Return To Forever
by Chick Corea
A little about the artist:<
Chick Corea has been, since his earliest recordings in the late 60s, one of the frontrunners in modern jazz. While this piano (and other keyboard) player finds himslef most comfortable in the jazz-rock fusion setting, Corea has also been known to play standards with his acoustic band and post-bop piano trio music as well. Probably the most significant boost to Corea�s career (say THAT 5 times fast) was his stint with Miles Davis. Playing in Miles� third quintet, and then being included in the much larger group that followed it, he appeared on the seminal fusion albums �Filles de Kilimanjaro,� �In A Silent Way� and �Bitches Brew.� We all know what happened after �Bitches Brew.� The members of that band basically became the who�s who of 70s fusion. McLaughlin went on to form Mahavishnu Orchestra, Zawinul and Shorter started Weather Report, Herbie Hancock and Bennie Maupin were in Headhunters, and of course, Chick Corea would form Return to Forever (later to include �Bitches Brew� drummer Lenny White). The first recording (second to be released) from the first Return to Forever lineup is �Return To Forever� (credited to Corea, although it is accepted as the work Return to Forever the band).
About this Album:
Recorded February, 1972 and released on ECM Records
Chick Corea � electric piano
Joe Farrell � tenor saxophone, flute, soprano saxophone
Airto Moreira � drums, percussion
Stanley Clarke � bass, bass guitar
Flora Purim � percussion, vocals
This is my personal favorite album by Corea�s 70s bands. This is the original lineup of Return to Forever, and in my opinion the best. The group looks great on paper, but the mixture of these talents far outshines the sum of their greatness. This album mixes jazz, Latin and Brazilian music, and pop/rock for a unique, engaging, and accessible sound.
Let�s break it down track by track:
1. Return to Forever � (12:06)
The song named for the album that would eventually be the band�s name is also the opener here. Things start out sort of spooky, with a little vamp on Chick�s fender rhodes. The melody he plays is haunting, and this element gets further accentuated by the vocals that slip in to follow that same melody. These wordless vocals sound far-off and melancholy. There�s some jangling percussion, and Joe�s flute is heard briefly. Then the song switches gears. It becomes a more upbeat, but still sort of creepy tune, driven by Brazilian and Latin flavor. Joe Farrell takes the first solo on flute, commit some great work to tape. Chick�s chords behind him seem to drive the solo along, and the expressive drumming of Airto is right in the pocket. Stanley Clarke�s bass playing is low in the mix, but becomes more audible when Chick starts to solo for a bit. Chick returns to the original melody from the second section, and the vocals come in with him. Airto�s drumming becomes louder, and then the whole thing sort of falls apart, and it sounds once again like the haunted cries heard at the beginning of the song. A third melody comes next, with Stanley Clarke�s bass right in the forefront along with Chick�s vamp. If you didn�t know, Stanley Clarke is an amazing upright bass player, and his work here shows that. It takes a little while for Chick�s melody to kick in, but when it does Flora Purim follows with her very pretty voice, and the drums start to really stretch out. Chick then takes a much longer solo than he did earlier in the tune, and it�s great. This is absolutely breathtaking playing from Chick and the rhythm section here. Behind his solo, Flora starts to whisper and moan. Then she sings a lead part, and Joe�s flute returns to close out the solo section. It�s back to that very first part of the tune, and things sort of fade away. A marvelous song with three distinct parts that only hints at the ambition of the final side-long suite. 5/5
2. Crystal Silence � (6:59)
This one starts out with solo electric piano. It�s a very gentle, pretty melody with lots of vibrato. Then Joe Farrell�s tenor saxophone comes in, and things keep the same basic feel. It�s a gorgeous, slow ballad or lullaby. Some nice windchime percussion jingles in the background, adding to the sort of spacey feel of this tune. The improvisation here sticks very closely to the main melody, returning to it often. This tune has such a well-written melody, I can see why it doesn�t stray far from it at any point. I like the way Joe and Chick sort of pass lead and support roles around, and I also like the way the percussion finds all the right little spots to fill in. It�ll make you cry. 5/5
3. What Game Shall We Play Today � (4:30)
