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RETURN TO FOREVER - No Mystery cover
3.70 | 23 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 1975

Filed under Fusion


A1 Dayride 3:15
A2 Jungle Waterfall 3:15
A3 Flight Of The Newborn 7:20
A4 Sofistifunk 3:20
A5 Excerpt From The First Movement Of Heavy Metal 2:45
B1 No Mystery 6:06
B2 Interplay 2:15
B3 Celebration Suite (Part 1) 8:25
B4 Celebration Suite (Part 2) 5:30

Total Time: 42:53


- Stanley Clarke /Bass [Acoustic, Electric], Organ [Yamaha], Synthesizer, Vocals
- Lenny White /Drums, Percussion, Congas, Marimba
- Al Di Meola /Guitar [Electric], Acoustic Guitar
- Chick Corea /Piano [Acoustic], Electric Piano, Clavinet, Organ [Yamaha], Synthesizer, Drums [Snare], Marimba, Vocals

About this release

Polydor ‎– PD 6512(US)

Recorded at The Record Plant, New York, January, 1975

Thanks to snobb, Abraxas for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Return to Forever's second album with Al Di Meola on board, released in 1975, is a varied album and rather different, compositionally, from the more concise and exciting Where Have I Known You Before, although sound-wise they're not that different, you'll notice the same type of keyboards and rhythms.

The band of course still plays top-notch, each member being highly proficient in their respective instrument, even Meola now has developed his highly acclaimed shred style. But playing greatly does not make an album good by any means.

The first four tunes are straight-forward funk with a typical groove and without any diversity, they go on and on with the same ryhthm and messy mixture of clavinet, electric piano and synths from Corea which tries to emulate Hancock's superb groove, but he utterly failed to make something that good, and it's not even memorable. The title track and 'Interplay' are acoustic affairs with Corea showing his great capability on the piano, probably the most entertaining tunes on the album and they're not even fusion pieces, that's not saying much?

The album concludes with a 14 minute suite called 'Celebration' which tries to assimilate the epicness of 'Song for the Pharoah Kings' from the previous album, but it doesn't achieve its mission. It's either very similar to the previous album or simply doesn't hold the listeners attention for too long.

I suppose it's no mystery the rating of this album: definitely a weak fusion record with few memorable passages. If you take in account the greatness of 'Where Have I Known You Before', this album is just for collectors. Get this after you've got the rest of the band's discography. As for fusion fans in general, you can avoid this.
When guitarist extraordinaire Al DiMeola joined Return to Forever to record the superb LP "Where Have I Known You Before" the band reached their enormous potential at last, becoming a closely knit foursome that would be hard for anyone to match, much less beat. After touring the rock circuits (just as The Mahavishnu Orchestra had done), stirring up a tidal wave of "have you heard these guys?" word-of-mouth buzz and fan support they reentered the studio to create another fusion work of art. Bassist Stanley Clarke's "Dayride" is a perfect beginning with its fun, uptempo air and Chick Corea's sprightly synthesizer runs. Clarke and drummer Lenny White lay down some serious funk and Stanley tosses in a little George Benson-like riff singing right before the bridge. The ending is great. "Jungle Waterfall" is a fine example of one of the most endearing qualities of this group. Unlike most jazz ensembles these guys weren't overly obsessed with perfection. Instead they were more interested in finding the right groove for each song even if things got a wee bit loose in the process. This tune has a soulful, disco beat and some excellent guitar vamping from Al. It's a playful romp. DiMeola contributes "Flight of the Newborn" and it is an absolute jaw-dropper. It starts off with a funky rhythm and an intricate melody line. Al uses the wah-wah pedal much like Frank Zappa did in that he manipulates the tone from treble to muted in increments instead of just working it back and forward and it allows him to create some unique sounds as he flies over the frets. Clarke's solo is get-outa-here amazing and White is a blur on drums behind him. It's definitely a "WOW!" inducer for the listener and the last two minutes are so good it's beyond description. Next up is Lenny's "Sofistifunk," a short ditty based on a drum pattern and the name says it all. DiMeola and Corea add some give-and-take licks that are entertaining but the song is just too busy in general and represents the low point of the album for me. They certainly weren't above poking a little fun at mid-seventies musical trends and their tongue-in-cheek "Excerpt From The First Movement of Heavy Metal" is nothing more than a satirical parody (of ELP perhaps?). It starts with a big baby grand piano intro, abruptly introduces a heavy guitar riff that leads up to cacophony and then returns to the grandiose piano motif. The best news is that they don't beat this horse to death. Now it's time for the album's namesake, the stupendous "No Mystery." All the instrumentation here is acoustic, with White only adding some tasteful cymbals and percussion here and there. Corea's blissful recurring theme is exhilarating and the way they work as a unit is almost spiritual in nature. When Stanley unleashes his bow and solos on the upright bass he takes things to another level altogether. "Interplay" follows and it is a somewhat traditional modern jazz piece that demonstrates what a gifted pianist Chick is as he and Clarke provide all the music. A closed roll on the snare followed by stately notes befitting the entrance of a toreador into a bullring brings us to "Celebration Suite" (in two parts). White creates a one-man drum line as it sounds like he double-tracked his snare over a Spanish marching beat, then they all burst into a flamenco feel with Corea taking the lead on synthesizer. Lenny really shows his stuff as he guides the band through some ferocious accents and changes before they drop back down to the piano. Part II is more of an involved group piece that allows Al to turn in one of his blistering guitar solos that will shear your head off. After a short lull in the action they build things back up to the original "bullfighter" melody before taking it over the top with an ending befitting even the most bombastic of symphonic progressive rock bands. Maybe they were lampooning themselves earlier!

