John Wenlock-Smith interviews Ronnie Platt of Kansas

John Wenlock-Smith: Good day Ronnie, how are you doing?

Ronnie Platt: Hello again John, yes, I am very well thanks, how’s things with you these days?

JWS: All good here, we’ve both had our vaccinations and we can see things starting to open a little here now, which is good. We had our first coffee out on Tuesday which was good, no masks and almost normal even, have you had all your vaccinations yet?

RP: Yes I am all good, did you have any reactions, flu-like symptoms or anything?

JWS: No, all fine, my arm ached a little a few days after but, otherwise, nothing.

RP: So, is everything open again now?

JWS: It is getting there but not everything yet.

RP: What about travel, can you go freely yet?

JWS: Around the UK, yes but internationally, no. We still have a list of approved places that we can go to but everything is starting to open a bit. It will get much better in June when more restrictions are lifted.

RP: Yes, it is pretty much the same here. I am speaking from the suburbs of Chicago, from my den in the basement, which is full of old guitars and equipment, if you could see the mess that it is in!

JWS: Well this is my den (shows him guitars, CD’s and piano).

RP: Can you play John?

JWS: Sadly I am a one finger only type player. I can play most melody lines but nothing with the right hand really.

RP: Whether you are playing with one finger or are an established player, I always say that music is the best therapy, how long have you been playing guitar?

JWS: Years, however I cannot really play much, I can do chords and rhythm but nothing technical really.

RP: Well, keep at it, practice makes perfect I find.

JWS: So the new album is out next Friday?

RP: Yes, ‘Point of Know Return: Live and Beyond’, we could not be prouder of it.

JWS: Can I ask, why is there no live video of it?

RP: Into today’s world, when I kook out in the audience, I see everyone holding their phones up watching and it ends up on YouTube. It makes it all exceedingly difficult to do and compete really, hopefully, at some stage, we will be able to do something but right now our attention is focused on getting back out on the road and playing live again.

JWS: London next year for you (Kansas) isn’t it?

RP: Yes, hopefully we will get there next year as the last two times were cancelled. In the 7 years I have been in the band we have wanted to come, especially since ‘The Absence of Presence’ is doing so well there.

JWS: We are hoping to be able to get to it ourselves, my wife knows that I want to go and she is happy to come along with me. So how was it for you singing these songs from ‘Point of Know Return’?

RP: It is amazing to me to, and I will include the entire Kansas catalogue in this, these songs that I have just loved my entire life, being a huge fan for many years. It is really a dream come true and surreal to be doing it. For my generation, you would buy an album and memorise the entire sequence of songs. It is special how I bought these albums and also being such a huge Kansas fan for all my life. To play the album in its entirety in the sequence that it was recorded in is a real honour and privilege to do.

JWS: I grew up in the 70’s and first heard Kansas in 1975. I then got hold of the ‘Point of Know Return’ album and it was a favourite of mine for many years but I especially loved songs like Hopelessly Human and Closet Chronicles. Kerry Livgren was such an awesome writer, his material is always strong and good.

RP: So John, you are like me, you love the deep cuts, not just Dust in the Wind but the less celebrated tracks like Nobody’s Home, I love singing those deep cuts.

JWS: I used to have the album cover on a mirror but that has gone now, sadly. I like that this album has some rather obscure Kansas songs like Two Cents Worth which is completely different to Song for America. The only disappointment for me is that People of the South Wind does not have Phil Ehart’s fabulous drum fills on it but, even without the drums, you keep the groove going. Will it be the same set in London?

RP: We will possibly change a song or two but we will do all of ‘The Point of Know Return’ album but who knows what it will be? It’s one of the great things about Kansas, there is such a library of music to draw from.

JWS: I am really looking forward to that show, my wife is looking forward to seeing the band and she trusts my taste in music. We are also seeing Genesis in October this year.

RP: Another of my favourite bands, ‘Wind and Wuthering’ is one of my favourite albums along with ‘A Trick of the Tail’.

