RETURN TO FOREVER — Romantic Warrior

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RETURN TO FOREVER - Romantic Warrior cover
4.09 | 45 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1976

Filed under Fusion
By RETURN TO FOREVER

Tracklist

A1 Medieval Overture 5:14
A2 Sorceress 7:33
A3 The Romantic Warrior 10:48
B1 Majestic Dance 5:00
B2 The Magician 5:27
B3 Duel Of The Jester And The Tyrant (Part I & Part II) 11:25

Total Time: 45:36

Line-up/Musicians

Bass Guitar [Alembic With Instant Flanger], Bass [Piccolo, Acoustic], Bells [Bell Tree, Hand Bells] – Stanley Clarke
Drums, Timpani, Congas, Bells [Hand Bells], Snare [Snare Drum], Cymbal, Instruments [Alarm Clock] – Lenny White
Electric Guitar [Guitars], Acoustic Guitar, Guitar [Soprano], Bells [Hand Bells], Whistle [Slide Whistle] – Al DiMeola
Piano [Acoustic], Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Clavinet [Hohner], Synthesizer [Mini Moog, Moog 15, Micro Mini Moog, Arp Odyssey, Polymoog], Organ [Yamaha], Marimba, Percussion – Chick Corea

About this release

Columbia – PC 34076 (US)

Recorded at Caribou Beach, Colorado - February 1976

Thanks to snobb for the updates

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Abraxas
Prog Warrior

Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior has always been a dilemma for me since it features technically perfect musicans and some brilliant instrumental crafting, but the overall result has never striked me as technical Jazz Rock or something really jazzy which is what you expect from Corea & Friends; Romantic Warrior has always striked me as a Prog Rock album played by jazz-leaned musicians. And besides sounding more Prog Rock than Jazz Fusion, it has never been an album I enjoyed much due to its prog-rock-focus (and hey, I'm a big prog fan).

Right away with the opener entitled 'Medieval Overture' with its flashy modern keyboards and the ever-changing times, even including some resemblance to Gentle Giant's medieval roots and weird complexity, you know that Return to Forever is not the jazz rock band which played the raw Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy nor the elegant Where Have I Known You Before anymore.

The second tune called 'Sorceress' is the only part from Romantic Warrior which can be classified as straight Jazz Rock, with its funky but steady rhythm being the responsible of the inevitable addictiveness to the tune. However the main performer is Chick Corea with an excellent blend of various synths, a piano, an electric piano and some floating keyboards, all played with such proficiency and delicacy, you really can't ask for more, except that you could argue that Hancock did this some years before. One of the band's greatest tunes.

As soon as 'Sorceress' finishes the title track begins in a very majestic way with Corea's fascinating piano, Meola's marvellous acoustic guitar and Stanley's upright bass. However that's only the intro, it then gets into a jazzy state with an excellent rhythm base which each member has the chance to step in and make an unbelievable solo. Superficially it may seem very much as a jazz rock tune because the musicians play unmistakably in a jazz rock manner, but the composition itself if you pay attention to the details you'll notice more of a prog-feel than a jazz rock one. It's executed with perfection, but sometimes I feel I'm not getting anything from it.

Next track is 'Majestic Dance' and this tune confirms that this is not Return to Forever playing jazz rock if not prog rock. Meola's catchy guitar riff then accompanied by Corea's synths is undeniably in the prog-vein. Anyway, Meola being the composer, he's undoubtedly the highlight here with his mind-blowing shredding. However the proof that Majestic Dance is inclined to prog rock are the bizarre passages with Corea's synth and a keyboard sound akin to a xylophone which reminds you of Ruth Underwood when playing with Zappa. It's good, but those bizarre passsages are just unnecessary.

Romantic Warrior continues in the prog-vein with 'The Magician'. A frenetic tune full of oddities which reminds you once again of Gentle Giant's medieval influences and bizarreness. Probably the weirdest tune in Return To Forever's catalogue, and that's only because it yells Prog! Technically amazing, though zero pleasure listening to it

The album finishes with the highly acclaimed among Prog fans, 'Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant'. It's a 11 minute piece full of intricating sections varying from completely technical stuff to some soft jazzy-inclined passages to prog-esque stuff. The main performers are Chick Corea and Al Di Meola both dueling with some really fine soloing, however there's also a lot of room for Lenny and Stanley to stand-out. Overall, a Prog instrumental which many prog bands wished they could make, however for my personal taste I would take any simple but addictive funky jazz rock tune to this technical show-off.

