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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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5 stars The 1970s was a strange and unsettled time. A brutal war in Southeast Asia had ended as badly for the United States as it had begun, American cities were generally in decay and though 1976 was the nation's 200th birthday, it felt more like an untimely pun. In popular culture Evel Knievel was thrilling them on bikes never meant to jump such distances, David Carradine wooed the fledgling New Age culture every week on Kung Fu, a little underground dance scene called Disco was getting too big for its own good, KISS got their footprints in Hollywood, both The Waltons and The Partridge Family were huge and everyone had done, was doing, or would do cocaine at least once. It was as if the country yearned for something better but didn't know how to get it.

But the music, that was special. Britain may have owned the previous decade but by 1970, America had more than its share of great stuff in everyone from Santana and CSN to Blood,Sweat&Tears to a young Eddie Van Halen honing his skills at L.A. parties. And the fusion of jazz and rock had come of age in a big way. Though it went gold and was a zenith of modern rock fusion, Romantic Warrior was this version of RtF's last release and just as a hero who dies young, it was probably better not to see such an important group slowly wither away (especially due to L. Ron Hubbard). Some feel this was Chick Corea's "prog rock album" and though fair, that's a misleading label. There is little to remind of Genesis or Yes or King Crimson. It was, however, a musical explosion, and may have signaled both the commercial peak of the Fusion movement and the swan song of its golden age. Which is to say it's a fierce record. The lambent flicker of Corea's keys tap out 'Medieval Overture' counterpointed by the band, Clarke, White and DiMeola unified like a single being and tight as a warlock's butthole. The cut absolutely destroys and is entirely progressive as it breaks into a sci-fi send up, Stanley Clarke's childlike taunts, Lenny White a demon on his set, just on fire-- and 'Sorceress' shimmies down a city street past the lowriders and crap games with funk, Latin dance, all brought along by Corea's crisp piano lead.

The title gradually unfolds, hinting at what's to come. Our theme is soon revealed accented with the deep resonance of a bow to an acoustic bass. Al DiMeola shines on his nylon-string setting the tone for his own solo project that year and the track beautifully shifts to a rush of Latin jazz, deconstructing itself and ending before things get tedious. 'Majestic Dance' is much better than its dated opening and becomes an intricate little number with many fine changes, Corea's playful side and Clarke's unmistakable fingerprints. But it was 'The Magician' that made the second side of the LP so rewarding. After all, one had to listen well into the last half to hear this adorable bit of progressive jazzrock, and felt that much more pleased at having bought it. More grand science fiction themeology closes the show for very decent 'Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant'.

This is a case where though at moments flawed, we have a release so friggin good, so well done and significant, that it warrants five stars. God forbid anything ever be perfect.

Atavachron | 5/5 |


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