Needless to say, I highly recommend this album. There's a tangible atmosphere of joy coursing through it that is undeniable and impossible to fake. It's also a perfect example of the kind of inspired music that can come from a successful collaboration of virtuosos who can keep their egos restrained long enough to create magnificent art through cooperative teamwork.

Members reviews

Another strong album from the classic Return to Forever lineup, No Mystery is enhanced by the growing guitar skills of Al DiMeola, whose shredding on several tracks makes key contributions to guitar technique which would soon be adopted in a variety of genres. The strongest composition on the album is probably the closing Celebration Suite, but the greater emphasis on songs composed by the whole band opens the door to a greater sonic diversity than heard on the previous album, with funk and the smoother side of jazz both making their presence felt. The album is, by and large, a satisfying work which gives the impression of a band continuing to develop towards its peak.
Sean Trane
Another one of RTF classic line-up ventures that got a bit lost, this album is rarely seen on sale and certainly not the most representative of their discography. Sporting a psych-disco artwork, No Mystery is probably RTF’s funkiest effort, but let that not deter you; it’s still a worthy RTF album that you’re bound to like if you dug their other works. With an unchanged line-up over WHIMYB, NM features vocals, something which hadn’t happened over the previous two albums.

Yes, the funk thing is almost overpowering although you’re not yet on Hancock’s Headhunter album either, but this is sometimes close. The opening Dayride and later on Jungle Waterfall are full and complex funk stuff (ie. Sofistifunk) where the jazz elements are almost eradicated (White and Clarke are the main songwriters on this side), this being enhanced by Corea’s disputable synth sounds. The race towards new technology was something that seemed primordial to all these jazz rock pioneers (Zawinul, Hancock and later McLaughlin with those ugly Synclavier guitar effects), often causing them to overuse and abuse these novelties and their music can seem quite dated nowadays, precisely because of these “novelties”. One of the rare tracks that escape the Funkmania is the lengthier and ADM-penned Flight of The Newborn that returns to a more conservative fusion and the collectively penned Heavy Metal movement that features Corea’s classical roots.

The flipside (all tracks written by Corea) starts with the title track makes a return to more standard jazz (a hint of LAAF, with Clarke’s bowed bass) but again veering a bit more classical to the end. Actually, the whole side takes on a very different feel with plenty of Corea’s Spanish-influenced classical musical, reinforced with ADM’s guitar, the whole culminating with the first part of Celebration Suite, but the second part is not far behind: full 14-mins dramatic histrionics and hysterics a gogo: great stuff worthy of their HOTSG album

Saved by its second side, NM is a very schizophrenic album. In either case, NM is again a very good (if not excellent) album, but I would not recommend it as an introduction to RTF’s works.

Way back in the seventies a drumming acquaintance of mine knowing that I was also a drummer was kind enough to put together a compilation tape of some of his favourite drum moments for me. One of the tracks featured the wonderful drumming of Lenny White of Return To Forever. I knew who the band was, but he failed to list tracks and having lost touch with him spent years trying to track down the excellent piece of music he'd recorded for me. Buying Return To Forever albums at random, after much excellent listening pleasure from some of their other albums I finally found what I was looking for on my fifth purchase of the band, No Mystery.

The track in question turned out to be Celebration Suite, the highlight on this cd. Although that tape has long since gone the track was as good as I remembered it to be. It's divided into two parts, closing the album. It has a strong Spanish feel to it and the four piece line up of master musicians of Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola and the afore mentioned White play brilliantly; fourteen minutes of some of my favourite Fusion from the seventies when there was so much great music in this vein around. White's drumming is very dynamic, just about stealing the show here and I particularly love Corea's electric piano sound, particularly on the beautiful lull in the middle of this explosive track.

Although we're listening to Jazz Rock much of the rest of this album has a strong funk vibe, no doubt down to Clarke's influences whose solo material often has strong funk leanings. The first two tracks fit this category, Dayride and Jungle Waterfall. Neither blow me a way but Flight of the Newborn is better, still having a funk feel but at seven and a half minutes the band can stretch out a bit more and features an excellent guitar solo from DiMeola and some nice bass work from Clarke.

Sofistifunk as the title suggests is more funk though with an interesting rhythmic structure from White. Don't be fooled by the title, Excert From the First Movement of Heavy Metal is not that, but after a dramatic piano intro from Corea has quite a rocky riff from Dimeola and a more simplistic driving rhythmic structure from White and Clarke.

Title track, No Mystery is a mellower affair and leaves the funk behind. Dominated by Corea's piano with some tasteful acoustic guitar touches and acoustic bass too which is also prevalent on Interplay.

Whilst No Mystery is not my favourite Return To Forever album for the sheer brilliance of Celebration Suite it's worth buying for that alone. It's a shame that the rest of the album though some very good moments are present doesn't quite match the quality of this piece. 3 ½ stars.

Ratings only

  • lunarston
  • danielfortin
  • Lock24
  • Lynx33
  • Anster
  • The_Jester
  • Reg
  • chuckyspell
  • Croteau
  • darkshade
  • fido73
  • timzurita
  • Drummer
  • trinidadx13
  • darkprinceofjazz
  • rigoboy
  • richby
  • zorn1

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