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
3.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
This is the first album with the classic line-up, since previously unknown guitarist Bill Connors gets replaced (I believe he left for a solo career, which to my knowledge never materialized) for young previously unknown Al, DiMeola, who would go on to become one of the greats of jazz guitars. Probably that you’ll never be able to assemble such an incredibly virtuoso line-up at every musician spot, with maybe only Lenny’s seat still improvable (Bruford or Cobham). So by the summer of 74, WHIKYB had been recorded and it would be another hit with the then-important JF/F crowds, the first one also forgetting the “bird theme” artwork. This album is the first (to my knowledge, anyway) where Chick Corea invests into synthesizers and his choice of synth sounds is sometimes debatable, but this issue will gradually increase some more with the next albums and widen to other JR/F KB players of the era, no doubt pushed by the new synths appearing on the market, although he (Chick) still relies on Fender Rhodes , Yamaha organ and clavinet as well..

Quickly glancing over the album’s track list, you’ll see that the title track is part of a series of three short Corea-penned piano-only interludes meant to separate more important works; What had been plainly obvious on HOTSG is now even more reinforced, especially in the opening Stanley Clarke-penned Vulcan Worlds: RTF is more of a jazz-funk group than a jazz-rock group. Indeed Clarke’s bass playing features a now-famous technique, the slapping, invented/perfected by him and it would drive him to jazz superstardom. The White-penned Shadow Of Lo, is another funky track (more in the Herbie Hancock manner), but don’t feature the excessive bass slaps, and while still cruising at 100 MPH, the track modulates more. Lenny White’s drumming is close what Cobham could’ve played on this very track. Beyond The Seventh Galaxy is obviously a return to the previous outstanding album (no synths used) and is IMHO the best track of the album.

The flipside opens on the collectively-written Earth Juice is more in the Mahavishnu Orchestra style and matches easily as highlight the previous side’s closing Beyond track. Most of you have been waiting for the 14-mins+ Song to the Pharoah King, a slow starter with Corea’s synth (although here probably some of his better choices) slowly marching on ahead, but returning to his Fender Rhodes for the torrid splendid middle section and an incandescent finale.

While I wouldn’t call this album (WHIKYB) essential, certainly not compared to the absolute masterpiece of 7th Galaxy or the crowd-adored Romantic Warrior, but it is still quite an enjoyable RTF and certainly dierves to be discovered soon. As a matter of fact, this writer not being a fan of Romantic Warrior (see that review),n this might just be the classic line=up’s best album.

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