RETURN TO FOREVER — Romantic Warrior (review)

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

"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.
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