Well, well, well, only the other week I was shouting out the praises of girl Rock duo Larkin Poe on their lockdown series cover of ‘Carry on Wayward Son'. So, what drops through the electronic mail box? It’s only the brand spanking new album, The Absence Of Presence', from Kansas, which will now be available on its revised release date of Friday 17th July!
Still touching on the ‘Carry on Wayward Son’ track, which came out back in 1976, it obviously couldn’t go without mention as it is in the Top 5 Classic Rock songs of all time and went quadruple platinum in USA. From the original line-up, when the band formed in 1974, drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Richard Williams still remain, and they also both now co-produce. Billy Greer on bass/vocals, Ronnie Platt vocal/keys, David Ragsdale violin/guitar, Zak Rizvi guitar and Tom Brislin on keyboards, complete today’s line up.
‘The Absence Of Presence’ marks the band’s sixteenth release over the five decades and the Prog/Art Rock followers are going to be more than satisfied with this nine-song collection. So, lets Prog! Opening up proceedings is the title track, with some gentle piano notes followed by some steady violin strokes to bring the band in at full tilt, and then drop down to a vocal/piano verse. It's not long before the band re-join and the hard-edged guitar licks are firing on all cylinders! This eight-minute dramatic opener is pretty much Kansas through and through with well worked song structures and excellent musicianship.
'Throwing Mountains’ tucks in at number two, with more of a guitar underbelly to the slick vocals of Ronnie Platt, whilst ’Jet Overhead’, which was a recent single release, starts with some subtle piano to heavy laden keyboards, bringing on soaring vocal lines, followed by those mystic keyboard lines traditionally found in Rick Wakeman territory. The shortest track comes in the form of the instrumental, ‘Propulsion 1', clocking in at only 2 minutes 17 seconds. Is that breaking Prog rules? However, on the plus side, it does highlight the excellence of drummer Phil Ehart for his incredibly worked drum patterns.
'Memories Down The Line’ lowers the tempo for a Prog-ballad, carefully crafted, giving way to some intense violin playing and an emotive dual guitar outro from Zak and Richard. 'Circus Of Illusion’ is a more mid-paced rocker bringing the drive from the rhythm section in which bassist Billy Greer excels, as is 'Animal on the Roof’ that follows at a similar pace, providing another example of each band member's musical talent.
The commercial number from the album, and the go for song for mainstream radio, would quite simply be the penultimate track ‘Never'. Opening with subtle piano and violin lines to the vocal rise. Yes, cigarette lighters - sorry I mean mobile phone torches, will be fully switched on for this one. 'The Song the River Sang’ closes out the album, starting in a form of Folky Rock rhythmic charge. One time Yes member Brislin orchestrates and takes lead vocal on this anthemic mash-up. Kansas have certainly seen the years, but at the very same time, have polished up their sound for today, whilst keeping a careful eye on their iconic past. Carry On Wayward Sons.