In “Carry on Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind,” 1970s rockers Kansas were responsible for a pair of classic tunes that will probably still be beloved 50 years from now. Though I’m a fan of their music, I’ve never known much about the six-member outfit — until “Miracles Out of Nowhere” came across my desk.
This fantastic full-length documentary (and companion audio CD) provides a fascinating glimpse into the early days of the band. Inspired by the 40th anniversary of their 1974 debut album, director Charley Randazzo reunited the classic Kansas lineup for the first time in more than three decades in their Topeka, Kan. hometown. Kerry Livgren, Steve Walsh, Phil Erhart, Dave Hope, Robby Steinhardt and Richard Williams speak candidly about the early days of their career and how a bunch of long-haired Midwesterners eventually evolved into one of the biggest rock & roll acts in the world.
They share details of a backstage dustup with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler (who resented the enthusiastic crowd response Kansas were getting as his band’s opening act); note that “Dust in the Wind” — their biggest hit — began as a Livgren finger-picking exercise and almost wasn’t developed into a song; and speak fondly of rock impresario Don Kirshner, who signed and financed the band …. and whose patience was rewarded when Kansas finally hit it big with fourth album “Leftoverture.”
There are some classic concert performances sprinkled into the mix and plenty of great music. In addition to their two signature tunes, the film and CD feature gems like “Song for America,” “Down the Road,” “The Wall” and “Point of Know Return.” My one complaint, albeit a minor one, is that the story ends with the release of 1977 multi-platinum album “Point of Know Return.” Kansas were at the peak of their commercial and creative success at that point and I’d have liked to hear their thoughts on some of the leaner years that followed. Nevertheless, this is a must for anyone who loves classic rock. (Jeffrey Sisk)