Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chick Corea & Return To Forever – Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy

   Third album of Return To Forever recorded in August 1973 was turning point in the history of jazz-rock style in seventies. After first year of creative activity and two records published in 1972, Return to Forever (ECM) and Light as a Feather (Polydor), name of the band, Return To Forever was quite a synonymous of soft melodic lines, warm vocal and even warmer dancing pulsation of Latin rhythms. This was more fusion of jazz and pop than jazz and rock. Second edition of the band was totally different idea of Return To Forever. Only Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke remained from the first Latin-oriented lineup of the band. Two more instrumentalists were guitarist Bill Connors and drummer Lenny White. Different was also pure instrumental sound of this quartet.
   The changes become clear when we consider who was subjected on record covers. First record was signed Chick Corea – Return to Forever, the name of the artist and the title of the album. And that was looking just as it was. Return to Forever was actually the title of first track and the whole album. Later this title became the name of the group. Second album was signed Chick Corea & Return To Forever making clear the band was solid artistic entity. Next three albums (1973-1975) were signed by expression “Return To Forever featuring Chick Corea”. And last two studio albums Romantic Warrior (1976) and Musicmagic (1977), both published under the Columbia label, were signed only with the name of the band.

Return To Forever – Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973)

   The title composition Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy opens this record with series of phrases played in unison by Corea on electric piano, Connors on guitar and sometimes with Clarke on bass. Also in next compositions precise unisons of Corea and Connors are frequently the way to point and to amplify most important phrases. Stanley Clarke who was still seeking for an optimal expression, used fuzz box for his bass – his solo in After the Cosmic Rain is historic performance. Solo Connors played in Captain Senor Mouse is firmly connected both with post-Hendrix and post-Coltrane attitude to improvisation. This composition was also Corea’s hit returning on several occasions.
   Chick Corea was showing himself both, as the composer and the great improviser. His improvisation on Theme to the Mothership merges post bop avant-gardism with psychedelic rock. In Space Circus, after Corea’a electric piano introduction, this in fact is his Children Song, funk riffs and Connors soloing and dialoguing with Clarke give listener a chance to understand the structure and background of this music. Bill Connors is playing short, powerful phrases with clear sharp, sometimes slightly distorted sound, controlling emotional tension. This time it’s clear this is the different way of playing, clearly new sound and definitely new music, opening new frontiers. Carefully thought-out solos, well-composed themes, precise arrangements, excellent quality of performances, revolutionary recording engineering, and all the elements contribute to the selection of this CD as a key achievement of fusion jazz. It is also extremely important position in discography of the seventies.

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