This is basically a Latin-jazz styled pop tune. Say what you will, I think it�s really nice. It starts out with the main melody played by Joe Farrell on flute, and the rhythm section plays a playful background. The melody is cute and harmless, but really catchy. Flora Purim sings the lead melody, the same that Joe just got done introducing. This time she actually sings words. Like this controversial tune, her voice is loved by some and hated by some. I personally think she�s a really good singer, and I also love this song. Joe�s flute lines weave around Flora�s words, and eventually he breaks into a solo. You don�t know how much I love Joe Farrell�s flute playing. His solo is great, but short. After his solo comes Chick�s solo, which is of course awesome, if again way too short. Flora comes back to repeat the verse, and then Farrell restates the melody on flute. Flora and Joe play a phrase in unison, and that�s that. 4.8/5
4. Sometime Ago/La Fiesta � (23:14)
This is quite the opposite of the silly little tune �What Game Shall We Play Today.� This is an ambitious, wonderful piece of work. It starts out with just Chick and Stanley playing a mysterious, dark tune, with the typical percussion work behind them. Stanley�s bass moans, and Chick�s splashes of notes draw you down a dark tunnel. Eventually this sort of moody tinkling builds to a melody you can actually grab onto. Stanley�s bass chitters and chatters solo for a few moments, and things are continually building towards something. This whole first part has such an unresolved feeling to it. You can feel it leading somewhere, and it�s tense, because you don�t know where. The end of each phrase that Stanley Clarke plays through his amazing bass solo feels like it is bringing you to the climax, and it�s a really interesting technique. About 6 minutes in, Joe Farrell�s flute comes in, and it�s still got that sort of expectant feel to it. Stanley plays bowed bass, which is nice after all the plucking he did through the first 5 minutes of the tune.
Finally, things switch over, but it�s not the huge crashing climax you might expect. What we have now is a really nice dancey part played by Chick, and finally some drums. It�s upbeat. Flora comes in to sing her �Sometime Ago� part of the tune. Again, her voice is not universally loved, but I think her work here is wonderful. Chick gets a lot of nice lead parts squeezed in between verses, and his accompanying part is perfect. Same goes for Joe, actually, but to a lesser extent. The first solo in this section of the song goes to Joe Farrell on flute. Corea�s accompaniment is not your basic comping chords, he and Joe really interact with each other melodically. I like it that way. Then it�s Chick�s turn to solo. He is an incredibly player with an endless stream of ideas. Airto plays out nice with Chick, too. Then Corea falls into this sort of vamped part, and Joe Farrell plays some more licks on top, until Corea starts to solo once again. Corea plays the �Sometime Ago� part once more, and Mrs. Purim comes into sing her part once again.
Slowly the instruments fall out, and Chick plays on his own. Yum. This is a transition to the next part of the song, the wonderful �La Fiesta.� The castanets in the background bring you to right to Latin America. Chick and Joe Farrell (on soprano saxophone, now) play this nice melody line. I need to control myself to write this now, because I�d rather dance. The unison playing of the horn-man and Mr. Keys is really great. Joe takes the first solo on this part, still on soprano. I like the soprano playing just as much as the flute or tenor playing, and I think this is probably Joe Farrell�s best shot at improvisation on the whole record. After Joe�s solo, it returns to one of the melodies that he and Chick played a few minutes ago. Going through it, Farrell starts to really sing with his instrument, crying out as the music gives way to Chick Corea�s solo. This takes an interestingly less playful approach than Joe�s solo. It�s more complex and less joyful, but equally amazing. His left hand hops up and down with staccato chording, and the right dances around making interesting melodies. Once again, we return to the main �La Fiesta� melody, and this takes us basically to the end. Stanley Clarke�s bass thumps and Joe�s soprano squeals, and one of the greatest pieces of 70s jazz comes to a close. 5/5
This is one of my favorite albums of all time. I think the different elements and sounds all go toward a very focused, fully developed collective sound (pretty impressive, for a groups first recording). This work is not self-indulgent as some of the other fusion bands had become, and it is also not overly technical and stiff. It�s also not overly poppy; it doesn�t try too hard to cater to pop rock audiences like some other fusion bands had. It�s got a perfect balance of artistic integrity and accessible melody and emotion. A fine piece of modern improvised music.