The conclusion to Romantic Warrior is a no-brainer for me, it's a refined and complex Prog Rock record made by jazz inclined musicians, however most of it doesn't strike a chord with me, the excessive medieval interludes and solos just seem to show-off and don't fit, it's rather unpleasant in places. I do want to make it clear that if you're looking for the jazz rock Return to Forever, this is not the place to come, either Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy or the even better Where Have I Known You Before are what a jazz rock fan should be looking for. Don't get me wrong I don't consider Romantic Warrior a Prog Rock record because it's technical, The Mahavishnu Orchestra has demonstrated being highly technical and even heavy, yet the jazz rock credentials are very clear in them, unlike in this record, Romantic Warrior with it's prog-esque cover-work and titles from the tunes, but more importantly, the clear way Return To Forever composed the tunes which is in a very prog-manner, so this can't, in my opinion, be considered a jazz rock classic either a masterpiece of that genre.

3.5 stars: Highly recommended to Prog fans, don't fear the Fusion label because anyone will admit that this record has more to do with Prog than with Fusion. For Fusion fans, well I'm sure you already have this, it's a classic because of its commercial success, but stylistically it's not really a Fusion masterpiece as 'Where Have I Known You Before'.

Members reviews

aglasshouse
The jazz fusion scene features some of the most skilled musicians that are unmatched by most. One of the more notable examples is that of Return to Forever, a band fronted by piano virtuoso Chick Corea.

Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior features some of the most wonderful sounding pieces I've heard in awhile. The aforementioned frontman Chick Corea's skill with a plethora of different pianos, including but not limited to the Yamaha organ, Polymoog, and ARP Odyssey is nothing short of inspiring to a keyboard player like myself. Every band member plays similarly; with eclectic and complex tempos but with a cool, smooth disposition, very similar to Corea's free jazz solo career. Lenny White's insane playing style is punchy and extremely effective especially with the beautiful chords presented by Corea and Stanley Clarke's ominous bass plucks.

The album art as well as the style with which the acoustics are played bring out a sort of medieval vibe, like an ancient piece invigorated with the intricacy of a team of modern masters. The certain hone to this blade gives off a sense of subtle self-respect that isn't too hard to chew, because I resoundingly revere such wonderful music.

Romantic Warrior combines the chill swing of your downtown parlour jazz with the richness of an orchestra. I highly suggest you check it out.
Modrigue
Progressive fantasy jazz rock

Often considered as RETURN TO FOREVER's best album, "Romantic Warrior" is more avant-garde and less funky than the band's previous efforts. Featuring a more important usage of electronic keyboards and rocking guitars, the musicians also incorporated symphonic/heavy prog elements from bands such as YES or KING CRIMSON in their music. Combined to the strange and charming synthesizers of Chick Corea, the result is quite original and inspired, while remaining accessible. The question is: what's the relation with the title?

"Medieval Overture" (by Chick Corea) is in fact not really medieval. Instead, this composition is a rather retro-futuristic spacey jazz/rock with various keyboards in the style of YES. Very nice, and sets the tone for the rest of the disc. Lenny White's "Sorceress" is the funkiest track of the record. Opening with a calm and groovy bass line, it contains a few guitar and keyboards interventions with a slight flavour of McCoy Tyner. In contrast, the title track (by Chick Corea) is fully acoustic. Majestic and delightful, however a bit too long.

Despite its title, the cool "Majestic Dance" is not very dancing but rather the rock-iest passage of the disc with its distorted guitars. This is logic when you know this was composed by Al Di Meola. Stanley Clarke's "The Magician" is the most complex composition, and also my least favorite track. Quite odd and changing, it incorporates fun small melodies. Ironically this song is the only one truly related to the album thematic, as it sounds a little medieval by moments. Once again by Chick Corea, "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant" is the longest composition. Contrarily to the previous song, the music is more accessible and built around a nice melancholic melody as a main theme, with a few surprises inside...

