Title - 'Return to Forever Returns - Live' (Eagle Records)
Artist - Return to Forever
Return to Forever's music stands up to time and then some. This is some of the best original music of the original fusion wave. The intensity of the music makes your hair stand on end. Chick Corea and the other RTF members were dead serious and in their intent and ultimately effective in their delivery of intellectually stimulating and hard-hitting visceral sounds that really take your spirit and mind on a great ride. This is some of the best fusion jazz ever made, and some of the best fusion jazz you will ever hear ... and now it's live!
'Return to Forever Returns' was recorded live and exudes a positively unworldly beauty in the relatively small number of songs on the album. What they have done is extend old favorites like "Song to the Pharaoh Kings" and "Romantic Warrior" with solos that reference songs from each musicians' repertoire as an individual performer in other contexts besides RTF.
These solos reflect the creative ferment that has emerged from years of artistic maturation, seemingly culminating in this performance. Departing from the original recordings, the solos in this performance involve much more interaction between the musicians including duets between Al Di Meola and Chick Corea, while in other places solos are accompanied by Chick's or Al's wonderfully creative comping, which is almost as compelling as the solo in question.
The album standout is RTF's signature composition "Romantic Warrior," which seems to represent what the medieval period would have sounded like had they discovered the blues. This immensely complex orchestral piece is performed with rapturously lyrical solos from Stanley Clarke and Al. The song is reprised at the end of the album in a segment in which RTF performs live after receiving a lifetime achievement award in jazz from the BBC.
What else can I say? Well, these guys pretty much defined jazz/rock fusion. Before Stanley no one played the electric bass with so much authority. Al Di meola was second only to John Mclaughlin. Of course Chick is Chick in any genre. What really amazes me about this live recording is the drumming of Lenny White. I forgot what a monster he was and still is. This music brings back fond memories of a time when music was being stretched to it's limits and beyond. Not everyones cup of tea, then or now. But these guys started a revolution that forced other players to hone their chops and make it possible to have the folks we have today! And so, overall, this CD is a fine acquisition for RTF fans old and new.[MDW]