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Return To Forever - Romantic Warrior CD (album) cover


Return To Forever


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.28 | 681 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars In 2006 I bought Romantic Warrior at a Eugene, Oregon St. Vincent de Paul. This very same place I surprisingly got a copy of Barclay James Harvest's Gone to Earth (American MCA pressing with die cut and original inner sleeve) and Greenslade's Time and Tide (U.S. Mercury label copy). When I brought it home I was a bit dismissive of the album. I was still in my "generally dismissive of fusion" mindset, having heard Mahavishnu Orchestra's The Inner Mountain Flame several years before and though it was just boring wankfest ("look how fast we can play"). My attitude towards that album really changed, the Inner Mountain Flame, as well as Birds of Fire are amazing, and Visions of the Emerald Beyond is by far the best album with the second lineup (I don't find Inner Worlds bad, but I do have to warn you the album gets a bad reputation because four songs feature vocals, and while I don't have too much problems with that, many do, as Mahavishnu Orchestra works best as an instrumental outfit).

As with my attitude change towards Mahavishnu Orchestra, so my attitude has changed with Romantic Warrior (I hadn't heard the other RTF albums yet). The lineup here included Chick Corea (naturally), Lenny White, Al DiMeola, and Stanley Clarke. Here they take on some very complex and elaborate fusion that leans more towards prog rock at times. It seems that Chick Corea was trying for a fusion answer of Rick Wakeman or Keith Emerson. The medieval influence of this album seem a bit overexaggerated. We're not exactly talking Gryphon here, or even Jethro Tull for that matter. The cover certainly has that medieval motif, and song titles definitely have that medieval thing going on, but to my ears it sounds like yer typical mid '70s fusion/prog thang. There's a couple passages on this album that sounded a bit fuzak-y, especially a couple of the piano passages and Stanley Clarke's bass playing, but those don't last long. I particularly enjoy the synths Chick Corea uses here.

Rock critic Robert Christgau hated this album. He gave it a D+ and called it "The Emerson, Lake & Palmer of jazz rock". Remember, he never liked ELP, so obviously he hardly meant that as a compliment. Progheads might agree on the "ELP of jazz rock" thing, but in a positive light.

It's hard to believe how popular this album is in fusion circles, given the challenging and complex nature of this album. Corea & Co. was obviously trying for a prog rock album, and the prog leanings obviously didn't bother record buyers at the time. I'm not entirely sure I'd give it a five star rating, given it took me many years to warm up to it, but definitely worth it.

Progfan97402 | 4/5 |


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