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Return To Forever - Music Magic CD (album) cover


Return To Forever


Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.84 | 107 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
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

stefro | 2/5 |


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