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In support of their 2008 reunion tour, Concord Records has released Return to Forever: The Anthology, a selective overview of the quartet's classic 'middle period.' Formed by principal composer/keyboardist Chick Corea, RTF included bassist Stanley Clarke, drummer Lenny White and guitarists Bill Connors or Al DiMeola.
An alumnus of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969), inspired by Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, as well as Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes, Corea recorded two RTF albums with Clarke (a former compatriot of Stan Getz' combo) that evinced strong Spanish and Brazilian influences. The Anthology documents the band's next phase, represented by the LPs Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (Polydor, 1973), Where Have I Known You Before (Polydor, 1974), No Mystery (Polydor, 1975) and Romantic Warrior (Columbia, 1976), when the sound veered towards prog-rock, funk and jazz fusion. (Corea's two final RTF projects are not included.) Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (featuring Connors) and Romantic Warrior are represented in their entirety here, along with choice tracks from Where Have I Known You Before and No Mystery.
Throughout, Corea's masterful compositional control is in evidence; the pyrotechnical soloing never overshadows the themes and directionality of each cut. His improvisations are a revelation, enhanced by a signature touch and the ability to find sounds on his keyboards that breathe life into the machines. Clarke raised the bar for bassists with these tracks, doubling the complicated up-tempo melodies note-for-note with guitar and keys, then rendering dazzling and inventive solos. White's style is a blend of Tony Williams and Buddy Miles, combining a feeling of free play with ferocious propulsion. The guitars are a marvel as wellConnors for his organic and expressive style, DiMeola for his speed, taste and finesse. The sound of RTF has aged well. If The Anthology is any indication, the upcoming live tour should be filed under "be-there."
Track Listing: CD1: Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy; After the Cosmic Rain; Captain Senor Mouse; Theme to the Mothership; Space Circus (Part I & II); The Game Maker; Vulcan Worlds; The Shadow of Lo; Return to the Seventh Galaxy; Song to the Pharoah Kings. CD2: Dayride; Sofistifunk; No Mystery; Celebration Suite Part I & II; Medieval Overture; Sorceress; The Romantic Warrior; Majestic Dance; The Magician; Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant Part I & II.
Personnel: Chick Corea: electric piano (CD1, CD2#1-4), Fender Rhodes (CD2#5-10), acoustic piano, organ (CD1#1-6), Yamaha organ (CD1#7-10, CD2), harpsichord (CD1#1-6), gongs (CD1#1-6), clavinet (CD1#7-10, CD2#1-4), Hohner clavinet (CD2#5-10), synthesizers (CD1#7-10, CD2#1-4), Mini Moog (CD2#5-10), ARP Odyssey (CD2#5-10), snare drum (CD2#1-4), marimba (CD2), vocal (CD2#1-4), Polymoog (CD2#5-10), percussion (CD2#5-10); Stanley Clarke: electric bass (CD1, CD2#1-4), fuzz, bass (CD1#1-6), bell-tree (CD1, CD2#5-10), hand bells (CD2#5-10)), Yamaha organ (CD1#7-10, CD2#1-4)), chimes (CD1#7-10), acoustic bass (CD2), synthesizer (CD2#1-4), vocal (CD2#1-4), Alembic bass with Instant Flanger (CD2#5-10), Piccolo bass (CD2#5-10); Bill Connors: electric guitar and acoustic guitars (CD1#1-6); Al Di Meola electric guitar (CD1#7-10, CD2), acoustic 12-string guitar (CD1#7-10), acoustic guitar (CD2), soprano guitar (CD2#5-10), hand bells (CD2#5-10), slide whistle (CD2#5-10); Lenny White: drums, percussion (CD1, CD2#1-4), congas, bongos (CD1), marimba (CD2#1-4), timpani (CD2#5-10), timbales (CD2#5-10), hand bells (CD2#5-10), snare drum (CD2#5-10), suspended cymbals (CD2#5-10), alarm clock (CD2#5-10).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.