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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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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars With the Mahavishnu's MkII line-up now disappeared, and the Mk III that was clearly not going to last, RTF stepped in to fill the void with this RW album. Indeed while MO always included some classical music (Stravinski mostly, but Bartok as well) in their fiery fusion, RTF had mostly stayed clear of that if you'll except the Spanish influence via Rodrigo's Aranjuez n a few tracks. With these classical twists on RW, RTF started sounding more "prog" ala Yes than the previous albums, something that is reinforced by the medieval prog-leaning sleeve artwork and the album concept based on medieval stories. BTW, Chick had to allow his RTF partners to place compositions (one each, him keeping three) on this album. After four albums on Polydor, RTF moved to CBS, and the album was released by the mid of 76. BTW, please read my trusted colleague Dick heath's review on this very album, because he adds more issues I share.

I never really investigated to see who copied who on the album's opening track called Medieval Overture, but the opening seconds have a definite Gentle Giant, so obvious that I am never able to fully forget it, while listening to the album. While I wouldn't reduce this track to a blatant copying of GG, both groups share the capacity to handle some of the most complex music with the utmost ease. The following Sorceress, is a fantastic Lenny White-penned slow-starting funky scorcher, but past that, White's drumming can only amaze us, but Corea's vitriolic piano solo is voluptuous, coloured, rhythmic, yet burns holes in your stomach like the best of those Southern Georgia moonshine bourbons!!! The 11-mins title track is also a killer with Chick's opening piano and Clarke bowed contrabass intro, the track builds up gradually, allowing White to dazzle us, even if the real hero is Clarke's bass ruling over Chick's suspended & floating piano, ADM's Spano-Flamenco guitar while Clarke takes the bow to the contrabass to close the debate. Stunning stuff somehow very reminiscent of its preceding track

The flipside opens on ADM's over-estimated Majestic Dance; while most groups would cry for a composition of this calibre, this track is the weakest of the album, ADM sounding like Carlos, Chick choosing some poor synth sounds, the marimba bringing you again on GG grounds; and it isn't majestic nor is it danceable. Most amazingly is Clarke Magician track, which plunges once more into GG territory, with Chick's synths almost bringing the track to a dead stop, before Stan picks up the track in an ultra-funky manner and some kind of ill-advised fanfare brings us to ADM's Hackett-ian guitar shrills. Although flawlessly played, it is obvious RTF cannot find ideas of their own and they set out to pillage the Shulman-Minnear mines. At least, the closing Jester & Tyrant track avoids falling in the same trap (partly anyway), especially in the opening minutes where one might hear some Banks-ian layers and a very decent first section, but the track almost gets lost in the second part of the Duel with lightning speed solos, some on excruciatingly bad sounding synth, courtesy of Chick, but all four musos are just wanking away at their respective instruments. No wonder punk happened quickly.

Among the few negatives, I can think of, 1- Chick's obsession with new technologies, especially in the synthesizers department (but this is not his plight alone, many jazz-rockers shared it as well, the later 70's ultra competitiveness creating such a race to "innovation") caused him to find some disputable synth sounds that nowadays sound extremely cliché; 2- the need to stuff every second of the maximum amount of notes (Birds Of Fire does it better and Miles once asked: why play so many notes? just plat the good ones!); 3- the GG pillaging (and Genesis to a lesser extent), although to actually match the GG style is impressive enough, this shows that RTF was running out of ideas, something this writer hints already after their WHIKYB album. While this album is all too appreciated by the crowd and especially the symphonic-minded progheads, I am not keen on giving it the "essential" label, because of its borrowings, but the album can actually be an excellent introduction to those Symph prog fans to the jazzy realms of the Jazz-rock of the early 70's and the fusion of the second part of the 70's.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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