Only after the listen can you understand the album title. "Romantic Warrior" do not naively refer to love or martial metal songs. Instead, it should rather been taken as an oxymoron that corresponds to the musical style: both calm and turbulent, light and ferocious. Everything is a matter of contrast. Unusual, original and with an unique sound, this 1976 opus is one of the proggiest and greatest achievements of its genre.

Very recommended to jazz rock / fusion aficionados or hard rock fans wanting to discover the style!
EatThatPhonebook
8/10

"Romantic Warrior" is one of the key Fusion albums of the mid seventies-late eighties.

After several successful albums, Return to Forever go with “Romantic Warrior”, their fifth studio LP(without counting Chick Corea’s famous album that gives the name to the band). “Romantic Warrior”, even though it isn’t one that all fans would love, is one of the greatest albums by the band and one of the key albums of mid seventies to early eighties Fusion.

“Romantic Warrior” has a much more straight forward feel than other RtF albums, like “Hymn To the Seventh Galaxy”: even though this 1976 album doesn’t feature any vocals, it manages to be quite memorable, throwing in some Latin music, Funk, and some Progressive Rock (the cover album implies this last influence). The melodies are extremely cheerful, especially when Chick Corea’s keyboards drive the song. But then the bass and guitars sound extremely lively all the time, giving the album an extremely colorful and ambitious tone. Some rhythms come pretty close to actual Funk music, as mentioned, but others are a little more serious and concentrated on the Jazz more than anything else, but frankly these moments aren’t that many, which might have turned off some Jazz purists.

Basically, “Romantic Warrior” does what Al DiMeola will manage to do well in his outstanding “Elegant Gypsy”. No surprise in this case to see that the guitarist is featured on the album, giving amazing performances. But all the musicians give amazing contributions, and somehow manage to stay in equilibrium one another, all of them being truly terrific at what they do, from Stanley Clarke on bass to the just mentioned Al DiMeola (on guitars) and Chick Corea (on keyboards), but not to forget Lenny White, who can easily accompany all of these musicians without being overshadowed.

“Romantic Warrior” is an extremely solid release, that has, as mentioned, something for every Jazz fan: while “Medieval Overture”’s colorful sounds bring back Progressive Rock memories, the epic title track is a successful Fusion exercise with moments that would make any fan of the genre drool in delight, as also the even more epic track, one song divided in two, “Duel Of The Jester and the Tyrant”, that once again shows some Prog Rock influences, especially in it’s structure. The more straight forward songs like the subtle funkiness of “Sorceress” or the crazy moments of “Majestic Dance” and “The Magician” are almost danceable and almost easy to whistle to, even if they show noticeable medieval influences and very fast playing in many parts.

“Romantic Warrior” is overall one of the great albums by Return To Forever, and also one of the most fun Fusion albums. A perfect balance between Rock and Fusion, between colorful naiveness and almost cold virtuoso playing.
Warthur
Though most fusion fans swear by this album, personally I don't consider it a revolutionary and inspirational piece so much as a continuation of the classic-era Return to Forever sound as established from Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy onwards. To be honest, it sounds a bit tired-out to me, bringing little to the table which the three preceding albums hadn't provided in spades, but if you are a keen Return to Forever fan "more of the same" is probably precisely what you want. The medieval theme is an interesting twist, but ultimately prog bands such as Gentle Giant had updated medieval music for modern audiences in a much more innovative and compelling way, and here it seems to merely be a gloss over otherwise standard fusion. Three stars.
1967/ 1976
Return To Forever... One of the most great and ingenious band in the world: Jazz, Rock or... Whatever it play! In this case RTF play a type of Fusion that is too close to Prog Rock. In my opinion with "Romantic Warrior" are inserted between instruments duels that will be taken by many Heavy Metal groups. This due to the style of Al Di Meola on guitar and Stanley Clarke on bass. Another point is the insertion of Classic Music partiture in a Rock partiture with Jazz treatment. The production is too close to Rock than to Jazz and, also for this motive, I think that the music of "Romantic Warrior is close to Prog Metal. Not for this, or due for this, the music of this "Romantic Warrior" is more Fusion that other Fusion music.

