RETURN TO FOREVER — Where Have I Known You Before (review)

RETURN TO FOREVER — Where Have I Known You Before album cover Album · 1974 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Abraxas
Where have I heard this before? Nowhere actually, this album is one of a kind for its time. This album is Return to Forever's peak compositonally speaking, while as musicians they would get more techincal on the famous, more progressive rock-oriented, Romantic Warrior.

Where Have I Known You Before is the first album with guitar-maestro Al Di Meola, while still very young(19 years-old!) thus not showing his finest capabilities, that is his ground-breaking shredding style as he would do in Romantic Warrior, he still showcases great textures and solos to the band, something Bill Connors didn't manage that well with Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy. Besides that addition, Chick Corea adds to his keyboard-set the synthesizers (and clavinet) Return to Forever is well-known of, and in what a classy and professional way he manages to play them for the first time! The rhythm section was getting better with each album, that is Stanley with his funky and complex bass lines and Lenny with his energetic drumming.

The album starts-off with a typical fusion composition, 'Vulcan Words', that showcases unstoppable drumming and constant bass thrilling your ears plus the new additions of Corea's synth in a splendid melodic solo, then Al with a gratifying solo and finally Stanley with his own solo.

The album continues with 'Where Have I Loved You Before', a jazz piece only meant for the one and only Chick Corea on his magical piano. Chick Corea demonstrates his most sincere and delightful piano touches, something that made him a well-respected piano(and jazz) player.

That lovely piece soon ends and what actually did was to make an excellent intro to the eternal love that 'The Shadow of Lo' always gives to me with its inital keyboard palette of notes. However that sweetness lasts for the first half of the tune. The second half is a totally different story, it returns to the speedy fusion style of the opener with the fast paced synths and rhythm, every now and then adding some really funky substance where Meola adds a brilliant guitar solo.

The album returns to the solo piano section that 'Where Have I Loved You Before' presented, this time with 'Where Have I Danced With You Before' which presents a more robust feel compared to the former but still maintaining it's delightness, like many of Corea's solo piano pieces.

The pace of the album returns to its brisk jazzy form with 'Beyond the Seventh Galaxy', while definitely short in length compared to the two previous jazz fusion songs, this one is still capable of showing their abilities as musicians and composers. It's actually a remake of 'Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy', this time with synths, showing what that album would have sounded with that addition.

Continuing with the short fusion songs comes up 'Earth Juice', this one being the only one that can be considered rather repetitive and not on par to the rest of the songs, with its constant simple drumming, Al and Chick add some few variations which are far from being either really exciting or creative, which in the end it doesn't keep the listener's attention for long. Fortunately it's short and doesn't damage much the album's flow.

Approaching to the end we got the last of Corea's solo piano tunes, 'Where Have I Known You Before', indeed the most beautiful and delicate of the three of them. This reminds me of 'Peace Piece' by Bill Evans, a piano masterpiece.

The final track is the Return to Forever epic entitled no less majestic than 'Song to the Pharoah Kings'. Opening in such a refined way with the synths and subtle organ, you really can't predict what comes next. After two minutes of elegance the track really starts to take shape, follows a semi-dissonant and chaotic passage, it then all evolves into an ingenious and polished track full of exciting and creative keyboards, a really pulverizing guitar solo in the middle, and all this within a stupendous rhythm.

Where Have I Known You Before is essentially Return to Forever's magnum opus in the creative and composition side. It features the perfect blend of the band's first two albums' Latin classiness and subtlety with Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy's jazz rock powder. This is the album that Return to Forever should be known-of, it simply has it all what made Return to Forever one of the classic Jazz Fusion bands alongside Weather Report, Hancock and Mahavishnu Orchestra back in the 70's.
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