Thursday, 28 May 2015

Return To Forever "Romantic Warrior" (1976)

Having browsed my way to a collection of "Jazz Classics" with new names and thematic album titles I unknowingly stumbled into the later era of the sound, known as "Jazz Fusion", a more "accessible" style with strong rock influences and funk groove. Of all the new records to discover this one quickly grabbed my attention with its opener "Medieval Overture", jiving keys, adventurous drums and riff based guitar work instantly clicked with a Progressive Rock vibe as the song shifted and swayed through musical ideas in a typically Progressive style. Although listed as a Jazz Fusion record, my familiarity with Prog Rock had me listening from that perspective and at many times simply sounds like a Prog record with Jazz influenced instruments and tones. Either way it captivated my attention, and I'm keen to retrospect on this record as I listen to more Jazz Fusion.

The albums cover art and opening track make no secret of the albums theme, however the music wouldn't distinctly strike one as Medieval. The music is bright, playful and uplifting. It very much romanticizes the era in its own vision, rather than a recreational sound or atmosphere. It also has a slightly alien, unknowing, mysterious sound with some of the keyboard leads used on occasion. The finer details of theme are irrelevant though, the music is captivating and has little to prove.

The records clarity and warm sound are an indulgence, an impressive, balanced production that lends to the freedom of the progressive music that dances and weaves its way through connecting passageways and reoccurring themes that climax with soft atmospheric piano led breaks and blazing Prog Rock solos in the faster paced moments. Its an excitement, a theatric performance of evolving music that all instruments contribute too. The drums shuffle, roll and groove in a free flowing unraveling of complimenting force. The bass rocks a steady mood, occasional grooving into the forefront with some funk and the keys are a delight, bright layered sounds that sparkle and glisten with the synths underneath. The guitars rock subtler grooves with a tone fit for ripping leads and crafted, subtle riffs, theres also some beautiful Spanish guitar tones thrown in the mix aswell.

As I think through the instruments it only occurs to me now the instrumental nature of the record. With so much energetic and colorful music jamming away it barely gave me a second to think about the absence of a vocal presence, which was never needed. The music says so much, it paints a canvas with colorful renditions in the mind. Great record, has to be said the last two tracks hold it back as they dull the mood from the energy of the first four. Either way I loved it and looking forward to more Jazz Fusion on my playlist.

Favorite Songs: Medieval Overture, The Romantic Warrior, Majestic Dance
Rating: 7/10