Saturday, July 26, 2014

Return to Forever – Romantic Warrior

   Since jazz and rock were genres of music growing on conflict with official culture, artists were always referring to traditions different than accepted in establishment culture. While American rock ensembles were almost strictly connected to rhythm and blues roots, some were just duplicated rock and roll patterns, but numerous European bands and musicians were looking for inspiration in more specific tradition. Interesting concept was flourished in England, Italy and France. Many musicians playing popular songs, folk rock and progressive rock were experimenting with different folk traditions. It was natural many of them had found folk music sources in mediaeval culture. In fact connections between mediaeval traditions and folk culture were as common as deep. And of course it has different effect in popular and in more ambitious genres of music. Popular and progressive bands like Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, Yes, King Crimson were building clearly European sound and whole artistic means, totally different than Jimmy Hendrix, Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears or Santana.
   During jazz-rock revolution many jazz musicians playing fusion were looking for possibilities of using different folk patterns. While John McLaughlin and his bands Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti were exploring far East traditions, Weather Report was mixing electric jazz sound with South American rhythms and sounds, Return to Forever found mediaeval musical idioms as perfect basis for building their creative music. In fact there was nothing like this before. Already in Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy musicians were building elevated emotions, one could consider them as religious. This attitude set the trend leading to perfect realization in Romantic Warrior album. Chick Corea and Return to Forever become one of most respected artists of seventies and Romantic Warrior was sold in half million copies.

Return to Forever – Romantic Warrior (1976)

   What’s interesting, especially if we notice Romantic Warrior is Return to Forever’s sixth studio album, this album is again an original work. And the first one in band’s discography published by Columbia Records. Interesting fact is this was the first time “featuring Chick Corea” reference has been omitted. It was probably decision of Columbia Records trying to reinforce the position of the band. Maybe after first five records Return to Forever was too explicitly associated with Chick Corea and managers wanted to show it more as an independent group than yet another Corea’s project. This is probable idea considering fact, every member of the quartet has on this album his own composition. But most interesting quality of Romantic Warrior is creative use of some mediaeval ideas. Themes played in unison and modality are clearly taken from mediaeval music. Tempos and virtuosity also can evoke some elements of old dance music.
   Selected sounds of electronic instruments give the effect of mystery, a context in which even acoustic piano or guitar sound differently than usual. Chock Corea is playing whole collection of keyboards instruments, marimba and percussion instruments. Stanley Clarke plays bass, Al DiMeola guitars and Lenny White drums and set of percussion. It is extremely interesting how jazz-rock connected to mediaeval motifs can be universal. Good example are solos in composition by Lenny White Sorcerres. Although guitar solos have clear rock feeling Al DiMeola’s discipline is perfectly jazzying. The same with Chick Corea’s accoustic piano solo which is both classic and jazz and somehow pop music. This shows the greatness of Retrun to Forever. This album demands four and half stars. Why not five? Only because there are few other Corea’s album which deserve full grade.

1 comment:

Krzysztof Szatrawski said...

It’s worth to remember the cover features artwork by Wilson McLean, Scottish illustrator and artist. The whole album was dedicated to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.

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