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Return To Forever - Where Have I Known You Before CD (album) cover

WHERE HAVE I KNOWN YOU BEFORE

Return To Forever

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.13 | 244 ratings

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TCat
Special Collaborator
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars In the early 70's, there were several bands that were considered influential in the jazz-fusion movement that existed and these band's helped shape fusion music to come. These bands included groups like Weather Report, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever, the latter of which was founded and headed over by pianist Chick Corea. Corea, of course, had already established a name for himself, even before he created this band in 1971 by playing on some of Miles Davis' most lauded releases and also doing some of his own solo work. Corea created Return to Forever in an effort to make his music more accessible. This he did with an ever changing line-up with only him and bassist Stanley Clarke being consistent members of the band.

When interest in the fusion movement was peaking, the band released its fourth album, the commercial-sounding titled 'Where Have I Known You Before', in 1974. This album would feature a simple quartet consisting of himself and Clarke along with a guitarist also with a reknown name, Al Di Meola, and long-time percussionist for the band Lenny White. This album would continue Corea's quest to make fusion that would connect easily with the audience and work to win over new fans to the genre. Another big difference with this album is that in the project's albums in the past, he stuck with his basic piano and electric piano for his own keyboard contributions, but this album marks the first time he started using synthesizers in the band's line-up of instruments and this gives the sound even more versatility. However, it also runs the danger of sounding a bit dated, and that is the album's main downfall.

The synths become readily apparent in the first track 'Vulcan Worlds', a 7 minute opener which feature synths and keys galore, but also makes time for Di Meola to show off his skills. Corea also brings in the acoustic sound of before by not abandoning his electric piano. The result here is a great fast and furious fusion track that captures the listener's attention, however, the sections featuring the synth definitely sound dated, mainly because of the specific sounds that Corea emphasizes. It's not enough to ruin the track however, and it overall becomes a strong opener that towards the end finally settles down as it comes to a conclusion.

The next track is the first of a trilogy of tracks spread throughout the album that hinge on the title and subject of the album. These tracks are somewhat short and act as interludes, mostly featuring Corea soling. The first of these is 'Where Have I Loved You Before' which is a lovely piano solo. This is the mode that he uses to connect to his audience, but it also carries the album into the next track 'The Shadow of Lo', another 7 minute track that has a softer and laid-back groove when the full band joins in again. Here the synth plays the main motif and expands on it also allowing the guitar to contribute later on. This one continues with the more accessible feel and adds a funky edge later on.

At this point, the album features some shorter tracks remaining around the 3 ' 4 minute mark. This section starts off with 'Where Have I Danced With You Before', the second in the trilogy of interludes, but this time it features a happier and faster tempo, but is again Corea soloing on piano. 'Beyond the Seventh Galaxy' brings in a heavy progressive edge with plenty of guitar and keyboard interplay as this quick and lively track plays through. The second side of the album opens with 'Earth Juice' which has a catchy and driving rhythm with funky guitar scratching. The guitar continues to take the lead through most of this track playing off of a repetitive riff. This section of the album ends with the last of the interlude triology 'Where Have I Know You Before', once again featuring Corea playing a soft and gentle (yet moving) piano solo.

The final track wraps up the album with the 14 minute long 'Song to the Pharoah Kings'. It all begins with a synth solo backed up by sustained organ chords. This continues on for a few minutes before the full band starts to come in providing changing backdrops while differing synth effects and solos play along. Throughout the track there is a very busy percussion and a running bass solo which give the rhythm section (Clarke and White) time to show off a bit while providing an extended and catchy solo. As the track continues, both the guitar and electric piano get to also do some soloing. All in all, its an excellent fusion track that brings it all to an impressive close.

This album is quite a tour-de-force of the styles of fusion the band was capable of producing and how the mix of heavy and soft tracks along with accessible and sometimes more complex tracks were the way of Corea and the band attempting to bring their music to a wider audience. Sometimes the music is lyrical (though it's all instrumental) and other times it is fun and engaging fusion. This style of playing and performing brought Corea's band out into the spotlight along with the other famous fusion bands of the time, and this was a well-earned place for him. While some of his themes were a little schmaltzy (based on Scientology beliefs), the music itself overpowers all of that. The real weaknesses of the album are the places where the synth sounds dated, but it isn't always the case. The best sections are when he reverts back to the electric piano and regular piano and also allow the other musicians to shine. The music isn't always progressive, but there is enough of it here to keep it interesting. Overall, I would give it 3.5 stars, but because of the talent here and the way the music can be presented, it rounds up to 4 stars. A great album by an important fusion band.

TCat | 4/5 |

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