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Return To Forever - Return To Forever CD (album) cover

RETURN TO FOREVER

Return To Forever

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.98 | 173 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

After leaving Miles Davis's group (he participated to Miles's most important electric group being one of two keyboardists along with Weather Report's Joe Zawinul), Chick Corea formed his own band called Return To Forever. Much like WR, RTF's early albums contains few electric instruments and featured no guitarists (acoustic or electric), and their music was an excellent fusion of jazz and rock that was derived from Davis' Miles In The Sky to Jack Johnson era. Corea recruited the superb sax-flutist Joe Farrell, the awesome Airto Moreira on drums and brought in young bassist extraordinaire Stanley Clarke. Rounding up the quintet was the then-very-in-vogue Fiona Purim (heard on Santana, McLaughlin and many other's albums), but here she's more than guest, she's a full-blown member of RTF (as well as Airto's Wife), which might cause a few cringes among those not being fans of her (my case), but rest assured that her RTF contributions are the best she made in her career.

The jazz crowds were always difficult to satisfy and once their ire for Miles' electric treason, part f the opinion turned onto Chick's desire to found his own group that would be primarily acoustic and thought to be traditional jazz given the presence of the Brazilian couple of Moreira-Purim. If indeed the mood is acoustic, and there are the obvious bossa nova beats in RTF's debut album, the least we can say is that the album two long tracks out of a total of four and representing ¾ of the album's total time) are deeply adventurous and not commercial at all, even if the sheer beauty of these two adventures makes the music very accessible. Of course, it didn't help that Chick chose to sign with the erman ECM label, seen as a sign of treason by many US patriots. Graced with a superb aerial photo of an albatross over a clam sea, it fit the music perfectly too.

Slowly rising from the dawn, the 12-mins eponymous track is a stunning statement on which one of the best JR/F group can easily rest its foundations. The track builds slowly on Chick's Rhodes, Flora's aerial scat vocalizing and Farrell's delightful flute, while Clarke's steady bass and Airto's splendid drumming provide an hypnotic background. The middle section is a bit less smooth, as the tracks stops then pick up a tad funkier (Stanley gets a real spotlight for a few minutes), more frantic mood with Flora screeching wildly (think of a female Careful With That Axe , Eugenia), while the climax reaches almost dissonance through Farrell's flute. The track then resumes a bit as it had started. The aptly-titled 7- mins Crystal Silence (Corea-penned like the rest of the album) is an escapade for Chick's crystal-clear Rhodes playing, while Farrell adds some soppy/cheesy sax. Closing the A-side is the almost straight bossa jazz What Game, where Flora sprawls her singing over a boring lounge jazz music. Both shorter tracks are best forgotten, IMHO.

The flipside belongs to the awesome 23-mins+ Sometime Ago, where RTF makes another splendid statement of intention. Rarely has a jazz track taken such a long time to rise , but then again Sometime Ago is a torrid sun-soaked Spanish-drenched piece, where Clarke takes the lead stand-up bass role over Chick's rhythmic Rhodes, and the mood hits Flamenco. (We'll hear more of these Spanish influence throughout RTF's career, notably on the Spain track on the following album, but Connors and DiMeola are both Spanish-prone in their playing.) As soon as you think Clarke reinstate the group, he pulls out a bow and gives more drama with his contrabass. Then Flora and Farrell get into the dance and the track gains even more intensity. Castanetta, flamenco bass lines, alto sax lead lines fill up the space, even if at times the music lacks a little je-ne-sai-quoi (a guitar actually) to give it that little extra oomph to go over the top and forget the trad jazz twist remaining here and there. Nothing to be .

RTF's debut album is a stunning start to one of the most prestigious JR/F groups ever, even if this first phase is often wrongly disregarded by some closed-minded electric fusion freaks. Definitely worth a few spins as is the second album LAAF, to understand RTF's roots, I can only urge most fusionheads to rethink their opinions about these two albums. .

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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