Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Return To Forever - Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy CD (album) cover


Return To Forever


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.19 | 296 ratings

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4 stars Even if you put Canterbury prog aside, the line between jazz-rock/fusion and prog can be quite blurred. As regards the five main 70s fusion bands that were spawned by Miles Davis jazz-rock experiments of the late 60s (Miles In The Sky, Bitches Brew, In A Silent Way and Jack Johnson), I think Progarchives have got it just right. The two most prog-friendly bands, Chick Corea's Return To Forever and The Mahavishnu Orchestra are listed in the archives, whereas Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, Tony Williams' Lifetime and Weather Report (by far my least favourite) aren't.

But even Return To Forever had three distinct phases, and the middle phase, which featured the quartet of Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke (the only player present through all the phases aside from Corea himself), drummer Lenny White and first Bill Connors, then Al DiMeola on guitar, is generally the most interesting and prog-friendly. The quartet released four albums, Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy, Where Have I Known You Before?, No Mystery and Romantic Warrior between 1973 and 1976.

Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy is so full of virtuostic and surreal playing that it's hard to point to the moments that stand out. The title track comes swirling at you and then launches into an outstanding proggy groove, Corea's keyboards are particularly engrossing on this, but it's also got some of my favourite Lenny White drumming ever. Bill Connors' jarring guitar style isn't totally to my taste but it seems appropriate for the galatic themes that fill the album. On the Clarke composition After The Cosmic Rain, Corea's delicate electric piano runs really convey the mood, and while I don't like Connors' guitar on this one, there's a great distorted solo in the middle (but I can't tell which instrument does it!) before Corea returns with one of my favourite electric piano solos of all time. Captain Senor Mouse is a real humdinger too with some psych-tinged organ, and a lengthy Latin excursion, more electric piano wizardry and one of Connors' better solos to wrap it up. It's important not to understate the brilliance of Clarke and White during pieces like this one.

Theme To The Mothership is another of those great groovers, with a tad too much soloing from Connors before another Corea special redeems the piece. The first part of Space Circus is mellow and dreamy, providing some respite from the relentless fierce attacks that the band continually carry out. Of course, it too starts groovin' pretty quickly, with some great hooks and changes of tempo and direction. The stately, slightly eerie The Game Maker has some noteworthy electric piano and Connors doing some nice work on acoustic guitar, before a spot of pointless noodling interferes. Some excellent interplay between Corea and Connors, however then ensures a suitably stunning ending to a great album.

While I still tend to recommend Romantic Warrior to RTF newcomers, many of the band's greatest moments are on this dazzling cosmic album! ... 79% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 4/5 |


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