Friday, October 5, 2012

Fusion Friday: Return to Foreever's Romantic Warrior - made at Caribou

I know someone in college had this record.  Besides Roxy, Genesis, Bowie, et al., some guys jazzed things up a bit.  The Crusaders, Spiro Gyra, Ponty, UK, John Martyn, and this album was played.   It is Romantic Warrior, from 1976, it is the sixth studio album of fusion band Return to Forever.  Romantic Warrior is the band's best selling record reaching eventual sales of 500,000 copies.  It was the group's first album made for Columbia Records, which may have had a positive effect on sales. This is also the first jazz-rock album by Return to Forever that was NOT recorded at New York's Record Plant Studios (instead it was recorded entirely at Caribou Ranch).

[Side note: Caribou Ranch is one of my all-time favorite recording studios.  It's on my short list of "If I Could Have Been There When They Made ____________" Studios.  Huge records were made there by Elton, John Denver, Chicago, EWF, and many others.  Sadly it burned down in 1985.]

Romantic Warrior is also their  first record to be credited solely to Return to Forever, removing the "featuring Chick Corea" moniker.  The album is more avant-garde and less funky than the band's previous album, No Mystery.  The medieval theme of the album was perhaps inspired by similar themes being used by some leading progressive rock bands of the time. The album is famous for its technically demanding playing. Fast, unison lines can be heard on many tracks.  Chick Corea contributed the longest compositions and the other members each composed one piece.  The first track, Corea's "Medieval Overture", with its distinctive melodic motifs, sets the mood for the rest of the album. Lenny White's "Sorceress" starts with a funky riff and is distinguished by Corea's synthesizers. The title track is fully acoustic. It has a long intro, which is followed by a short theme consisting of one riff. Each group member (excluding White) plays a long solo. In the end, an extended outro follows, during which fast unison patterns are heard. Al Di Meola's and Stanley Clarke's songs on side two are notable for their humorous qualities. Al Di Meola's song, "Majestic Dance", relies on rock riffs and distorted lead guitar sound, but features also fast harpsichord-like synth figures. Clarke's "The Magician" is a very complex composition, featuring playful melodies, and again, rapid unison lines. The last track of the album is Corea's "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant", which is the longest song of the album. It has a more conventional melody as a main theme, but otherwise it follows the style of previous tracks. Notable is the intense keyboard solo showcasing Corea.  After this album Corea decided that the group's time had come to an end and he continued with another wholly new Return to Forever line-up with Clarke.  Corea dedicated the album to the founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.

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