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Return To Forever - Romantic Warrior CD (album) cover

ROMANTIC WARRIOR

Return To Forever

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.23 | 407 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Quiet One
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Prog Warrior

Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior has always been a dilemma for me since it features technically perfect musicans and some brilliant instrumental crafting, but the overall result has never striked me as technical Jazz Rock or something really jazzy which is what you expect from Corea & Friends; Romantic Warrior has always striked me as a Prog Rock album played by jazz-leaned musicians. And besides sounding more Prog Rock than Jazz Fusion, it has never been an album I enjoyed much due to its prog-rock-focus.

Right away with the opener entitled 'Medieval Overture' with its flashy modern keyboards and the ever-changing moods, even including some resemblance to Gentle Giant's medieval roots and weird complexity, you know that Return to Forever is not the jazz rock band which played the raw Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy and the elegant Where Have I Known You Before anymore.

The second tune called 'Sorceress' is the only part from Romantic Warrior which can be classified as straight Jazz Rock, with its funky but steady rhythm being the responsible of the inevitable addictiveness to the tune. However the main performer is Chick Corea with an excellent blend of various synths, a piano, an electric piano and some floating keyboards, all played with such proficiency and delicacy, you really can't ask for more. One of the band's greatest tunes.

As soon as 'Sorceress' finishes the title track begins in a very majestic way with Corea's fascinating piano, Meola's marvellous acoustic guitar and Stanley's upright bass. However that's only the intro, it then gets into a jazzy state with an excellent rhythm base which each member has the chance to step in and make an unbelievable solo. Superficially it may seem very much as a jazz rock tune because the musicians play unmistakably in a jazz rock manner, but the composition itself if you pay attention to the details you'll notice more of a prog-feel than a jazz rock one.

Next track is 'Majestic Dance' and this tune confirms that this is not Return to Forever playing jazz rock if not prog rock. Meola's catchy guitar riff then accompanied by Corea's synths is undeniably in the prog-vein. Anyway, Meola being the composer, he's undoubtedly the highlight here with his mind-blowing shredding. However the proof that Majestic Dance is inclined to prog rock are the bizarre passages with Corea's synth and a keyboard sound akin to a xylophone which reminds you of Ruth Underwood. It's good, but those bizarre passsages are unnecessary.

Romantic Warrior continues in the prog-vein with 'The Magician'. A frenetic tune full of oddities which reminds you once again of Gentle Giant's medieval influences and bizarreness. Probably the weirdest tune in Return To Forever's catalogue, and that's only because it yells Prog! Technically amazing, though zero pleasure listening to it

The album finishes with the highly acclaimed among Prog fans, 'Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant'. It's a 11 minute piece full of intricating sections varying from completely technical stuff to some soft jazzy-inclined passages to prog-esque stuff. The main performers are Chick Corea and Al Di Meola both dueling with some of the finest soloing I've ever heard, however there's also a lot of room for Lenny and Stanley to stand-out. Overall, a Prog instrumental which many prog bands wished they could make, however for my personal taste I would take any simple but addictive funky jazz rock tune to this technical show-off.

As a great mixture of Prog Rock and Jazz Fusion, they succeeded, no doubt. But unfortunately, they didn't really succeed to please me with the exception of the magnificent fusion track, 'Sorceress' and bits of others.

So, the conclusion to Romantic Warrior is a no-brainer for me, it's a refined and complex Prog Rock record made by jazz inclined musicians, however most of it doesn't strike a chord with me, the excessive medieval interludes and solos just seem to show-off and don't fit, it's rather unpleasant in places. I do want to make it clear that if you're looking for the jazz rock Return to Forever, this is not the place to come, either Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy or the even better Where Have I Known You Before are what a jazz rock fan should be looking for. Don't get me wrong I don't consider Romantic Warrior a Prog Rock record because it's technical, The Mahavishnu Orchestra has demonstrated being highly technical and even heavy, yet the jazz rock credentials are very clear in them, unlike in this record, Romantic Warrior with it's prog-esque cover-work and titles from the tunes, but more importantly, the clear way Return To Forever composed the tunes which is in a very prog-manner, so this can't, in my opinion, be considered a jazz rock classic either a masterpiece of that genre.

Anybody looking for some of the finest jazz rock musicians playing Prog Rock in a very technical way, Romantic Warrior is the way to go. However, I find most of the album just an exercise for the musicians, few of it really grabs me, thus 3 stars. If you're looking for a great technical Jazz Fusion band, Mahavishnu Orchestra's first two albums are mind-blowing and unique.

3 stars: Highly recommended to Prog fans, don't fear the Fusion label because anyone will admit that this record has more to do with Prog than with Fusion. For Fusion fans, well I'm sure you already have this, it's a classic because of its commercial success, but stylistically it's not really a Fusion masterpiece as 'Where Have I Known You Before'.

The Quiet One | 3/5 |

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