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Interview:
Kansas releases new live album, 5 things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Kansas' latest live album gives the group a chance to show fans what they've missed during the pandemic.



The veteran rock group, founded in Topeka in the state that bears its name, had only recently started playing its quadruple-platinum 1977 album "Point of Know Return" in its entirety onstage when the lockdown began. Fortunately it had recorded 12 dates, from which it fashioned "Point of Know Return Live & Beyond," featuring not just the album but other favorites, including the hit "Carry On Wayward Son."



The album give folks a taste of that tour, which the group plans to resume later this year -- and is looking forward to incorporating songs from its 2020 studio album "The Absence of Presence"...



• Playing "Point of Know Return" was an outgrowth of performing 1976's "Leftoverture, also quadruple platinum, during previous tours. “Those are fun shows to do," says guitarist Richard Williams, who remains with drummer Phil Ehart from the original lineup of Kansas. "It's one thing playing a casino or a fair or things like that. They draw a larger portion of the more casual crowd, but the 'Leftoverture' and 'Point' dates that's where you get the hardcore Kansas fans. It gives us a chance to pull out some cuts we haven't ever played or haven't played in a long time. It's a really satisfying evening for us and for the crowd."



• Williams, 71, says by phone from his home in North Carolina that playing the albums front to back -- in this case "Point of Know Return" -- gives him new perspectives on the original works. "The first thing that kinda struck me was, 'Why are these songs in this order?' It's simply odd, the pacing of it. But then you realize, 'Oh, that's right -- this is arranged in this fashion for an LP and what's gonna end up on which side and we need something really good to open up the second side and what's gonna end the album. You're thinking in those terms rather than a linear, just one listen like we play it in concert. We might've arranged the songs a little differently now."







• "Point of Know Return's" best-known track is the gentle, acoustic "Dust in the Wind," Kansas' highest charting single ever -- No. 6 on the Billboard 100, with a triple=platinum certification. Williams loves the song but has some painful personal memories. "There's four tracks of my Martin (acoustic guitar) and one or two tracks of high-strung, nylon string guitar, which I did with finger picks. But when we listened back, we noticed in the background this (clicking sound) all the way through -- it was five combined metal finger picks attacking the strings. It sounded like Clydesdales dancing in the background. So we had to do it all over, just with fingers. I never used raw fingers before and didn't have any callouses built up, so it was a painful way to do it."



• Williams says he's not sure if Kansas will consider playing any of its other albums in their entireties like the group did with "Point of Know Return" and "Leftoverture." "I would never say never. I never thought we'd have done it in the first place. Those are the two biggest albums. Those are the albums that really put us on the map. It's kind of hard to imagine what we could do to top that, but we've enjoyed doing these two, so we'd definitely give it some thought."



• The pandemic break, according to Williams, has given Kansas a chance to work on new material and a possible quick follow up to "The Absence of Presence." "Tom (Brislin, vocals and keyboards) has been writing a lot of stuff. We've got a great record company, and they want us to record again. But we’ve got a lot of touring to do. We didn't get a chance to perform any of the last album or do as many of the 'Point' shows as we planned. Going into the studio takes you off the road, and there's not much money at all in releasing records anymore. The sales just aren't there for hard product, so live is the only place you get butter for the bread. Losing 14 months, we need to get back on the road and back to work before anything else."

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