JWS: I spoke to Steve Hackett a few weeks ago, he has recorded three albums in lockdown!

RP: Wow, he has been a busy boy, that makes us look lazy! I believe that Genesis will be in Chicago sometime in November but we will be out on the road ourselves, so I will probably not be able to catch them.

JWS: I spoke to Tony Banks last year and he said that with Genesis, it is always a case of never say never, we are always talking about reconvening activities.

RP: I used to open with Dodo in one of the bands I was in during the 80’s, I even took my mother to see Genesis.

JWS: Well Ronnie, my time has almost gone.

RP: Thanks John, it has been good to talk to you again, keep practising the guitar and keep playing the keyboard and we will hopefully see you next year in London.  

Kansas – ‘Point of Know Return: Live & Beyond’ is released on 28th May, 2021.

Order the album here:

Point of Know Return Live & Beyond (burningshed.com)

Review – Kansas – Point of Know Return – Live and Beyond – by John Wenlock-Smith

I first came across the music of Kansas on an old episode of The Old Grey Whistle Test where a track from their then new album, ‘Kansas’, was played. The song in question was Journey From Mariabronn, this was played against the backdrop of a black and white cartoon and I was very taken with it.

It was not until a few years later that I managed to acquire a copy of that album and enjoy the fine music that its grooves contained. Quite a few years later I came across their new album via a promotional vinyl version of ‘Point of Know Return’ with its fabulous sleeve of a ship falling over the edge of the world.

Kansas have been one of my favourite American bands since those early days, I even used to have the ‘Point of Know Return’ album cover on an etched mirror that sadly is no more. Along with Styx and Journey these were the holy trinity of American Rock for me, I still relish any new material that Kansas make and I am eager to see them live again having first seen them at Walt Disney World in the early 1990’s when Steve Morse was in the band, as was Steve Walsh, both of whom are no longer involved. Nowadays the band is fronted by Ronnie Platt (ex-Shooting Star, another class US band in a similar style to Kansas). This live album brings the whole of the ‘Point of Know Return’ album together with some other deep cuts from the extensive catalogue that the band have developed in the last 47 years. Many of the songs have been staples in their live shows since the album was first released in 1977, but here you get the whole album live in one show played in the original order.

If you like Kansas then this album will not disappoint for it shows very clearly how excellent the calibre of material the ‘Point of Know Return’ album contained then and how well that it still stands up today, over 40 years after it was originally recorded. Ronnie Platt is in very fine voice throughout, okay there may be a few missed or muffled notes but, overall, this stands good comparison to the version on earlier live Kansas releases and can stand proudly next to all those albums.  

The album has a good selection of some lesser performed Kansas material including songs from the ‘Freak of Nature’ album from the 1990s and a rare outing for Two Cents Worth from the ‘Masque’ album of 1975 and a couple of more recent tracks from ‘The Prelude Implicit’ and ‘The Absence of Presence’, cramming 22 slices of distilled Kansas magic onto 2 CDs.

The album falls into 3 sections, Tracks 1-8 on CD 1 are the deep cuts, CD 2 Tracks 1-10 are the whole of the ‘Point of Know Return – Live & Beyond’ in order, Track 11 is Carry on My Wayward Son, 12 and 13 are acoustic versions of People of The South Wind and Refugee and the album concludes with an acoustic version of Lonely Wind from the first Kansas album from 1974.

Throughout you get fabulous and meticulous musicianship and exemplary performances and songs that are both meaningful and memorable and with fabulous melodies running through their veins. Kansas are not getting any younger so any chance to hear this band firing on all cylinders is an opportunity that should be embraced, music of this calibre deserves to be heard by all that will listen.

I especially like the reverence with which these classic songs are treated and respected, it is very fitting, and you can tell how much the band appreciate and value this momentous period of their history. This album reflects that with the care and diligence with which they perform these songs once again.

