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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
5 stars Wonderful Prog-Fusion Hybrid

There was a time that ROMANTIC WARRIOR topped PA's JF charts but it has slipped considerably over the last year or so. Reading through the reviews, I began to understand the mixed feelings but also was finally able to focus my own opinions on this album. ROMANTIC WARRIOR is not like most of the other fusion albums I know and love. It is much more composed, a bit more listener friendly. By 1976, fusion was not yet played out but was needing to evolve. Some bands were getting more complex and others moving toward a more smooth jazz feel. Here, the classic RTF lineup pulls in elements from prog a la Genesis, and create an album that satisfies my symphonic side that loves Tony Banks as much or more than my inner Coltrane lover. One would think this would delight fans on this site, but as seen in other reviews, more dedicated fusion fans aren't always convinced.

But I am. I love complex composed lines, and this album has some great intertwining leads between Chick Corea's keys, Al DiMeola's guitar, and sometimes Stanley Clark's bass. "Majestic Dance" has interplay that to me even foreshadows some of Dream Theater's instrumental interplay between Pertucci and Jordan Rudess or Derek Sherinian. There are some spacy sections as in "The Magician." There are even some slightly medieval melodic snippets a la Gryphon. DiMeola certainly gets a chance to burn on this disc, showcasing both his acoustic and electric chops.

The compositions are all interesting, and there is a nice variety of sounds that still cohere. There are funky elements, quirky humours sections, plenty of virtuosity, a little psychedelia that accompanies the usual JR/F sound. What I especially like about this album is the coherence of the group. All four of the musicians are phenomenal, but they balance very nicely. Stanley Clarke manages to keep the bass prominent in the mix without getting cheesy or overbearing. DiMeola confines his firebreathing to when it fits the tune. Corea draws on a wide variety of tones and keeps the energy strong. White holds it all together with plenty of syncopation and groove.

While jazz in general including fusion is based in improvisation, some of my favorite passages from fusion artists are not their solos but their compositions. ROMANTIC WARRIOR, to my ear, is one of the best in this regard. (Pat Metheny's THE WAY UP is a modern example.) Both of those albums were not even typical for their specific artists. Frankly, I wish there was more of this style available. But as it is, I consider this album essential as a prototype for composed fusion.

Negoba | 5/5 |


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