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Return To Forever

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Return To Forever Music Magic album cover
2.87 | 128 ratings | 16 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Musician (Corea) (7:12)
2. Hello Again (Clarke) (3:49)
3. Musicmagic (Corea, Moran) (11:00)
4. So Long Mickey Mouse (Clarke) (6:09)
5. Do You Ever (Moran) (3:59)
6. The Endless Night (Corea, Moran) (9:41)

Total Time 41:50

Line-up / Musicians

- Chick Corea / piano, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, synthesizers (Minimoog, Moog 15, Polymoog, ARP Odyssey), vocals, co-producer
- Gayle Moran / piano, Hammond B3, Polymoog, vocals
- Joe Farrell / flute & piccolo, tenor & soprano saxophones
- James E. Pugh / tenor trombone
- Harold Garret / baritone horn, tenor & bass trombones
- John Thomas / trumpet (lead), flugelhorn
- James Tinsley / trumpet, piccolo trumpet
- Stanley Clarke / electric & acoustic & piccolo basses, vocals, co-producer
- Gary Brown / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Catherine Loeb

LP Columbia ‎- PC 34682 (1977, US)

CD Columbia ‎- CK 34682 ( ? , US)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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RETURN TO FOREVER Music Magic ratings distribution

(128 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(24%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (25%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

RETURN TO FOREVER Music Magic reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Compared to "Romantic Warrior", this record contains less guitar and more brass parts. The piano is also omnipresent, and female vocals combined to smoother parts, give this album a romantic touch. The ensemble is jazzy with excellent bass and keyboards. I would say this record is rather different from romantic warrior, although there are lots of complex jazzy patterns and we find the same style in faster and more loaded bits. No doubt the musicians are very talented.
Review by The Owl
1 stars AARRRRRRRRGH!!!!

Sounds like Chick was plugged into his E-Meter too long (a Scientology thing)! This Owl thinks what a letdown, from the blazing brilliance of the previous RTF outings to something that sounds like a kitschy pastiche of Helen Reddy howling at the moon, cartoonish brass figures and too much cuteness for its own good.

Gayle Moran was definitely a BAD choice for lead vocals here, she has absolutely ZERO feel for jazz and even less concept of nuance or subtlety. She would've been better off going the Broadway or Opera route, but here she just sticks out like an evil sore thumb.

There's certainly no lack of high-calibre musicians here, but the material is just so unlistenable at times, just too sticky sweet and overwrought.

It could be worse though, Gayle Moran's horrid solo disc could've been reissued on CD (shuddering!)

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The first time I knew this band was when my friend played me "The Endless Night" at his player sometime in 1978. It blew my mind!! I like the long keyboard intro by the man that I did'nt know before, Chick Corea. Ghuzz .. Thought he was a Korean. This track is an excellent introduction for me to fusion type of progressive music. I rate this track highly. The entrance of Gayle Moran's voice at this track is really nice! I love this track the first time I listened to it and I kept playing it many times for this track only, not others. I did enjoy it and sometime I sang as Moran was singing. Then I tried to explore further tracks starting with "The Musician". It's a good track as well, especially for jazz lovers. "Do You Ever" is the track where I can enjoy the nice voice of Gayle Moran. Basically I started to enjoy other tracks. My appreciation towards this album grew exponentially when I listened to the "live" version of this album. Excellent! Then I enjoyed this album again ... For those who like jazz-rock fusion type of music, this is a MUST for your collection! This album as actually my first introduction of Chick Corea where I enjoy his solo album as well, like: The Mad Hatter, My Spanish Heart, Touchstone (especially Compadress - what a wonderful track!).
Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This album is something of a cruel let down after the heights of the previous incarnation of Return To Forever, which went out on a high with Romantic Warrior. Here Chick Corea and his main sidekick Stanley Clarke seemed to have decided to turn their backs on their rock audiences and tried to steer clearly in the direction of commercial jazz fusion that was paved by Weather Report. This drastic change made for a distinctly less interesting album, that has a few moments that measure up to the standards set by previous works like Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy and Romantic Warrior ... and it's fair share of spine-chilling muzak! I'm not sure if my prejudice against vocal jazz is to blame (every song here has vocals whereas Romantic Warrior was totally instrumental) but there is some seriously lame stuff on here.