The artwork is as good as that which accompanied the release of the ‘Leftoverture – Live and Beyond’ and fans are in for a real treat. It is a pity that the show was not recorded for posterity on film as that would be something special and much sought after by many fans like me. My shelf is awaiting the arrival of this CD Set in the very near future where it will join the other masterpieces of this truly legendary US Band.

Released 28th May, 2021

Order from Burning Shed here:

Point of Know Return Live & Beyond (burningshed.com)

Kansas Release First New Song in Sixteen Years “With This Heart”

Kansas Album

ALBUM NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER THROUGH KANSASBAND.COM
AUGUST 5th, 2016 – “With This Heart”, the first new song from Kansas in 16 years, is now available. The song is taken from the band’s intensely anticipated new studio album The Prelude Implicit, which will be released on September 23rd, 2016.
The song will be available for purchase Friday, August 5th through iTunes, AmazonMP3, Spotify, and Google Play.  Fans can also pre-order the album on iTunes, AmazonMP3, and Google Play at that time. Links to retailers can be found below:
In a joint statement, the band says:
“We are excited for ‘With This Heart’ to be the first new KANSAS song released in more than 16 years. It definitely fits KANSAS tradition.”
The Prelude Implicit is the first new album release in 16 years for the band that has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, and is famous for classic hits such as ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Dust In the Wind’, to progressive epics like ‘Song for America’ and ‘Miracles Out of Nowhere.’ The album will be available on CD, double 180 Gram Vinyl and digitally on iTunes and Google Play.
Fans can pre-order now by visiting Kansasband.com and on  Amazon.com.
The Prelude Implicit features 10 all new tracks written by the band and co-produced by Zak Rizvi, Phil Ehart, and Richard WilliamsKANSAS’s signature sound is evident throughout the album.  It showcases Ronnie Platt’s soaring lead vocals, David Ragsdale’s blistering violin, Williams and Rizvi’s rocking guitar riffs, the unmistakable sound of David Manion’s B3 organ and keyboards, Ehart’s thundering drums, and Billy Greer’s driving bass and vocals.
KANSAS returned to the studio in January 2016 after signing with Inside Out Music.  Says Inside Out founder and president Thomas Waber, “KANSAS is the biggest and most important Prog band to come out of the United States. I grew up listening to them, and their music is part of my DNA.  ‘The Prelude Implicit’ undoubtedly adds to their already impressive musical legacy.  I can’t stop listening to it, and we are proud to be releasing the album.”
The result of the time in the studio was even more than the band imagined.  “This is definitely a KANSAS album,” remarks original guitarist Richard Williams. “Whether it is the trademark Prog epic like ‘The Voyage of Eight Eighteen’, biting rocker such as ‘Rhythm in the Spirit’, or mindful ballad like ‘The Unsung Heroes’, there is something on this album for every kind of KANSAS fan.  After years of pent-up creativity, the entire band is very proud of ‘The Prelude Implicit.’
Lead Vocalist Ronnie Platt adds, “Recording ‘The Prelude Implicit’ was an incredible experience, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. It is my hope that, knowing the intense listeners that KANSAS fans are, the continuity yet diversity of this album will be pleasing to them.”
The album title, The Prelude Implicit means, “Without a doubt, this is a new musical beginning,” explains Ehart. Tattoo artist, Denise de la Cerda, did the oil painting of the front and back cover.  “It shows a Phoenix flying from the past into the future.”
The Prelude Implicit Track Listing:
1.) With This Heart
2.) Visibility Zero
3.) The Unsung Heroes
4.) Rhythm in the Spirit
5.) Refugee
6.) The Voyage of Eight Eighteen
7.) Camouflage
8.) Summer
9.) Crowded Isolation
10.) Section 60
KANSAS will be debuting songs off The Prelude Implicit this fall, live in concert, as part of their Leftoverture 40th Anniversary Tour.  More information on the tour, including tour dates, can be found at www.kansasband.com