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Return To Forever

The Mothership Returns

Review by Gary Hill

When it comes to fusion, you just don’t get a much more impressive supergroup than Return to Forever. So, when the group gets back together and tours, that’s a big deal. This live album (with bonus DVD) captures that experience for all time. It comes highly recommended to all fans of the group and fans of fusion in general. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Medieval Overture
After an awesome introductory section, they take this into some great jazz meets classical jamming before setting it out into sort of a rocking groove.
Senior Mouse
There’s some killer funky bass driving this thing and the fusion is red hot as the song works out from there. Several modes and moods are heard as this awesome thing continues. It gets mellower at some points, but the driving rhythm section keeps it moving steadily forward. Later in the tune we get treated to some screaming guitar soloing, but it’s not at the detriment of the other instruments. It seems to fire everyone up to great levels of power and virtuosity.
The Shadow of Lo / Sorceress
Here we get another powerhouse fusion piece. While the bass really drives a lot of this thing, there’s some awesome bass work that’s well worth mentioning. It works out into some of the most melodic jazz of the whole thing later in the piece. In fact, this one has some of the most traditional jazz we will hear. Still later there’s a real 1970s sounding movement. It almost feels like an extended jam on something that could have passed for a theme song in the 70s. That section basically takes this to its close.
Renaissance
The tones that start this off are somewhat mysterious and quite dramatic. It works out from there to some especially melodic fusion. They take this through a number of different sections and different people show off at different points. Personally, I think the acoustic guitar soloing on this is one of the most noteworthy bits about the cut. It’s certainly fiery and inspired. As this impressive ride continues we’re taken through more changes and there’s a particularly intriguing section where the same musical line gets repeated and reconstructed quite a few times. That is followed by a tasty accompanied bass solo. It gets turned into a tasty groove from there.
Disc 2
After The Cosmic Rain
There’s a lot of more traditional fusion in this piece of music. There are sections here that really have a Latin element to them. While the whole disc is great, in some ways some of the playing on this is among the most evocative and poignant of the whole disc.
The Romantic Warrior
They start things very mellow and rather classical in texture here and build out gradually. As this thing works through a number of changes we get some of the coolest violin work of the whole set. That said, it’s another that showcases some stellar acoustic guitar work, too. We get taken through a lot of changes and alterations as this is certainly an epic piece of music. At times it certainly feels almost more classical than jazz in nature.
Spain
This is a melodic and rather pretty jam that’s very tasty. There’s a cool section where the audience sing the melody back that Corea plays. It’s a great piece of music.
School Days
Sections of this qualify more as rock music than as fusion or jazz. The guitar that drives this is the crunchiest of the set and there’s a killer rock and roll rhythm to the piece. They take it to more pure fusion as they continue and other instruments take time to solo and get the spotlight. It’s another cut with some particularly noteworthy bass playing. There are also some great interplay sections in the piece later.
Beyond The Seventh Gal
This is a frantic and crazed jazz jam that’s got tons of energy.
 
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