Albums the Influenced my Life #3: Point of Know Return – Kansas

The Point of Know Return – Kansas

The impact Kansas had on my musical tastes and skills probably can’t be overstated. I am not certain when I started listening to which album, but at some point I had acquired and listened to all of the albums they had produced through Point of Know Return and probably including the “Two for the Show” live album. The body of work are the albums, “Kansas”, “Song for America”, “Masque”, “Leftoverture”, “Point of Know Return” and “Two for the Show” contain quite a few long playing progressive rock pieces that have a sort of mystical texts inspiring them.

They were not a group to produce love songs although there were some love songs in their repertoire. The topics that their songs discussed were more principle based. Such topics as the environment, ancient texts, natural phenomenon and historic stories with a modern twist all served to add to the mystique of Kansas.

Back in those days I wasn’t as impressed by their hard driving rock pieces, almost heavy metal in nature as I was by their 10 minute long progressive rock pieces. However, I have come to really love those hard rock pieces for their complexity and relentless drive.

Clearly, with Kansas’ “Monolith” album, they had morphed into a more pop music style that didn’t fit them at all, in my opinion. They had great compositions on “Monolith” and “Audio Visions” but the themes became simple and sort of superficial and the records sounded more produced and less like they were recorded in a stream of consciousness. That is my observation and I have no idea about their recording process.

The Point of Know return matched my passion for sailing back in those days. So, the idea of setting forth upon a voyage headed towards a destination that is on the other side of what people consider the end of the known world matched my desire to get out of Kentucky and see the rest of the world.

When you consider the songs in Point of Know Return it is actually possibly their best album. Lets take a look at the album.

  1. Point of Know Return
    1. The title song is a bit commercial and was intended and promoted as such after the smash hit that “Carry on my wayward son” from the Leftoverture album. It has flashy keyboards and is definitely a challenge for any singer.
  2. Paradox is a over before it starts. It is one of my favorites because it starts at full tilt and runs hard until it is over. You can’t possibly catch this runaway train on one hearing. But, when you get to know it it is an awesome song.
  3. The “Spider” is a keyboard composition by Steve Walsh, and I have to tell you it is not easy to play or understand on the keyboard. It has some really complex tilts to it and is really quite an interesting piece.
  4. The “Portrait: He Knew” is a song inspired by Albert Einstein. I wasn’t sure what the song was about for years, but when I discovered it was talking about Einstein, then the texts make perfect sense and is a fitting poem honoring the transformational physicist. On the album it is okay, but live it is is a hard driving thrilling composition with some great solos in it. It is a very hard song to sing, so hats off to Steve Walsh on his ability to sing this song over the long haul.
  5. “Closet Chronicles” is about Howard Hughes and is also an excellent composition. It tells a story and has a monumental feel to it.
  6. If we take the last two pieces on the album here, Nobody’s Home and  Hopelessly Human, you have an admirable addition to “Closet Chronicles” which also has that monumental feel. They are really good songs and I think the fact that they go almost forgotten in the world of music is a real loss.
  7. The incredible hit “Dust in the Wind” sort of came out of nowhere because it is really unlike any of the songs they had produced before. Being 100% acoustic in nature the songs folksy rock nature attracted a lot of people to Kansas for the first time. If “Dust in the Wind” was the only song you knew from Kansas and then heard the other songs they wrote, you wouldn’t believe that it could possibly be the same group. But their ability to insert such a song into their concerts really gave a point of repose in a musical landscape of power and force.
  8. The “Tempest” and “Lightning’s Hand” are two driving hard rock compositions that are absolutely phenomenal. Why hard rockers didn’t latch on to those I’ll never understand. I guess it is possible that these compositions are just too intelligent for most dead heads.

Some make the claim that there is no stellar soloist in the original Kansas band, but I think what they are really saying is that it is hard to stand out when the entire band is full of great musicians. In the end, music isn’t necessarily always about virtuosity but about how good you are with where you are and what you have and as a band, Kansas in “Point of Know Return” comes across as a band of virtuosos, not a guy who can play supported by others who simply play along.

I learned a lot from this album and played the keyboard parts and tried to sing those lyrics as best I could. It definitely was a work. An accomplishment to produce such a great album of music goes lost in the vast heap of rock albums, but this album, like Leftoverture, is a masterpiece and well worth taking the time to listen to, read, and know.