I'm not kidding. Take the second tune Hello Again for instance. It might as well be Kenny G, Michael Buble and Diana Krall covering a Captain & Tenille number ... it's that awful! The majority of songs however are quite schizophrenic, combining awesome musical segments with bad poppy vocals in a manner I've never heard before or since.

The Musician for example has a pleasing brassy intro and great cello segment but the annoying vocals from Gayle Moran and a sort of "lounge jazz" bit towards the end ruin the song. So Long Mickey Mouse starts off as an R&B duet, albeit with wordless vocals, before it bursts into some exciting jazz fusion, with some nice electric piano work from Corea and great bass riffing from Clarke. Do You Ever also kicks off with some nice piano and bass lines but then becomes an over the top folky tune. It's almost like Renaissance meets Steely Dan this one, but it doesn't quite work for me.

The two greatest travesties occur during the title track and The Endless Night, both of which contain some truly excellent proggy moments and equally awful vocal segments. Musicmagic has some great piano playing in the intro and then moves into what feels like an improvised section, which isn't bad except for a few cheesy synth sounds. then suddenly at the four minute mark it becomes a disco-inflected soul duet! I kid you not! This is so bad that even the brilliant Corea solos (first on organ, then on electric piano) that follow can't quite make you forget what you've heard! After an interesting guitar/bass exchange, the band returns to the ultra cheesy vocal part, before going for an excellent proggy outro. The Endless Night is more of the same ... great intro, pure classical interludes with a harpsichord passage and a fanfare theme, and then a jazzy vocal with some awesome fills and leads, lovely flute touches, strings, organ, you name it ... everything a progger could want, except lame pop-jazz vocals!

This frustrating album has some four star musical moments, but too many one-star vocal segments to keep afloat. I can barely bring myself to listen to it, yet I don't want to part with it. ... 40% on the MPV scale

Review by Philo
2 stars Well it is certainly not the same band that put out albums such as No Mystery and Light As A Feather during the early part of the decade, Al Do Meola and Lenny White have now gone, and Return To Forever regroup after Romantic Warrior with a horn section and er... Gayle Moran. Now, I have no real issue with Return To Forever resorting to the use of lyricsfor the sake of doing something different perhaps, but having Moran singing them is the real sticking point. She just does not fit and should be nowhere near an act of this calibre and genre. Moran writing those lyrics is probably equally a bad trip. She should be nowhere near a pen and paper. With the previous album, Romantic Warrior, it was easy to see that the band were following a formula and were perhaps finding it difficult to progress without change, hence the use extra horns and reeds plus the ill wised use of Gayle Moran, she had appeared on a Mahavishnu Orchestra album at a low point for McLaughlin's band, but then, anything post Birds Of Fire Mahavishnu Orchestra is rather low, but Moran's appearence on an album is particularily low. Musically the album Musicmagic is alright, lacking the bite of guitar for sure,some heady fusion workouts, but definitely heading toward the muzak windonw of things. But I could have gotten over that. Gayle Moran's singing is hideous and very annoying, it interferes with the pattern of what I wanted to hear, and the lyrics are banal and useless. There are moments when the band are heading toward a neat little run but in comes this awful noise to upset the nuance, Corea himslef looks devoid of inspiration, though Clarke looks to be coming of age here, Helo Again" is great hooks. Musicmagic is more traigic than magic. A fusion lover should really hate it, there is nothing here to love, but maybe a little to like.
Review by Sean Trane
2 stars In some ways, this MM album stands out as a UFO in RTF's discography: With only Corea and Clarke remaining, RTF gets another bizarre shuffle with the return of Joe Farrell (the wind player in RTF's first two albums) and Gayle Moran (ex-Mahavishnu and more) on vocals and some kbs. Outside the fact that he also had to replace the fantastic Lenny White by Gary Brown, Chick goes on to include a full brass section as RTF members, which will provide a "big band sound", but much sonic awkwardness as well, given the music's overly complex nature. In some ways, despite the heavy line-up changes, MM is a logical successor to RW, but something went awfully wrong in the concept itself and its elaboration. RTF's final album also saw its release on CBS, like its majestic predecessor and it has a very "prog" fantasy artwork for sleeve.

