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Kansas Finds New Singer, New Life With 'The Prelude Implicit'

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Courtesy photo
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Growing up in Chicago, singer and keyboardist Ronnie Platt had always loved the band Kansas. In 2014, the group's original vocalist, Steve Walsh, announced that he was leaving the group. The other members were determined to carry on, and so Platt reached out to guitarist Rich Williams and, later, drummer Phil Ehart, to offer up his services. Here, Platt recalls the whirlwind circumstances that saw him landing the coveted role.

“When I saw Steve’s retirement announcement,” the former Shooting Star member recalls, “I just dropped Rich a message on Facebook and said, ‘Give me some consideration.’ The very next day I talked to Rich, [the day after that], which was a Friday, I talked to Phil. On Monday, I flew down to Atlanta and met with them for a few hours, flew right back home to Chicago that afternoon. Tuesday morning, I got an email from Phil saying, ‘Congratulations, you’ve got the job.’ In a matter of five days, it was executed.”

Before long, Kansas was writing new material as a band for the first time in nearly 20 years. Platt says that he was as surprised as anyone when Kansas, a band that had not released an album of new material since 2000, started making progress on a new record. He says that he and fellow keyboardist and vocalist David Manion may have brought new excitement to the project for veteran members Rich Williams and Phil Ehart.

“When I first met with Phil and Rich, there really was no discussion of new music,” Platt recalls. “I think after a few months of David Manion and myself being in the band, us maybe being pretty ambitious, the idea entered Phil and Rich’s heads that maybe a new album could work.”

The result of those writing and recording sessions is The Prelude Implicit, an album that blends classic Kansas sensibilities with contemporary influences. Platt adds that being involved in the writing process for new Kansas material was a surprise though, he adds, he wasn't initially sure that his contributions would be accepted.

“When I submitted my first set of lyrics, for ‘With This Heart,’” he says, “I was all prepared for them to say, ‘This is really good and everything, we really like this, but we’re going to go in this direction.’ Imagine my excitement when Phil and Rich said, ‘This is really good. Trying writing something for this song and this song.’ It turned out to be quite a gift.”

Upon its release, The Prelude Implicit reached number three on Billboard's Independent Album chart, as well as high placings in other categories. Platt suggests that the group's fanbase, one accustomed to purchasing music rather than streaming it, had a hand in the album's success.

“How can I term this?” he says. “We have a more mature audience. They like that tangible product in their hand, that CD, that album.”

Kansas is, of course, a band with legacy and its current run of shows finds the group playing its 1976 release Leftoverture in its entirety. That, you may know, is the album that featured the song “Carry On Wayward Son.” Platt, ever the Kansas fan, looks fondly on singing the Leftoverture material.

“I remember buying that record when it came out and just playing it to death,” he says. “It’s had such an impact from day one and it’s still loved by so many people and so many fans. To play it in its entirety? It’s just the neatest thing in the world.”

Kansas performs at the Stiefel Theatre in Salina on Friday evening.

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Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

 
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