Point Of Know Return
Kirshner Records, 1977
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/08/1999
It's amazing how certain groups will stick with people. I guess it sometimes depends on who is your "favorite", but in the e-mail these days, there are certain bands whose names continually come up when people ask us to review certain albums.
Some time back, one reader (forgive me, I've misplaced your name - must have been on my old system) asked me to check out Kansas's 1977 release Point Of Know Return - but I got bogged down in many other things, so the request went unfulfilled. I've since had a few other people ask me when the next Kansas review would be - surprisingly, they wrote after it had been scheduled to run today.
If Leftoverture put Steve Walsh and crew on the map of popularity, Point Of Know Return sent them into the stratosphere. With the smash hit "Dust In The Wind" and the title track's rock power, it seemed like Kansas was on the fast track to superstardom. Yeah, sure - but how does the rest of the album sound?
Walsh and crew learned their lessons from the few mistakes that were on Leftoverture, and went out to show what they had learned on Point Of Know Return. While Leftoverture was a very enjoyable album, this one is tight musically all the way through, and is a pleasure to listen to, even 22 years after it was released.
The biggest accomplishment is that Kansas found the middle ground between the worlds of rock and progressive music. Songs like "Paradox," "Hopelessly Human" and "Portrait (He Knew)" demonstrate this, and stand out as some of the best "forgotten" tracks on the album.
Kerry Livgren's contributions to this band can never be downplayed, as many of the songs prove. His guitar work shines throughout Point Of Know Return, but it is "Dust In The Wind" that remains one of my favorites to this day. But to say that Livgren was the only talented songwriter would be unfair; Walsh shows his talents often, especially on the instrumental "The Spider".
Weaknesses? Besides the observation that one or two songs don't quite measure up to the high level of quality on this album ("Sparks Of The Tempest"), this album is nearly flawless.
Point Of Know Return was the high-water mark for Kansas in terms of chart success and radio popularity, but it's by no means a bad way to be remembered. If someone were to ask me where they should start their Kansas collection, this is the album I'd point them to.