RETURN TO FOREVER — Romantic Warrior (review)

RETURN TO FOREVER — Romantic Warrior album cover Album · 1976 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
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!
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