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on March 20, 2009
I have to say that I bought this with some trepidation. I loved the first (Flora era) and second (Bill Connors) versions of the band, when they played with real fire and pushed the edge of things. But like too many fusion bands, they quickly settled into sterile, perfect performances of calculated compositions. Al Di Meola, for all his considerable technical facility, was a letdown after Bill Connors (who has become a letdown of himself over the years), and contributed to the sterilization of the band. So when they announced they were reforming for a reunion tour, I did not have high expectations. But I must say this CD set is a very pleasant surprise. The band doesn't quite recapture the original passion of Senor Mouse or Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, but they play with much more fire than I ever expected, including Al, who plays with more passion than I knew he had. There are some advantages to the now-older band, too. There's more textural and stylistic variety, including a straightahead jazz reading of Solar that's a breath of fresh air. Unlike rock players, who tend to get more flaccid with age, jazz musicians tend to get deeper and richer and more proficient. That certainly is the case here--everyone plays with much greater range and depth than they ever did before, and that makes for an acceptable tradeoff for some loss of youthful reckless abandon. Stanley Clarke focuses a lot on the acoustic bass here, which is most welcome--I always found his upright playing much more interesting and effective than his electric technique, which was thin sounding and over-plucked. His upright playing here is still flashy, but it's mixed with some exploratory techniques and some real expression. Everyone else displays the same kind of maturity in their playing. It also helps that this is a superlative live recording. Every instrument is full and natural sounding and beautifully balanced--one of the best live recordings I've heard. So all in all a very pleasant surprise. Well worth buying.
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on March 23, 2009
Return to Forever's Returns recorded live exudes a positively unworldly beauty in the relatively small number of songs on the album. What they have done is extend old favorites like "Song to the Pharaoh Kings" and "Romantic Warrior" with solos that reference songs from each musicians' repertoire as an individual performer in other contexts besides RTF. These solos reflect the creative ferment that has emerged from years of artistic maturation, seemingly culminating in this performance. Departing from the original recordings, the solos in this performance involve much more interaction between the musicians including duets between Al Di Meola and Chick Corea, while in other places solos are accompanied by Chick's or Al's wonderfully creative comping, which is almost as compelling as the solo in question. The album standout is RTF's signature composition "Romantic Warrior," which seems to represent what the medieval period would have sounded like had they discovered the blues. This immensely complex orchestral piece is performed with rapturously lyrical solos from Stanley Clarke and Al, which are highlighted by an understated drum solo delivered by Lenny White. The song is reprised at the end of the album in a segment in which RTF performs live after receiving a lifetime achievement award in jazz from the BBC. In this abbreviated presentation, everyone shines wonderfully with a decided emphasis on lyricism. Overall, this CD is a fine acquisition for RTF fans old and new.
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on April 19, 2009
I haven't been this excited about a new music release in quite some time. I saw RTF on their Romantic Warrior tour in 1976 but sadly missed seeing any of their 2008 performances. This 2CD recording makes clear that RTF have lost little if anything in the 32 years since they last played together - in fact this may be my favorite RTF recording because in concert they stretch out and play with more improvisation and power than on any of their studio albums.

I have to admit to being partial to CD1 which focuses on the louder electric pieces, Hymn of 7th galaxy, Vulcan Worlds, Sorceress, Song to the Pharaoh Kings. Al Dimeola has never sounded better - his solos are simply stunning - is there a greater guitar vituoso playing today? there are times where his interchanges with Chick, Stanley and Lenny take the music to levels of intensity that practically defy the imagination. You simply don't hear this caliber of playing from any of today's popular groups. I haven't been able to take these CDs out of my player since I received them. That the recording quality is superb is just an added bonus.

I can't wait for the DVD of the full Montreux concert that's due out later this month. We'll be able to see as well as hear the performance, certainly the next best thing to being there. We are indeed very fortunate that these 2008 performances were recorded and are being made available to us!
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on April 1, 2009
Having seen their tour at its LA Stop last June, I eagerly awaited the day when a CD of their live set would arrive. Now that it has, my only quibble with it is purely selfish; I wish that a few of its tracks had been culled from our (fantastic) show. Clearwater, Florida, I'm sure you guys saw a great show, but they totally cooked at the Gibson Amphitheatre.

This 2-disc set provides the listener with the means to discover how good they sounded in their reunion. This disc, simply put, is what it sounded like to be there. The audio fidelity is superb. Everything is mixed perfectly, and Clarke's acoustic bass playing will work its way into your very soul.

