental interlude, where the band offers a pulled and powerful Prog Rock at times Heavy. Very interesting with melodic weaves of fine workmanship. “Memories Down the Line” is the slow and soft track, which dulls the tones in the middle of the album. In the first part only piano and voice, to then insert the other instruments, with sweet dreamy melodies in classic Kansas style. The intensity increases with the passage of the song with the melodies that guide us pleasantly in these 4:38 of pure pleasure. “Circus Of Illusion” begins with dreamy violin melodies, then develops a track in line with the sounds of the previous one but with more emphasis. The singing alternates solo moments and other choral moments, with the classic Kansas vocal imprinting, while the always catchy musical part is written and performed with an excellent technique. In the central part there is a more elaborate section, while with the return of the cantato with the last verses it accompanies us to the closing. “Animals on the Roof” is another massive Prog song that brings to mind the old school, with superfine quality and technique. The keyboards add energy as in the rest of the album and create delicious sound inserts and duets with the guitar. The vocal is a strong point as the band has accustomed us over the years, overall one of the best songs on the album. “Never” is another sweet and slow song like only Kansas can do. A sound cuddle, which cheers us up for almost 5 minutes, with melodies that only artists of this caliber make to be simple. The vocal is very warm and like the rest of the track, enveloping, with that delicate touch that makes you close your eyes and dream, a real pleasure. This splendid work “The Song the River Sang” ends with a more articulated and less direct track than the previous ones, where the virtuosic technique is expressed at the highest level. The vocal part here is less protagonist, favoring the elaboration of the instrumental sections, at times intricate. The whole band features an eclectic performance, enhancing the personal technique of each of the members, a conclusion in style. An album that shows a band in good shape, offering a high level sound, technically very elaborate that blends the old Kansas style with the new Progressive school. The hallmarks of the band are well recognizable and Tom Brislin’s entry to keyboards brought a breath of freshness and added energy and original solutions. A recommended listening to all lovers of Prog and good music in general, the passage of time has not at all affected or lightened the sound of the band, which is always keep up with times, granite and full of positive ideas. This album is certainly one of the best releases listened to in recent times, a real masterpiece.

Tracklist

1. The Absence of Presence (8:22)
2. Throwing Mountains (6:21)
3. Jets Overhead (5:17)
4. Propulsion 1 (2:17)
5. Memories Down the Line (4:38)
6. Circus of Illusion (5:19)
7. Animals on the Roof (5:13)
8. Never (4:51)
9. The Song the River Sang (5:06)

Lineup

Ronnie Platt / Lead Vocals and Backing Vocals 
Rich Williams
/ Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Co-Producer 
Zak Rizvi
/ Electric Guitar, Backing Vocals, Producer 
Tom Brislin
/ Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals on “The Song The River Sang” 
David Ragsdale
/ Violin, Backing Vocals 
Billy Greer
/ Bass, Vocals 
Phil Ehart
/ Drums, Percussion, Co-Producer

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Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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