Don't get me wrong, the album is not as bad as you might fear it after reading the above paragraph. Actually the album starts with the best track, The Musician, a 7-mins trip into complex music that can reminds the GG excesses of RW, but the funky elements and the semi-reggae rhythm give the piece a strange allure that even Gayle's voice doesn't diminish the interest, including a bowed contrabass in the middle section. However there are pure stinkers like the AOR-ish, almost Sinatra-esque Hello Again and its big band pretensions, or the main problem being Gayle Moran's vocals (throughout the album >> she's way too present in RTF, where she wasn't a nuisance in MO) that will grate your patience The 11-mins slow-starting (with some very disputable synth sounds) title track is an overly complicated trip that mixes jazz funk with classical and Yes-type of progressive rock. It actually would work fairly well if it wasn't so cheesy. The middle sung-section with double vocals is cheese-fondue for a full Swiss battalion, and the funky last third is good, but Chick's synths are simply a deterrent for multiple listenings.

The flipside starts with the boring So Long Mickey Mouse, another Clarke-penned song, where Gayle spreads her disputable voice all over the spectrum; this mixed with some of the worst brass section (BS&T style) and Chick's stinky synths (mmmm!!!... Repeat seven times in one breath ;o))) make this a no-no for me. Do You Ever has again Gayle all over the track, but here, she sounds a bit like a second degree early Kate Bush (as does the music) and it works slightly better, partly because it's not overstaying its welcome as had So Long MM. The closing Endless Night (almost 10 minutes) is probably the other better moment of the album, because it returns to the classical-semi-medieval influences of RW, and if you learn to cope with the duet vocals and Chick's synths, you could enjoy it.

Unlike its RW predecessor, MM has some original ideas, but most of them are ruined by other catastrophic ones. While I can still recommend RW no problems despite its flaws, I simply can't do it for MM. Better stay away from RTF's swan song. Little wonder they called it a say after this one.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After some heavy fusion albums, Corea returned back to more jazzy staff. RTF line-up was changed back ( almost to RTF-I ), and added brass section. Perfect duo of Flora Purim-Airto Moreira from debut album was changed by drummer Gary Brown and vocalist Gayle Moran.

From very first song you feel like returning back to beautiful Latin fusion of early RTF. But when the song is finished, you undrestand, that it was just an illusion. "Hello Again" will shock you - weak pop-jazz song sounds as it came from old third level american movie. And step by step you hear, that it isn't "Return To Forever" - Gayle Moran is competent singer, but has no magic of Flora Purim. Brass section often plays riffs in a manner of early Chicago. Only Clarke bass line is great there.

In all, album sounds as collection of pop-jazz songs. Even if there are some nice moments, common feeling isn't so good. Should be interesting for Corea/Clarke/RTF collectors mainly.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars If this album was released by just about any other fusion band, I presume it would be rated much higher. It actually contains some very nice music. But we have come to expect more from some bands. So when a group like Return To Forever, or The Mahavishnu Orchestra releases an album that isn't up to their usual standards, we tend to rate it down.

The main problem are the vocals. Gayle Moran and Stanley Clarke are not bad vocalists, but the lyrics they are singing here tend to pull the music down, especially on The Endless Night, an otherwise great song, that it seems was being turned into a theme song for the band. And Hello Again comes off more as a pop song, than fusion, and doesn't really succeed as either.

Along with the above mentioned The Endless Night, The Musician and So Long Mickey Mouse also have some good musicianship in them. But if you want to here better versions of songs from this album, get the double CD live set from 1977.

