Sunday, June 30, 2013

Return to Forever – Where Have I Known You Before

   In the history of jazz-rock groups many bands were unstable. In many bands successive amendments were the result of driven by their leaders an artistic exploration of balance and means of expression. Changes of lineups and styles were somehow characteristic feature of many groups, even these most favored. One of the most reputable was Return to Forever, the group with few consecutive lineups and only two constant musicians Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. Both are brilliant, phenomenal and creative. After first two albums recognized as acoustic period of the band history, later albums had been recorded by electrified band with drummer Lenny White. Fourth album of the band comes with next change, new guitarist was 20 years old virtuoso Al Di Meola.
   Recorded during summer 1974 in New York Record Plant Studios this was consecutive production by Chick Corea developing his fusion style with Return to Forever being after Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy one of best recognized bands of electric jazz. Although Where Have I Known You Before is completely instrumental album, the title was connected to the poem by Neville Potter who was Chick Corea’s friend and long time Return to Forever contributor as lyricist. The whole poem has been placed on back of the cover and the poet was listed as author of album cover concept.

Return to Forever – Where Have I Known You Before (1974)

   Creating Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy Chick Corea has opened new perspective of bands formation and the new chapter in history of the fusion music. Whole album consists of five band pieces and three short piano compositions in a kind of intermezzos with titles referring to Potter’s poem – Where Have I Loved You (Danced with You / Known You) Before. It’s interesting how close he get to progressive rock sound and structures. Opening composition Vulcan Worlds gives great sequence of solos. These could be considered as the best improvisations of the album. Full synergy sparkles in Al DiMeola solo – between improvising guitarist, and Stanley Clarke phenomenal bass walking. In The Shadow of Lo improvising dialogue takes place between DiMeola and Corea with bass playing ostinato based walking and powerful drums. 
   The idea of transcending previous visions is in the center of interest. The culmination of the program is Beyond the Seventh Galaxy, the composition closing first side of the album. Powerful unisons, rhythmic intensity and electrified sound are basis for brave passages cumulating energy of new style. This kind of structures with leading Minimoog and ARP Odyssey motifs became the hallmark of Chick Corea electric bands in 70’s and 80’s.

Return to Forever – Beyond the 7th Galaxy (1974)

   Opening second side of the record Earth Juice is risky experimenting with disco beat. From first bars it sounds like making joke of dancing music. Musicians were trying to build collective improvisational structure. Maybe it was somehow creative but after years it’s just boring. This double-beat pulse is not quite obsessive but too simple anyway. 
   Opposite mood shows Where Have I Know You Before, third Corea’s composition for acoustic piano referring to Potter’s poem. This is a reminiscence of impressionistic piano music. A kind of continuation of ideas exposed in this short work made Corea his electronic solo introduction to last piece of this album. The Song of the Pharoah Kings is fully developed idea of electric jazz-rock defining distinctive Return to Forever style. Stanley Clarke solo shows the new frontiers in jazz electric bass. Overall this album is strong statement and after 40 years it can still be a blockbuster. Four stars even if this is definitely not the best album of Return to Forever.

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