Kansas - The Absence Of Presence,
When ‘Somewhere To Elsewhere’ was released in 2000, with the classic line-up reunited for the first time in years (plus of course long-time bassist Billy Greer), I was hopeful we were going to see a new beginning for one of the most important bands ever to come out of America. Yet while that album was a huge success, and beloved by all fans, it was not meant to be, and it was a long sixteen years until their next release. By that time there had been significant changes in the band, not least being singer Steve Walsh retiring and main songwriter Kerry Livgren again not being involved. But Phil Ehart (drums), Billy Greer (bass), Rich Williams (guitars) brought back violinist David Ragsdale in 2006 (he was of course in the band throughout the 90’s), plus new singer and keyboard player Ronnie Platt, rhythm guitarist Zak Rizvi and additional keyboard player David Manion. Now, just four years later and we have another new album, and while Manion has departed he has been replaced by Tom Brislin who has played with the likes of The Syn, Camel, Yes, Renaissance and Anderson/Stolt so definitely comes in with plenty of pedigree.
The album commences with “The Absence of Presence”, gentle piano is joined by plaintive violin, and then just 25 seconds in we are in full Kansas territory and if it as if they have never been away and that it is the classic line-up all over again. By a minute into the album I had a massive smile on my face, and when the song became just piano and vocals, plus plenty of harmonies, I was grinning from ear to ear. I have no idea how long I have loved this band, but it is well over 40 years, and it was almost like listening to one of their classic albums from the Seventies for the very first time. It seems almost as if the guys have decided they need to stick with a Kansas style, as opposed to move it in any different direction, so the result is something which is both immediate and very enjoyable indeed.
I am sure I will never see this band in concert, as we rarely get groups like this down to little old New Zealand (although Yes have made it twice), so I will continue to play the DVDs and albums, and while there are some from their middle period which rarely make it onto the player, I am confident this one will continue to do so for years to come.