Kansas is celebrating the 40th anniversary of their landmark 1977 album “Point of Know Return" by playing the album in its entirety. They'll be at the Fox Theater on Tuesday.
Revisiting the album, were there any "diamonds in the rough"? Anything new gleaned from revisiting the album as a whole? According to Kansas guitarist Rich Williams, it sure raised some questions about continuity and its functions.
“(You ask yourself), 'Why is this song here?’ Oh, I remember: Because it was an album. There were two sides, so we needed a song that closed side one and something that would open side two.”
“What makes the most sense? How does this work? Coming out of what song into this song is the best transition? Where do we need a change of pace the most? Those types of things are always in consideration and you’re shuffling the deck constantly to see which way, with two openings and two endings for a double-sided disc, is going to work the best ”
Which explains the placement of their platinum-selling single “Dust in the Wind” on the album — just after the middle. In the context of the whole, it’s a stark inclusion.
It’s a sparse meditation on our mortal fragility sung over fingerpicked acoustic guitars and violin. It sort of just pops up in the midst of all the prog-rock bombast, taking the listener to a completely different place.
“That’s the first time that we had an all-acoustic song before,” Williams said. “Who knew that ‘Dust in the Wind’ was going to be such a monstrous hit? So the way it’s kind of buried in the album now made sense at the time. We were doing something we had never done before.”
When former guitarist Kerry Livgren demurely presented the song to the band, it was just one more song to add to the pile of possible contenders for the album. It’s potential was immediately recognized by the rest of his bandmates.
“The first time we heard it, we said, ‘That’s a great song. That’s going to be our next hit,’ and Terry goes 'Really?’” Williams said. “We were confident it was a great song. Had no idea that it would have the staying power that it has.”
“You know, if we could see in the future and knowing that everything would be (all on) one side one day, we would have put that maybe somewhere different in the tracking list.”
Playing “Point of Know Return” in its entirety also invites the inclusion of certain songs, like “Closet Chronicles” and the bonkers instrumental “Spider," that haven't been played in years.
“Tom Brislin, who’s playing keyboards with us now, is a virtuoso keyboard player," Williams said. "He could play it and talk to you at the same time. It’s just great to have that back in.”
This will basically be a three-act show with no intermissions, save for set changes, starting with an acoustic set, then an electric “rock set" and ending with the performance of “Point of Know Return.”
Williams and drummer Phil Ehart are the last two original members of the group and have been friends since Williams met the junior-high-aged Ehart at their local music store. Although members have come and gone over the years, Williams’ remains resolved.
“The original six of us, we were all great friends — and we still are,” Williams said, “but not everybody is cut out for this. You think you are and you put 20 years in and you just can’t do it anymore, and people want to do other things and want to move on to another phase of their lives.”
“I’ve never wanted to leave. I’ve never wanted to do anything else. So it’s very much like life in general: Change happens.”
Williams is tight-lipped about Kansas’ next release except to share the projected release date of next August and his frank assertion that the band’s motivation is in moving forward.
“I’m pretty sure that (the album) will pay for itself and the fans are gonna love it,” Williams said. "It’s an unbelievably great record.
“We have seven guys now that love doing this. They’re very dedicated ... so what we’re doing is in the truest sense of being creative musicians: we’re doing it for the love of doing it. That was the dynamic in the original six when we started. Enter money and things start to change. Nothing wrong with money, but that’s not why we do this.”
Kansas: Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Fox Theater, 2001 H St. $37.50-$120 at ticketfly.com.
Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, World Records, 2815 F St. $50, $60; 325-1982; shopworldrecords.com.
I discovered Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra’s music in the early 1990s through the albums “Solo Para Ti” and “The Hours Between Night + Day,” the latter becoming a favorite. He and the band will be performing at World Records on Saturday.
Back then, two things about Liebert struck me. The first was his music, which was a combination of Spanish flamenco, new age, classical and world music that Liebert describes as “Nouveau Flamenco” (also the name of his 1990 debut). The second was his hair. I envied that hair and would have loved to have a ponytail like his. (This was the 1990s when even mullets were a thing.) Nowadays, Liebert has gone with the shaved head look and my hair went from luxurious to a luxury.
His music is as lovely and playful as an evening with good friends on a world trip and as ethereal as the horizon at dusk. It’s perfectly exemplified in his signature song, “Barcelona Nights” off “Nouveau Flamenco”: sensual, meditative and thought-provoking. You don't just listen to his music, you bask in it.
A big part of his sound is Luna Negra bassist Jon Gagan, whose fretless bass playing reminds me of Mick Karn or a playfully ethereal Jaco Pastorious. The two have been playing together for 30 years, ever since Liebert relocated to Santa Fe, N.M., from Cologne, Germany, taking gigs wherever he could find them.
The title of Liebert’s latest release, “Fete” means “party” in French. It’s a sonic departure from his last studio release, “Slow,” which explored slower tempos and textures, to elicit a relaxed, but not somber, response.
“Fete,” in contrast, is playful, colorful and influenced by the music from the Caribbean and even Afrobeat. To Liebert, regardless if it’s flamenco, rumba, tango or reggae, it all comes from the same well. It’s his own curiosity that brings them together to create his sound.
“While I think it’s great that some artists go down one road and it’s all either upbeat or meditative, I find that — for myself — I really enjoy switching between those things.”