Kansas - Point Of Know Return

Year of Release: 1984
Label: Kirshner/CBS
Catalog Number: ZK-34929
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:43:59

Hard to believe that more than 40 years have gone by since Kansas released their classic Point Of Know Return. This album has been on my favorites list for all that time, in the top 5 and usually in the top 2! I remember buying this record on vinyl some time in 1977, maybe 1978 - vinyl that I still have, in fact - and just loving the complexity of the music. I envisioned it to be like a detailed, medieval tapestry - the more you studied it (listened to it) you would find new things (sounds, elements). I didn't then think of it as progressive rock as a genre, a style, a category back then (a mere pup of 10 or 11; that term wouldn't enter my lexicon until 1991). To me it was just great music, rich in detail. It might have been "Dust In The Wind" that prompted the purchase, or the title track; that I don't remember*. But I just dug every single track. Still do.

In updating our concert dates listing with Kansas' upcoming dates, celebrating this album's 40th anniversary by playing it in its entirety, it was revealed to me that I have never reviewed this album that has been so important to me for most of my life! Keith Hannaleck, who used to contribute to these pages, reviewed a remastered version in 2002 (which you can read here). But me? No, strangely. (Having been in a personal drama haze for most of the last two years, the actual anniversary year slipped right by me).

However, to classify what I write here, now, as a review wouldn't be accurate. I am far too subjective to be objective. I think, too, now, for me to view it with a critical eye would spoil the magic the album has for me. But surely sharing my thoughts will cause no harm.

What attracted me to the album as a whole was how well it fit together - for example, the rhythm and groove of "Paradox" flowing into that of "The Spider," and then a single throbbing beat becoming the intro to "Portrait (He Knew)." Not a concept album, per se, and yet very much. There is an old-world atmosphere aided by the album's cover and inner-sleeve artwork that gives all of the tracks a similar context - reflective of a certain period of time in history, even as the songs may not have any specific historical context (some do) or refer to the same point in time. And as with Kansas' music before and after, an element of Native American rhythms here and there, yet not seeming out of place with the feel of the rest (for example, in "Portrait"). If one's only impression of Kansas was through only "Dust In The Wind," they'd miss out on how much this band rocks... and how easily they find the midpoint between the two. It can be epic, it can be subtle -- a contrast where each enhances the other.

Given that my record collection to that point consisted of more commercial pop fare, in contrast Kansas' Point of Know Return was a revelation to me. It was unlike anything I had heard before, while remaining as accessible as anything I was listening to. I can see now this dichotomy is what I seek in progressive rock**, Marillion being the best example, as they quickly came to be another of my favorite bands (my impression of Misplaced Childhood similarly is of rich tapestries). I think without having discovered Kansas and being more enamored of the other tracks on the album than the hit single ("Dust...," which I do love), I would not have been open to... Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes... a dozen others. I probably wouldn't be writing this commentary/reflection either, as I'd not have created Progressiveworld.net 22 years ago. In that, the album became my own "point of know return."

Additional thoughts: My favorites on the album are the side one closer "Closet Chronicles," "Nobody's Home," and side two closer "Hopelessly Human." But that is a matter of degree because I really love all the tracks. While the effect is a bit different now in the age of CD (or streaming) but when the LP was flipped over to play side two, "Lightning's Hand" comes exploding out of the speakers. It's still a powerful, rocking track, but that jolt is lessened. Listening to the album again today (literally) and in a different listening mode, I am hearing and understanding new things. I was going to say that "Lighting's Hand" doesn't fit with the "old world" theme I envisioned, but it does. Maybe not quite as old, but here we are in the Old West*** - "Cowboys and Indians" (or European invaders and indigenous peoples, if you will). Never really made that connection before now - so, see; discover new layers, aspects, upon each listen. I said it's not a concept album - and in the sense of a narrative flow, it is not. But the theme running through the tracks is "discovery" - whether it is what lies beyond the known world ("Point Of Know Return"), or knowledge ("Portrait (He Knew)," "Closet Chronicles"), of the effects of man's need to explore ("Lightning's Hand," from the perspective, I perceive, of the invaded),... even quiet reflection, exploring ones inner self ("Dust In The Wind").

Even if this is not considered to be Kansas' best album (with a band that has had many quality releases, the "best" can be subjective), it has become a necessary part of my record collection. The cliché is "deserted island discs" (or "desert island discs," as I've seen sometimes), but this certainly lands on my list.

Original release date of the LP was 1977, by Kirshner/CBS, cat no. 34929. Issued on CD in 1984 (the version used here); reissued on CD in 2002 with two bonus tracks, including a remix of "Portrait"; reissued again many times since, most recently in June 2018 by Epic/Legacy (cat no 586936) and Friday Music on LP. Also: looking something up, I noticed that some helpful person at Wikipedia noted that each member has a joke instrument listed in the credits; I have preserved that.

*in the same purchase, by the way, my other perennial favorite album, Eagles' Hotel California.

**though it has to be said I find interest in abstract, angular, avant-garde music as well, even further afield from mainstream pop/rock. ***I was aware of the gunshots that open the track before, but writing now, I see a new context.

Point Of Know Return (3:13) / Paradox (3:50) / The Spider (2:03) / Portrait (He Knew) (4:38) / Closet Chronicles (6:32) / Lightning's Hand (4:24) / Dust In The Wind (3:28) / Sparks Of The Tempest (4:18) / Nobody's Home (4:40) / Hopelessly Human (7:09)

Phil Ehart - drums, chimes, chain-driven gong, tympani, percussion
Dave Hope - bass, autogyro
Kerry Livgren - electric and acoustic guitars, piano, clavinet, synthesizers, Rinauldo Whistling Machine, percussion
Robby Steinhardt - vioin, viola, faucon lap cello, vocals
Steve Walsh - organ, piano, celeste, vibes, Peabody Chromatic Inverter, synthesizer, vocals, percussion
Rich Williams - electric and acoustic guitars, Bemis Cow Pedal

Kansas (1974)
Song For America (1975)
Masque (1975)
Leftoverture (1976)
Point Of Know Return (1977)
Two For The Show (1978)
Monolith (1979)
Audio-Visions (1980)
Vinyl Confessions (1982)
Drastic Measures (1983)
The Best Of Kansas (1984)
Power (1986)
In The Spirit Of Things (1988)
Live At The Whiskey (1992)
Carry On (1992)
The Kansas Boxed Set (1994)
Freaks Of Nature (1995)
Always Never The Same (1998)
King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Kansas (1998)
Somewhere To Elsewhere (2000)
Dust In The Wind (2001)
Device-Voice-Drum (2002)
The Ultimate Kansas (2002)
Sail On: The 30th Anniversary Collection (2004)
On The Other Side (2005)
Works In Progress (2006)
Playlist: The Very Best Of Kansas (2008)
There's Know Place Like Home (2009)
Miracles Out Of Nowhere (2015)
The Prelude Implicit (2016)
Leftoverture: Live And Beyond (2017)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: June 15th 2019
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.kansasband.com
Hits: 5972
Language: english


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