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Kansas - Point Of Know Return CD (album) cover

POINT OF KNOW RETURN

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

4.15 | 719 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
4 stars As a kid in the late 70's, I can remember standing in Zeller's department store near the cafeteria and looking at the covers of the record albums on display in the music department across the aisle. Three covers made a deep enough impression that I easily recognized them when, years later, that style of music became my preference. One pictured a domed city on a gigantic guitar with rocket flames churning out from below. "Boston" was emblazoned in gold letters across the guitar, and the earth was exploding in the distance. Another cover featured an intense-looking, long-haired man furiously clutching and playing a guitar from whose head was bursting forth flame and sparks, like a double barrel shotgun blasting. The third album cover was quite different. No flames, guns, rockets, or explosions, just a silhouetted ship tipping over the edge of a seemingly endless waterfall with no bottom. A black sun shone from beyond the falls, providing a sense of hope because a sun existed beyond oblivion but at the same time mystery and a dread of the unknown. I became familiar with the first two albums in my teens; however it was only a few weeks ago that I sat down to order an album by Kansas, just to see what all the fuss was about, that I was at last able to put a band name to that haunting album cover with the ship going over the ocean- breadth-sized waterfall.

"Point of Know Return" was not my first Kansas album. I bought "Power" several years ago when I was in a Deep Purple haze craze and wanted to hear what the members past and present of that legendary band were doing when not in DP, and the Steve Morse connection brought me to Kansas. Only at that time did I even first know that "Dust in the Wind" was a song by the same band! Yeah, I know: what part of the world was I hiding in all these years?

So, at last a classic Kansas album made it to my CD collection and I can tell you that even though "Leftoverture" is higher rated on PA, it was that cover that impressed me so well at the age of six that made me click to order "Point of Know Return" instead.

I'd read the reviews and knew to expect a few things: arena rock, violin, and 70's American prog (whatever that last part meant). With the opening title track I heard the first two aspects but not much of the third. Seventies arena rock with violin and organ syncopation. Oh, well. A decent driving song. I guess that's what this album will be about, I thought.

But to my pleasant surprise, the 70's American arena rock sound was relegated to the passenger seat on most of the other songs. "Paradox" begins sounding a lot like Dixie Dregs, and "The Spider" is a blatant salute to ELP. "Portrait (He Knew)" is a nice blend of the two prevailing styles of hard rock and prog, and "Closet Chronicles" presents an anthemic musical theme in the styling of classic Uriah Heep but with an instrumental section that favours tempo and mood changes, and prog instrumentation.

The arena rock sound returns for "Lightning's Hand" and "Sparks of the Tempest" (interestingly, the rock aspect of "Tempest" reminds me of Montrose), but not without the trademark sudden tempo changes, odd time signatures, and rapid bursts of classically- influenced playing. And in between these two tracks, timely slotted, is the beautiful acoustic number, "Dust in the Wind". Though I've heard it dozens of times on classic rock radio, I actually got chills when it came into my ear buds. It does stand out as the odd ball of the album, in a way much like "Lucky Man" stands out from ELP's debut.

The last two tracks, "Nobody's Home" and "Hopelessly Human" really focus on the progressive rock side of the band and make for a great pair of songs. I can't help but feel that "Nobody's Home" may have influenced one of Saga's early songs.

I was surprised how familiar the band often sounded to me. Of course "Dust in the Wind" and their other huge hit "Carry On Wayward Son" are classic rock radio staples whose choruses I have known most of my life. Then there's the occasional similarity to Dixie Dregs sans guitar wiz, Steve Morse. But the arena rock aspects and Steve Walsh's vocals are still to be found years later on "Power". Actually, I really like Walsh's vocals, typical of American seventies rock, and I realize how much of an influence rock of the seventies had on my musical preferences even though I was only a kid.

Duly impressed from the first listen to this album, I have now ordered "Song for America" and "Leftoverture". Kansas my just be my next Nektar or Saga, two other bands whose second addition to my CD collection immediately warranted the purchase of a few albums more.

FragileKings | 4/5 |

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