Interestig are the instruments duels, what makes Jazz the music, because the rest is pure Rock, Hard Rock. The sound of keyboards is powerfully joyful as the guitars and the bass is incredibly powerful, as the percussive instruments are a great motor. The arrangiaments are in Jazz style but the writing style is a mix between Classic Music and Rock, as is incredibly evident in "Duel Of The Jester And The Tyrant" or in "Majestic Dance", in this case in a great mix with Folk. The power of music are mixed with the Latino sensibility of Corea and Di Meola, the power of Stanley Clarke and the Jazz motor of Lenny White: now the music it is as if it were still 1976: the magic and the feeling are still too evident!

I have not other words to describe this incredible album, a Masterpiece of XXth Century music, Jazz, Rock, Fusion, Classic Music or Heavy Metal that it is!
Sean Trane
With the Mahavishnu’s MkII line-up now disappeared, and the Mk III that was clearly not going to last, RTF stepped in to fill the void with this RW album. Indeed while MO always included some classical music (Stravinski mostly, but Bartok as well) in their fiery fusion, RTF had mostly stayed clear of that if you’ll except the Spanish influence via Rodrigo’s Aranjuez n a few tracks. With these classical twists on RW, RTF started sounding more “prog” ala Yes than the previous albums, something that is reinforced by the medieval prog-leaning sleeve artwork and the album concept based on medieval stories. BTW, Chick had to allow his RTF partners to place compositions (one each, him keeping three) on this album. After four albums on Polydor, RTF moved to CBS, and the album was released by the mid of 76. BTW, please read my trusted colleague Dick heath’s review on this very album, because he adds more issues I share.

I never really investigated to see who copied who on the album’s opening track called Medieval Overture, but the opening seconds have a definite Gentle Giant, so obvious that I am never able to fully forget it, while listening to the album. While I wouldn’t reduce this track to a blatant copying of GG, both groups share the capacity to handle some of the most complex music with the utmost ease. The following Sorceress, is a fantastic Lenny White-penned slow-starting funky scorcher, but past that, White’s drumming can only amaze us, but Corea’s vitriolic piano solo is voluptuous, coloured, rhythmic, yet burns holes in your stomach like the best of those Southern Georgia moonshine bourbons!!! The 11-mins title track is also a killer with Chick’s opening piano and Clarke bowed contrabass intro, the track builds up gradually, allowing White to dazzle us, even if the real hero is Clarke’s bass ruling over Chick’s suspended & floating piano, ADM‘s Spano-Flamenco guitar while Clarke takes the bow to the contrabass to close the debate. Stunning stuff somehow very reminiscent of its preceding track

The flipside opens on ADM’s over-estimated Majestic Dance; while most groups would cry for a composition of this calibre, this track is the weakest of the album, ADM sounding like Carlos, Chick choosing some poor synth sounds, the marimba bringing you again on GG grounds; and it isn’t majestic nor is it danceable. Most amazingly is Clarke Magician track, which plunges once more into GG territory, with Chick’s synths almost bringing the track to a dead stop, before Stan picks up the track in an ultra-funky manner and some kind of ill-advised fanfare brings us to ADM’s Hackett-ian guitar shrills. Although flawlessly played, it is obvious RTF cannot find ideas of their own and they set out to pillage the Shulman-Minnear mines. At least, the closing Jester & Tyrant track avoids falling in the same trap (partly anyway), especially in the opening minutes where one might hear some Banks-ian layers and a very decent first section, but the track almost gets lost in the second part of the Duel with lightning speed solos, some on excruciatingly bad sounding synth, courtesy of Chick, but all four musos are just wanking away at their respective instruments. No wonder punk happened quickly.

Among the few negatives, I can think of, 1- Chick’s obsession with new technologies, especially in the synthesizers department (but this is not his plight alone, many jazz-rockers shared it as well, the later 70’s ultra competitiveness creating such a race to “innovation”) caused him to find some disputable synth sounds that nowadays sound extremely cliché; 2- the need to stuff every second of the maximum amount of notes (Birds Of Fire does it better and Miles once asked: why play so many notes? just plat the good ones!); 3- the GG pillaging (and Genesis to a lesser extent), although to actually match the GG style is impressive enough, this shows that RTF was running out of ideas, something this writer hints already after their WHIKYB album. While this album is all too appreciated by the crowd and especially the symphonic-minded progheads, I am not keen on giving it the “essential” label, because of its borrowings, but the album can actually be an excellent introduction to those Symph prog fans to the jazzy realms of the Jazz-rock of the early 70’s and the fusion of the second part of the 70’s.

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