Thursday, April 12, 2018

Return To Forever - 1976 [1999] "Romantic Warrior"

Romantic Warrior is the sixth studio album by the American jazz fusion band Return to Forever, released in 1976 by Columbia Records. After releasing their previous album, No Mystery (1975), their fourth for Polydor Records, the group moved to Columbia and retreated to Caribou Ranch near Nederland, Colorado to record their next album. It was also their first to be credited solely to Return to Forever, removing the "featuring Chick Corea" moniker. The album is more avant-garde and less funky than No Mystery, and remains the band's highest selling album with over 500,000 copies sold in the US.

Chick Corea contributed the longest compositions and the other members each composed one piece. The opener, "Medieval Overture", with its distinctive melodic motifs, sets the mood for the rest of the album. Lenny White's "Sorceress" starts with a funky riff and is distinguished by Corea's synthesizers. The title track is fully acoustic. It has a long intro, which is followed by a short theme consisting of one riff. Each group member, excluding White, plays a long solo. In the end, an extended outro follows, during which fast unison patterns are heard. Al Di Meola's and Stanley Clarke's songs on side two are notable for their humorous qualities. Al Di Meola's song, "Majestic Dance", relies on rock riffs and distorted lead guitar sound, but features also fast harpsichord-like synth figures. Clarke's "The Magician" is a very complex composition, featuring playful melodies, and again, rapid unison lines. The last track of the album is Corea's "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant", which is the longest song of the album. It has a more conventional melody as a main theme, but otherwise it follows the style of previous tracks. Notable is the intense keyboard solo showcasing Corea.

The most popular and successful lineup of Return to Forever -- Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, and Al Di Meola -- was coming off the Grammy-winning No Mystery when it recorded its third and final album, Romantic Warrior. It has been suggested that in employing a medieval album cover (drawn by Wilson McLean), using titles like "Medieval Overture" and "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant," and occasionally playing in a baroque style, particularly in Clarke's "The Magician," Corea was responding to Rick Wakeman's successful string of albums on similar themes. Certainly, the music suggests that the musicians have been listening to Wakeman's band, Yes, among other progressive rock groups. But they bring more of a traditional jazz approach to their sound, particularly in the opening statement of intent "Medieval Overture" and the original side one closer, "The Romantic Warrior," both of which feature extensive acoustic piano soloing by Corea. The original side two -- Di Meola's "Majestic Dance," "The Magician," and "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant" -- is much more in a jazz-rock style, with Di Meola particularly rocking out on extensive, fast-paced electric guitar solos. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Clarke and White is always extremely busy, maintaining a funky, driving pulse and several cross rhythms no matter what's going on above it. This is particularly noticeable, naturally, on White's sole composition, "Sorceress," but it continues to keep the music in the fusion camp even when Corea is sounding like a more traditional jazz pianist. Romantic Warrior is the sound of a mature band at the top of its game, which may help explain why it was Return to Forever's most popular album, eventually certified as a gold record, and the last by this assemblage. Having expressed themselves this well, they decided it was time for them to move on.

The final album by the longest-lasting "classic" lineup of the group (which consisted of Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and Al DiMeola) was Romantic Warrior, on which they continued their experiments in the realms of jazz-rock and related music genres, and was lauded by critics for both the technically demanding style of its compositions as well as for its accomplished musicianship.

This is a Classic Fusion Jazz album! Listened to it thousands of time (probably) as a young adult. And, it was one of the most amazing concert (and I have been to some great ones!) I have ever been to. Return to Forever of this era was one of the best bands ever! And, this is easily their best album ever!

When Al Dimiola, Lenny White, Stanley Clark, and Chick Corea were totally and absolutely in sync with the lightening fast riffs... OMG! It blew me away!!! And, is a memory that stays with me 40 years later.

Another fantastic classic for Chic Corea & Return To Forever with musicians Chic, Al Dimeola, Stanley Clarke & Lenny White creating 6 exciting pieces of futuristic jazz, hard to believe that this cd was released in 1976. Tracks like Medieval Overture, Sorceress, The Romantic Warrior & the vibrant Duel Of The Jester & The Tyrant are simply off the charts with musical genius flowing everywhere. 2 songs I should also mention that are great in they're own right are The Magician & Majestic Dance, for this very reason this wonderful collection of music gets an easy 5 star review.

Tracks Listing:

1. Medieval Overture (5:14)
2. Sorceress (7:34)
3. The Romantic Warrior (10:52)
4. Majestic Dance (5:01)
5. The Magician (5:29)
6. Duel Of The Jester And The Tyrant (11:26)


Al Di Meola – electric guitars, acoustic guitar, soprano guitar, handbells, slide whistle
Chick Corea – acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Hohner Clavinet, Mini Moog, Moog 15, Micromoog, ARP Odyssey, Yamaha YC45d organ, Polymoog, marimba, percussion
Stanley Clarke – Alembic bass with Instant Flanger, piccolo bass, acoustic bass, bell tree, handbells.
Lenny White – drums, timpani, congas, timbales, handbells, snare drum, suspended cymbals, alarm clock



  2. Agreed...a 5-star classic of jazz/rock fusion. Listened to this (as you did) thousands of times and turned lots of folks on to this album in college...