Return to Forever: Medieval Overture
Return to Forever
Romantic Warrior (Columbia CK 46109)
Composed by Chick Corea.
Recorded: Nederland, Colorado, February 1976
Rating: 87/100 (learn more)
This was Return to Forever's most famous lineup's first and last Columbia record. It also happened to be the best selling Return to Forever album ever. A year later, following in the footsteps of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Corea would form a much larger group. The only carryovers to the new RTF would be Corea himself and bassist Stanley Clarke.
Every Return to Forever fan has his or her favorite version of the group and favorite record. But based upon sales and general fusion scuttlebutt picked up over the years, Romantic Warrior seems to be the band's most popular recording. It is not mine. But it is a fine album representative of the skills of the members separately and together.
The panning electric piano of Chick Corea fills our ears. Clarke and Di Meola take the low-register road to bring us up to speed on the main melody. Lenny White deftly does his thing on drums. This is one of those typical fusion numbers that changes directions a million times. It is hard to get a handle on the theme. The constant changes of direction become the theme really. There are a lot of trademark RTF sounds here, including some Spanish shadings, quick unison playing and the sound of synthesized orchestrated strings. (Though Clarke occasionally bowed real strings.) The tight ensemble playing is impeccable. There are keyboard flights of fancy and some subterranean bass and guitar. The melody isn't all that strong, but that wasn't always a mandatory requirement for a fusion workout. If someone were to ask me the difference between RTF and Mahavishnu – and they have – I would say that Return To Forever focused a bit more on subtle intricacies but lacked the power of Mahavishnu. Fusion fans could certainly enjoy both approaches.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky