Ah, jazz fusion, what a conundrum of musical styles. Too heavily instrumental and dexterous for rock fans, too spacey and electric guitar-based for jazzbos, it has a small but dedicated following all weaned on Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. During its '70s heyday, the Chick Corea-led Return to Forever was perhaps the genre's most successful band, and this double-CD set documents the group's 2008 reunion tour with its classic lineup of Corea (many, many keyboards), Al DiMeola (guitar), Stanley Clarke (bass) and Lenny White (drums). Crack instrumentalists all, their notes and riffs come raining down in otherworldly-named numbers like "Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy," a buzzing "Vulcan Worlds," the rockin' "Sorceress," and the incredible and expansive "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant." Futuristically funky, each member also gets ample solo time in the multi-part, multi-suite numbers, most notably on their trademark "Romantic Warrior."
And while "Song to the Pharaoh Kings" runs longer than eternal entombment, most tracks have enough flash and style to please longtime fans while serving as a solid introduction for newbies to both the band and the genre. Whether Return to Forever returns for more recording and touring is probably up to leader Corea.
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And though a multitude of players passed through the ranks during RTF's original1972-77 existence, it's this foursome (which also did the 1983 one-off tour) that fans will hope to see more of.