Now, I'm looking forward to the upcoming DVD, especially since it will be comprised of different performances of the material than were included in this set. Thanks for that, guys! I'm glad I don't have to pay twice for the same recordings.
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on March 28, 2009
Went to see those four powerhouses of sound twice on this tour. This cd puts me right back in my seat at the Fox Theatre in St Louis. Damn it was good. No the word is orgasmic. If you like RTF even a little bit buy this. When the concert DVD comes out buy it also. Chick, Al, Stanley, Lenny...Thank you.
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on April 20, 2009
A brief one here, folks:

Totally enjoyed this disc. Bought it today, heard it driving to work (on a rain-filled, soggy, crappy, Toronto Monday morning) and immediately a huge smirk crossed my face. Sound quality is superb. The songs fantastic. The playing flawless. I rarely buy live recordings (too many have a "you had to be there" kind of flavor) but I wanted to reconnect with RTF after too many years being "away" from them. If you're a fan of A) RTF and its associated members, B) so-called "fusion" jazz and C) so-called "progressive" rock, then take tremendous leaps to the "store" and BUY this one!

A complete experience and a total winner!
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on May 1, 2009
This is truly a work of genious! And for the musician who wondered what has happened to the state of music these days... this is a reminder of what a group of talented musicans are capable of. Anyone reading this already knows that the individuals in RTF are all legends on their own instrument. But put them together, and it is a stunning work that may go down as one of the greatest live jazz fusion albums/cd's of all time. I can't wait to get the blu-ray from this tour!!! I had the great opportunity to see RTF in one of their early tour performances in PHX at the Dodge Theatre. I have always been a Al Dimeola fan and was looking forward to the performance. To see it live in person was one of the most amazing live concert experiences I have had. To see the improvisation and respect that these great musicians had for each other was fantastic. And they way the interacted with the audience was a real surprise and a joy. The content and quality of this cd is perfect in every way. Buy this cd and get prepared to be absolutely blown away.
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on April 21, 2009
In 1976 RTFs Romantic Warrior converted me from solely a rock fan to a jazz fan, specifically a jazz fusion fan. They played with the virtuosity of jazz players but with the edge and explosiveness of a great rock band. The themes they played were simple, concise and tight unlike the typical doodling and meandering that most jazz bands leaned toward. They were one of the few jazz bands that could actually "Rock" without resorting to repetitive riffs and sterile patterns. In the 80s Jazz fusion was alive and well but in the 9os and beyond, fusion bands become less and less adventurous and most drifted into the bland world of "Adult Contemporary" (See Yellow Jackets, Jean Luc Ponty, Spyrogyra). The choices today are slim with players such as Holdsworth, Bruford and Stern holding down the fort. So when I heard that RTF was releasing a reunion tour recording I couldn't wait for it to arrive.

After several listening sessions I was of two minds. The recording itself was excellent and the musicianship was superior. Corea et al were more polished and mature demonstrating that age has enhanced, rather than diminished their skills. This was particularly evident during their solos. In general, the compositions were left intact but each member added different takes on the original recordings which are where I have issues. From a jazz fans perspective the bands take on the classic RTF songs are innovative and interesting. From an original RTF fan perspective expecting an improvement of the "fusion" form, I found the songs were cluttered with too many extra notes in the guise of improvisation thereby diluting the dramatic impact of the original versions. Key solos found on the original albums were sometimes buried in the mix while at other points I found the playing simply too "busy" and "safe" dare I say smooth.

Having said all that, had I not grown up listening to the original RTF recordings I would give this CD 4.5 stars. But since I did, I must downgrade my review to 3.0 stars feeling that this recording is a bloated version of the original RTF lacking the edge and efficiency they demonstrated many many years ago.
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on February 12, 2010
This music is unbelievably good. Stanley Clarks AMAZING bass solo alone is worth the entire album, and I'm not even fond of bass solos. Chick and Al's playing is as good or better than ever before. I've got most most of early Return to Forever releases, but as a professional rock and blues pianist, I'm esp. humbled and enthralled by this latest release. I would happily go down to the crossroads and sell my soul to be able to play like Chick does here. A couple of the tracks are not quite as "fusion" as the original return to forever, but that just makes the release all the more dynamic and interesting.

This recording is absolutely beautiful, and I consider it to be, in the short time I've had it, one of my 10 most favorite recordings ever made. Seriously. (Tales From Topographic Oceans, Eat a Peach, Abraxis, Koln Concert etc.)
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on May 21, 2009
This reunion of the best lineup (in my opinion) of Return to Forever was all I had hoped for. The music sounds as good, maybe even better than back in the 70s when I heard it the first time. Chick, Stanley, Al and Lennie are still amazing. The live performance begs the question of what kind of new music could they make now. Sadly, it seems to have been a one tour and done. From what I understand, Al doesn't want to do it again. I think the others would. It would be really nice to hear some new RTF.
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