Review by stefro
2 stars Seduced away from Columbia Records by a juicy multi-million dollar deal courtesy of CBS, the future sure did look rosy for Chick Corea's Return To Forever during those heady days of 1976. But money isn't everything. Having enjoyed a highly successful career up this point, the talented quartet of Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke, whizz-kid guitarist Al Di Meola, and ex-Miles Davis drummer Lenny White, suddenly fragmented. Band leader Corea was by now chasing a more 'accesible' sound, and despite their important contributions to the last two albums, both Di Meola and White were soon jettisoned. Clarke, who like Corea was an original member, stayed on, but it would never be the same again. The 'classic' line-up was no more. Joining up with Corea and Clarke were pianist, vocalist and wife-of-Corea Gayle Moran, new drummer Gerry Brown, and returning for a second stint was founding member and saxophonist Joe Farrell. Armed with both their lucrative new contract and a five-piece horn section and fresh from the commercial-and- critical success of 1975's 'Romantic Warrior', hopes were high when the revamped group commenced sessions for a new album during the autumn, for what would be the group's final album for Columbia Records. But it wasn't to be. Issued in January 1977, 'Music Magic', the seventh and final album, proved a half-truth. Sure, there was music; but the magic was sadly absent. Featuring an eclectic and upbeat mixture of sounds, aided by a streamlined studio sheen, and harking back to the group's latin roots, 'Music Magic' was Corea attempting to expand both his musical horizons and his audience. It was a move both brave and foolish, and In doing so the pianist hastily dissolved one of the great fusion groups of the 1970s, prematurely truncating a burgeoning career nearing the cusp of its apex. Instead of the cosmic fusion sound so successfully deployed on key albums 'The Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy' and 'Where Have I Known You Before', 'Music Magic' exuded jazzy vocals, latin flavours, loose samba vibes and ghostly beats. Almost a different band. Although not a total disaster - 'Music Magic' would reach no.24 on the album charts and shift a healthy 500,00 copies - it was nevertheless a flawed record. As such, It would prove the final Return To Forever studio album, and despite it's slick polish one of their least distinguished releases of a pretty distinguished career. It's a far cry from the glorious galactic swirls of 'Shadow Of Lo' from the exhilarating 1974 album 'Where Have I Known You Before', yet it is a sign of the times. Like many of the peers, Return To Forever were changing not just their line-ups in 1976. They were shifting their musical ethos. Progressive rock groups such as Pink Floyd, Santana and Chicago were beginning to adapt elements of the new into their music - punk, new wave, disco etc - gradually moving away from their psychedelic roots into more mainstream territory. Return to Forever were only following the same trajectory. 'Music Magic', an album best summed up by the all-style-no-substance tag, is the fruits of this evolutionary music shift towards the dawning 1980s. To paraphrase: Return To Forever served up some scintillating jazz-rock adventures between 1973 and 1976, issuing at least three 'classic' albums during that time and burning down the age-old barriers between rock and jazz in the process. 'Music Magic', with its commercial glint and melodic tones, is the sound of Return To Forever gone cold. One for the die-hards. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2013

