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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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RETURN TO FOREVER

The Anthology

Concord 0888072308473

 

 



 
CD 1

1. Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy
2. After the Cosmic Rain
3. Captain Señor Mouse
4. Theme to the Mothership
5. Space Circus
6. The Game Maker
7. Vulcan Worlds
8. The Shadow Of Lo
9. Beyond The Seventh Galaxy
10. Song To The Pharoah Kings
 CD 2

1. Dayride
2. Sofistifunk
3. No Mystery
4. Celebration Suite
5. Medieval Overture
6. Sorceress
7. The Romantic Warrior
8. Majestic Dance
9. The Magician
10. Duel Of The Jester And The Tyrant

Chick Corea - Piano, electric piano, Fender Rhodes, organ, harpsichord, gongs. clavinet, synthesisers, percussion, marimba, Mini Moog, ARP Odyssey, Polymoog, vocals

Stanley Clarke - Electric bass, acoustic bass, Alembic Bass with Instant Flanger, piccolo bass, fuzz bass, bell-tree, handbells, Yamaha organ, synthesiser, chimes, vocals

Lenny White - Drums, percussion, congas, bongoes, marimba, timpani, timbales, suspended cymbals, alarm clock

Bill Connors (CD1, tracks 1-6) - Electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Al Di Meola (CD1, tracks 7-10; CD2) - Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, soprano guitar, handbells, slide whistle

 

Some concerts stay in the memory for years - perhaps forever. I still remember vividly a concert at Oxford Polytechnic in the 1970s when I and some fellow musicians were deeply impressed by Return to Forever. The group was formed in 1972 by keyboardist Chick Corea, and the version I saw included guitarist Al Di Meola, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White. Now the same group has re-formed and is on tour. This double CD has been released to coincide with the reunion.

The group started out as an exciting but fairly restrained band comprising Chick with vocalist Flora Purim, saxist Joe Farrell, bassist Stanley Clarke and percussionist Airto Moreira. Their first album, Return to Forever, appeared in 1972 and their second album, Light as a Feather, described in its title the comparatively gentle style of the band, based mainly on Latin-American rhythms. It is a pity that this new compilation omits any examples of that band's work, especially as their second album included such masterpieces as Spain and Captain Marvel. When the personnel changed, the music became more forceful - predominantly in jazz-rock mode. Stanley Clarke stayed with the group but the drumming was handled by Lenny White, and two guitarists - Bill Connors and then Al Di Meola - added to the band's power.

This double album includes tracks from four of the band's albums recorded between 1973 and 1976: Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, Where Have I Known You Before, No Mystery and Romantic Warrior. The selection provides a good sample of the quartet's work, starting with Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, a jazz-fusion anthem which illustrates the band's energetic delivery as well as Chick Corea's ability to write catchy melodies which are immediately appealing. Corea's compositions also make an excellent isfor jazz improvisation, as you can hear in a track like Space Circus. But it is the exciting tightness of the musicianship that captures the listener, with Stanley Clarke's unique bass guitar underpinning every track. Lenny White's drumming is also exciting, although it tends to be repetitive and ultimately becomes rather wearing.

If the vigorous clatter sometimes feels overwhelming, you can take refuge in the gentler brilliance of a tune like No Mystery: a lesson in beautiful composition and subtle precision, with the guitarist and bassist switching to acoustic instruments. This contrasts with the bombast of the following Celebration Suite, which may remind you of the pomp-rock that people like Rick Wakeman and Emerson, Lake & Palmer were turning out in the 1970s. For all the bluster of such pieces, Corea has often flavoured his compositions with tasty Spanish or Latin-American rhythms, as he does here.

It remains to be seen whether the reunited Return to Forever can match the brilliance exhibited in this collection, but at least it's a reminder of just how good the group was in its heyday.

Tony Augarde


 



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