RETURN TO FOREVER — The Mothership Returns

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RETURN TO FOREVER - The Mothership Returns cover
4.29 | 9 ratings | 2 reviews
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Live album · 2012

Filed under Fusion


Disc 1
1. Medieval Overture
2. Señor Mouse
3. The Shadow of Lo / Sorceress
4. Renaissance

Disc 2
1. After the Cosmic Rain
2. The Romantic Warrior
3. Spain
4. School Days
5. Beyond the Seventh Galaxy

Bonus DVD
1. Inside the Music (documentary)
2. After the Cosmic Rain (performance)
3. The Romantic Warrior (performance)
4. The Story of Return to Forever (sneak peek movie trailer)


Chick Corea (piano & keyboard);
Stanley Clarke (electric & acoustic bass);
Jean-Luc Ponty (electric & acoustic violin);
Frank Gambale (electric & acoustic guitar);
Lenny White (drums)

About this release

Eagle Records ‎– ER202572 (US)

Recorded Live In Austin, TX

This set contains a double live CD recorded in 2011 plus a bonus DVD containing the Inside The Music feature which combines live footage with the band discussing the tracks performed on the CD. Also included on the DVD are full live performances of After The Cosmic Rain and The Romantic Warrior and an extended trailer for the upcoming film The Return To Forever Story .

Thanks to snobb for the addition


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Members reviews

At long last, the mothership returns! Return to Forever are back with their fifth live record to date, and what a record it is! The band may be getting older, but by no means has their talent diminished at all.

This lineup of the band, which was dubbed Return to Forever IV for the tour, has a few changes from the classic lineup: Frank Gambale takes over guitar duties from Al Di Meola, and Jean-Luc Ponty adds his violin expertise to the outfit. The usual suspects - Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White - are of course all present as well.

The first thing I noticed listening to this album was the sound quality, which is incredibly rich and full for a live recording. While the sound here is practically studio quality, the rawness of the live performance is still captured. As a result, this is one of the better sounding live albums out there.

As far as material goes, this double live album contains a mix of Return to Forever's hard-hitting, cosmic fusion and their acoustic work. The music here predominantly consists of songs from the group's classic works Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy and Romantic Warrior. It's fair to say that the material has stood the test of time, with Chick Corea's compositions, most notably, remaining relevant with their complex, well thought-out structures that still leave plenty of room for improvisation.

Speaking of improvisation, you'll be hearing a lot of it; practically every song here features an extended solo from each of the lead musicians. It's not uncommon for one song to have upwards of ten minutes worth of solos on it. These are some of the best fusion players in the world, however, and know how to keep a solo engaging. Some of the performances here are really mind-blowing!

If you're familiar with Return to Forever, you know that these guys are experts on their instruments. Chick Corea, like usual, awes the crowd with his quintessential work on the Fender Rhodes and other keyboard instruments. Stanley Clarke is at the top of his game here as well, showing off his signature percussive electric and upright bass work. As for Lenny White, he really rocks the kit and offers some of the best rhythmic support that fusion has to offer. While Frank Gambale lacks some of the latin flair and the acoustic stylings of Al Di Meola, his renowned electric playing is great and proves that he is a capable soloist and comper and overall an adequate substitute. Finally, Jean-Luc Ponty likewise proves to be an excellent addition to the band's lineup with great violin playing.

My only complaint as far as the music on this album is concerned is that Frank Gambale and Jean-Luc Ponty's duties are far too similar, meaning that they are often playing the exact same lines. While I understand and appreciate that fast, unison lines are a staple of Return to Forever, it still would have been nice to hear some harmonies or other variances.

If you like jazz fusion or Return to Forever's music, even just a little bit, you'll want to hear this album. The sound quality is exceptional. The musicians are exceptional. Every single track is exceptional (both in composition and performance). I don't know what else to say other than that this may very well be fusion's finest live outing in the past several years.

(Originally published on
Sean Trane
After their Romantic Warrior reunion tours of the late 00’s (which has reunited Chick, Lenny, Stanley and ADM), RTF came back for another one of their album celebration, this time Hymn Of The Sevent Galaxy. Indeed, the original intent was to get Connors to return and play homage to their best album ever (IMHO, anyway), but it turns out Connors couldn’t make it. So Corea turned to his Elektrik Band long-time comrade Frank Gambale, and in the process invited the French violin legen JL Ponty, this was born RTF4. Notthat this line-up has released any new material: it just toured and concentrated on mainly two album for their sets: RW and 7th Galaxy.

This triple disc affair is a strictly live one, with the third beng a DVD where there are for features, including a lengthy but relatively uninteresting interview, a short RTF career resume, and more importantly, two of the lengthier track in their set. Apprently, if the comrades appear relatively affected by their respective ages (only Ponty seems to have aged more gracefully), it doesn’t seem to impede their stage play, and RTYF still has lots to offer in concert. The quintet is in fine musical form, even Lenny, who seemed relatively weaker in their previous RW project. Of course, the quintet adapted the music of those two mythical album to fit their five-man front, and that might just be the main attraction of this album, but it’s of relatively limited interest, because the nature of the tracks are still very close to the originals, despite the much lengthier versions. Indeed, Senor Mouse, Renaissance, Cosmic Rain and Romantic Warrior are all expanded beyond their studio duration, so that everyone one stage can blow a bit of steam. Another two attractions are the 8-mins Gil/Miles Spanish thing and Stanley’s famous title track from his School Days solo album, though I could’ve done without the audience-participation sing-along chorus bit. Frank Gambale fits in fine in filling both Connors or ADM’s shoes, while Ponty’s violin intervention go from enthralling to relatively clumsy, sometimes temporarily breaking the spell of the original composition.

While the first two CD discs are sharing fairly evenly the almost two hours of the show, the third disc holds as much interest, despite the afore-mentioned interview’s relative lack of interest. Unless you like your musical heroes self-gloating and goofing around unnaturally, you won’t be watching that first feature a second time. The only reason to do so would be to catch glimpses of the other tracks of the sets, which are not offered without the interview comments. The two longer pieces of Cosmic Rain and Romantic Warrior are indeed available on their own, and if these are the DVD highlights, one wonders why they didn’t do the whole set that way. As for the closing forgettable Story Of, it’s rather insignificant. Sooooooo, the Mithership Returns package is a bit of a mixed-bag affair, with the CDs holding evident interest, but it is with the DVD that lies the disappointment. One that could’ve been easily avoided too: Just the full filmed set, without the interviews and its expandable gloating and boasting would’ve been infinitely more satisfying.

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