Review by Progfan97402
2 stars Another shakeup in the Return to Forever lineup, this time Al DiMeola and Lenny White departing. Chick Corea's wife Gayle Moran joins (she was previously with the second edition of Mahavishnu Orchestra for two albums), and Joe Farrell from the original 1972-73 lineup rejoins, as well as a horn section. Now this probably wasn't the wisest decision for Chick Corea to go this direction so hot on the heels of Romantic Warrior, which not only a highly regarded in RTF's and even Chick's career in general, but of the fusion genre to begin with. Upon listening to "The Musician" it's as if Chick was trying to meld the vocal style of Light as a Feather with a horn section. It's as if he was pretending his wife was Flora Purim as she attempts her vocal style. Unfortunately she's no Flora Purim, and thankfully she didn't touch on Brazilian styles of music (Bossa Nova, for example). Light as a Feather proves that vocals and jazz can go together, but then Flora Purim was suited for such, given her background as a Bossa Nova singer, and that influence was heavily felt in that album (as well as the 1972 RTF on ECM billed as a Chick Corea album) and those two albums were great and highly recommended. Here on MusicMagic it's a like a big mess. There are some pretty syrupy stuff here, for example "Hello Again". What on Earth? Pretty cheesy stuff. Or Stanley Clarke's "So Long Mickey Mouse". What on Earth? A bunch of "La la's" throughout with him attempting to do soulful vocals, and Gayle Moran being, well, Gayle Moran. On the other hand, there are some absolutely brilliant passages, some of the solos Chick Corea give are first rate, with that nice spacy keyboards and often proggy arrangement and even the horn section does some creative twists and turns as long as they aren't sounding like a Las Vegas lounge act. The last song, "The Endless Light" is perhaps the best thing on the album, overall, where the vocals and instrumentation work the best. I never could understand what the lyrics were about. Perhaps being a Scientologist would make more sense (Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Gayle Moran, at least, were all Scientologists). I can see why this is panned in many circles. I could have seen the potential in this album, some of those instrumental passages are as great as anything they've done before, but when the vocals kick in, it all comes crashing, and same if the horns decide to go Vegas on us. Luckily my copy is a cheap used LP, and if you need to get this, I suggest you get it cheap. It's too bad RTF ended up the way they did. I can sorta understand why Chick wanted to include vocals, since Gayle Moran already provided vocals on his two previous solo albums, My Spanish Heart and The Leprechaun, so he thought it would be great to include them on then next RTF album. For the simple fact that until this point, RTF never released a bad album (Chick Corea knew to keep the standards high on those albums) so making MusicMagic all that more disappointing. Scientology can be easy to blame. At least this was the end of RTF (although there was a live album released in 1978). So as mentioned, has its moments, but only get this on the cheap.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A much under-rated and under-appreciated album in which Gayle Moran's vocal talents are often unjustly maligned. I think people just lament the loss of Al and maybe Lenny, though the absence of guitar altogether is probably more the reason. What's your problem! The horns are awesome! And drummer Gary Brown is awesome (especially if you've taken the time to listen to the triple live album, "Return to Forever Live" that was recorded on this album's tour), and Gayle's soaring voice is such a delight when paired with Stanley and Chick's music. As a matter of fact, it is Chick and Gayle's collaboration on Chick's solo release of the same time, "The Mad Hatter" that rates higher than any RTF album for me--is my favorite album ever produced by any one of the fearsome foursome (Al, Stanley, Lenny, and Chick). Give this album a chance--and leave behind your preconceptions that there has to be guitar (Connors or DiMeola) and that girls have no place in prog (watch out Kate, Annie Haslam, Sandy Denny, Judy Dyble, Barbara Gaskin, Pascale Son, Sonja Kristina, and Dagmar Krause!) If you have to, even try to forget that this is RTF; this is great prog fusion!

Latest members reviews

3 stars This album was recorded after Al Di Meola and Lenny White left the band, leaving only Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke being the founding member of the band, accompanied by Joe Farrel (flute / sax), Gayle Moran (vocal and keyboard) , Gary Brown (drums) and 4-piece horn section. A lot of RTF fans ... (read more)

Report this review (#2408182) | Posted by Mark-P | Saturday, May 30, 2020 | Review Permanlink

3 stars You can understand and hear immediately that the line-up and style changed significantly when compared to the winning "Romantic warrior". RTF now being a fully fletched firmly keyboard driven machine with no equal counterparts with likes of guitar, bass and drums. Chick pulls of a vast array ... (read more)

Report this review (#2349869) | Posted by sgtpepper | Sunday, April 12, 2020 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Ugh. I love most of the "electric period" RTF ("No Mystery" probably being the weakest of the bunch, but still worthy of three stars at least), but this one is, to say the least, disappointing in the wake of that fine material. Of course, it goes without saying that it sounds *nothing* like its ... (read more)

Report this review (#933866) | Posted by Mr. Gone | Friday, March 22, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Musicmagic ? 1977 (2.8/5) 11 ? Best Song: Do You Ever It's taken some time, but a band of maniacally skilled misfits such as this have finally drifted so far from their original, hotly inspired intentions and have delivered one of the words first, best instances of elevator music (unless St ... (read more)

Report this review (#440507) | Posted by Alitare | Friday, April 29, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Aaah, home at last. Let me start this off by saying that this is in no way the weakest of RTF's albums. This album simply cuts the wait down for the fuzzy funk line to speed. If you are trying to briefly explain why jazz-fusion is superior to the average commercial jazz or rock band, than this ... (read more)

Report this review (#300383) | Posted by MasterShake | Saturday, September 25, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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