RETURN TO FOREVER — Musicmagic

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RETURN TO FOREVER - Musicmagic cover
2.60 | 12 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1977

Filed under Fusion
By RETURN TO FOREVER

Tracklist

A1 The Musician 7:11
A2 Hello Again 3:49
A3 Musicmagic 11:02
B1 So Long Mickey Mouse 6:08
B2 Do You Ever 3:58
B3 The Endless Night 9:41

Total Time: 41:51

Line-up/Musicians

Chick Corea - keyboards
Gayle Moran - vocals, piano, organ
Joe Farrell - saxophone, flute
John Thomas - trumpet, flugelhorn
James Tinsley - trumpet, piccolo
Harold Garret - trombone
Jim Pugh - trombone
Stanley Clarke - Electric bass, Acoustic bass, Vocals
Gerry Brown - drums

About this release

Columbia – PC 34682 (US)

Recorded and mixed at Caribou Ranch, Colorado.. January - February 1977

Thanks to Abraxas, snobb for the updates

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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Abraxas
Return to Forever's last album to date, Musicmagic, shows yet another major style swift and as a consequence it has received bad praise.

In their inception, the band played a very exquisite mix of jazz and latin inspired music, they later moved to a completely instrumental and electric sound where their brains joining the jazz rock movement in the heights of Mahavishnu Orchestra. They rapidly added funk and some classical/symphonic arrangements to their sound, and it was extremely apparent in their commercially successful Romantic Warrior, an album that can be associated to prog rock.

So what had Chick Corea in mind for Musicmagic? It was definitely something new. New because the line-up is changed drastically, the guitars are out once again as in their first albums, vocals are back but from Chick's wife, Gayle Moran, singer of the second line-up of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Lenny White is not on the drums and a brass section is added, first (and last, as for now) time in the group's life. Stanley Clarke is the only remaining member, the only one who was together with Chick in the whole evolution of the band.

As a result, you have a pretty big mixture of things. The latin influences, the classical ones, some rock and funk. Having said that, it seems like a completely interesting album, especially when it's in hands of Chick Corea, but that's not really so. Being the dawn fo the 70s there are some really cheesy moments that jazz fusion, in general, was suffering from.

However if you can pass those moments, the album actually presents rather complex and interesting arrangements that are not repetitions of older ones. Say 'Music Magic' or 'The Endless Night', both 9+ minutes, has the band playing this new style with excellent execution, with both groove and intricacy.

A good comparison would be Chick's solo album 'The Leprechaun' which has a similar idea in mind, mixing jazz fusion with classical ideas mainly. The result on both is not completely successful, but at least it's different from a lot of fusion from its time, and of course the chops and the grooves are always to be found.

So, if you can handle a very different Return to Forever that plays a weirdo fusion with vocals and some lighter late 70s grooves, this is good enough for any jazz rock collection.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
In some ways, this MM album stands out as a UFO in RTF’s discography: With only Corea and Clarke remaining, RTF gets another bizarre shuffle with the return of Joe Farrell (the wind player in RTF’s first two albums) and Gayle Moran (ex-Mahavishnu and more) on vocals and some kbs. Outside the fact that he also had to replace the fantastic Lenny White by Gary Brown, Chick goes on to include a full brass section as RTF members, which will provide a “big band sound”, but much sonic awkwardness as well, given the music’s overly complex nature. In some ways, despite the heavy line-up changes, MM is a logical successor to RW, but something went awfully wrong in the concept itself and its elaboration. RTF’s final album also saw its release on CBS, like its majestic predecessor and it has a very “prog” fantasy artwork for sleeve.

Don’t get me wrong, the album is not as bad as you might fear it after reading the above paragraph. Actually the album starts with the best track, The Musician, a 7-mins trip into complex music that can reminds the GG excesses of RW, but the funky elements and the semi-reggae rhythm give the piece a strange allure that even Gayle’s voice doesn’t diminish the interest, including a bowed contrabass in the middle section. However there are pure stinkers like the AOR-ish, almost Sinatra-esque Hello Again and its big band pretensions, or the main problem being Gayle Moran’s vocals (throughout the album >> she’s way too present in RTF, where she wasn’t a nuisance in MO) that will grate your patience The 11-mins slow-starting (with some very disputable synth sounds) title track is an overly complicated trip that mixes jazz funk with classical and Yes-type of progressive rock. It actually would work fairly well if it wasn’t so cheesy. The middle sung-section with double vocals is cheese-fondue for a full Swiss battalion, and the funky last third is good, but Chick’s synths are simply a deterrent for multiple listenings.

The flipside starts with the boring So Long Mickey Mouse, another Clarke-penned song, where Gayle spreads her disputable voice all over the spectrum; this mixed with some of the worst brass section (BS&T style) and Chick’s stinky synths (mmmm!!!... Repeat seven times in one breath ;o))) make this a no-no for me. Do You Ever has again Gayle all over the track, but here, she sounds a bit like a second degree early Kate Bush (as does the music) and it works slightly better, partly because it’s not overstaying its welcome as had So Long MM. The closing Endless Night (almost 10 minutes) is probably the other better moment of the album, because it returns to the classical-semi-medieval influences of RW, and if you learn to cope with the duet vocals and Chick’s synths, you could enjoy it.

Unlike its RW predecessor, MM has some original ideas, but most of them are ruined by other catastrophic ones. While I can still recommend RW no problems despite its flaws, I simply can’t do it for MM. Better stay away from RTF’s swan song. Little wonder they called it a say after this one.

Ratings only

  • danielfortin
  • Lynx33
  • darkshade
  • Drummer
  • darkprinceofjazz
  • The Manticore
  • rigoboy
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