The group is called Return to Forever and here they add "featuring Chick Corea". Chick Corea is pretty well known and I guess the label thought his name would increase sales or something. On this album Chick plays all keyboards and adds percussion. He is joined on the bass by Stanley Clarke. The drums are played by Lenny White. The young wunderkind just out of school on guitar is Al Dimeola. This is the last thing the band recorded for Polydor before jumping over to the Warner Brothers label.
I happen to think this is the best of the Return to Forever releases. While I do love the next one dearly I think here the band under the direction of Chick turned out one of the greatest jazz rock fusion releases ever recorded. This came out in 1974. I think this one has excellent arranging and tune development controlling listener moods. The album is really Chick's show and while it has Al Dimeola he is kept in check for the most part. The rhythm section of Clarke and White has got to be the most precise and grooving ever layed down on record. They play with fire and finesse and underpin these tunes masterfully.
The first song was written by Stanley Clarke and is called "Vulcan Worlds". It is a very nice opening tune and being a mid tempo romper with descending themes gets the blood and feet moving. There are lots of synths, organs, electric pianos here and all over the rest of the album. Part way through the theme changes and goes upwards with synths and guitars playing and restating the theme in unison. Midway through the tempo slows and the tune becomes funky with some wah wah rhythms going on. Synths play a nice solo over the bubbling beat. The guitar lays down wah rhythms and then Al steps forward to play a blistering solo which is mostly scalar.
The "Shadow of Lo" is the third song and was penned by Lenny White. The tune begins with elec. piano and guitar playing slow meandering figures with Al doubling chick's piano. The bass and drums join in and makes a very nice majestic frame for the song to take off. Al takes a very nice rather tasty solo with much feeling coming through his playing. There is a change and the synths are now doubling the guitar with chick taking an excellent solo as Al quickly rejoins and restes the main theme. The tempo speeds up with again chick and al trading wonderful solos full of feeling and tension.
The song called "Song to the Pharoah Kings" is the last song and goes for 14:21. This song to me is what epitomizes the phrase "fusion". There are many instances of dynamic changes and speed/tempo changes like every other minute. I won't go into detail about this song but just say that this is the tune which most defines the group "Return to Forever". This song is the best thing here and with the two other tunes "Shadow of Lo" and "Vulcan Worlds" makes this a great disc.
There is a song here, "Earth Juice" that seems to be a group jam session that they added and it sounds like a fun little tune with lots of Al's guitar driving it. Another song that is somewhat different is the one called "Beyond the Seventh Galaxy". I say this only because it sounds like it only has Chick, Stanley and Lenny on it. Al's in there somewhere and I could only hear him by donning some head phones.
There are three solo piano pieces done by Chick and are his musical ideas of some poems written by Neville Potter. They are very nice and pleasant and mostly serve as interludes to the fire power elsewhere on this album. The first one is called "Where have I loved you before" and is the second song. The next piece is called "Where have I danced with you before" and precedes "beyond...". It is tune number four. The last piece and my favorite is called "where have I known you before" and has some really nice piano solos. This one precedes "Song to the Pharoah Kings".
Overall the flow and arrangements of the instruments are wonderful. Every one could be heard very well and although Al doesn't get to play solo's every song he does some great rhythm work and accents. While the star of the show is Chick he could not have done it without the drumming of arguably the greatest jazz rock drummers in history, Lenny White. The interludes serve well and increases the expectation of the songs coming next. This release is in my book the best of the so called second wave of fusion.The next one Romatic Warrior is special and great but a bit different in make up.
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