In past years, I’ve found the joy of looking through the dust bins of music history at independent record stores but especially antique malls where occasionally you find a solid record collection to browse through.
I usually don’t find anything that peaks my interest all that much but occasionally I’ll find something I just have to have on vinyl. Then, after reading so many of blogger friend DeKE’s regular reviews on Thunder Bay Arena Rock of old albums and records he’s found in similar dust bins he caught my attention as to something different I can write about.
So, a recent trip to Temecula, CA led to visiting an antique mall featuring a significant record collection. Some outlandish prices here including nearly $50 for Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes and a number of other seemingly highly overpriced albums. But one caught my eye especially the condition. I flipped it over hoping to see “Carry on Wayward Son” which would have been a no brainer but instead I saw “Dust in the Wind.”
I know, I know, I probably should have known “Carry On…” was not on Point Of Know Return from Kansas. (And yes had the album I was holding been Leftoverture I would have had no doubt “Carry on Wayward Son” was included – that I remembered, just not at the time.) But admittedly, I have none of their albums, however have always enjoyed their music and tried desperately and fully failed in the last 10 years or so to catch them live. The best I can muster comes from watching a concert video from years ago that featured an animated robot performing the drum solo.
My initial thought for Point of No Return was it must be concept album (again, not a dedicated fan) so I looked it up before dropping the needle. That would be a no.
The album cover displays a sailing ship careening off a waterfall and the whole illustration engulfs the earth (sort of reminded me of the imagery Rush used on Clockwork Angels). On the back, an angel of sorts covers a white sphere as a dragon partly in and out of a body of water acts as a border. But it was the “For Governmental Sale Only” stamp in the upper left that caught my attention as a possible collector’s item. Probably an album release promo.
Each side of the record sleeve contains the lyrics printed on pages of a thick book (like a Bible) with a pencil stenciling of the band members on one side. Visually the whole design looks awesome but you can’t read anything because of the font and closeness of the letters. And! The song order displayed on the book graphic do not follow the traditional Side One, Side Two format.
The title track opens the album and of course I have heard “Point of No Return” before. Great song. Classic Kansas. But boy was I in for a big surprise as the record continued with “Paradox,” the instrumental “The Spider” and “Portrait (He Knew)” with the heavy use of synthesizers. Am I listening to Styx or Kansas? Regardless Side One was a pretty quick, solid listen closing out with the semi-ballad and six and half minute “Closet Chronicles.” I like this song. Slow and emotional at times then it picks up with this crazy Rich Williams guitar solo followed by groovy keyboards probably ripped by Steve Walsh (who left the band briefly midway through recording mind you) then back to a guitar solo.
Side Two opens with the hopping “Lightning’s Hand” then arguably one of the best rock songs ever in “Dust in the Wind.” Man, is this a good song. So sad and contemplative. Kerry Livgren delivers a mesmerizing acoustic guitar but Robby Steinhardt on violin kills it. Great Walsh vocals too.
The band picks the beat back up on “Sparks of the Tempest” and “Nobody’s Home” as the album’s longest song “Hopelessly Human,” coming in more than seven minutes long, finishes off the album as all three find a similar vein as the rest of the songs with heavy synths and traditional prog rock melodies and chords. The use of Steinhardt’s violin obviously worked as a branding iron of sorts for Kansas who continue to release albums and tour more than 40 years later.
Kansas released Point of No Return in 1977 which proved an immense success for the band peaking at No. 4 in January 1978 and represents Kansas’ highest charting album ever and it went on to be certified Quadruple Platinum. The album has the traditional lineup for Kansas which has unfortunately seen multiple musicians over the years but Rich Williams and Phil Ehart remain today. Walsh eventually did return, left again in 1981, then returned in 1985 after the band reunited after a short split and remained with Kansas through 2014 when he retired.
Kansas – Point of No Return Track List:
- Point of No Return
- The Spider
- Portrait (He Knew)
- Closet Chronicles
- Lightning’s Hand
- Dust in the Wind
- Sparks of the Tempest
- Nobody’s Home
- Hopelessly Human