I was lucky to see this Return to Forever lineup at Leeds University in 1974 and it remains etched on my mind unlike many later gigs of lesser bands. In those days before Pastorius really hit the scene as far as we Northern working class kids were concerned, Stanley Clarke was the bassist to watch as he stood, tall and almost motionless with his alembic bass. Lenny White was a fabulous drummer in the genre, but for me as a guitarist, Bill Connors was the man I went to see.
He was obviously extremely uncomfortable on stage and could be seen wiping his hands much of the time. His solos were beautiful of course as they are on this record. I think few guitarists (Di Meola certainly couldn't) could match his combination of rock style going for it with supreme good taste and technical ability. Connors didn't last long of course and for me RTF was never the same band, becoming a bloated behemoth in comparison thanks to the narcissistic and self indulgent noodlings of DiMeola.
The news came out that when Connors joined he felt honoured to be in the company of Chick Corea, not long before one of the Young Turks of jazz piano, a wonderful soloist and composer of course. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Corea tended to keep his electric and his acoustic endeavours separate; what he wanted from Connors was rock emotionality, but what Connors wanted was to explore his jazz side. For that reason alone, the lineup was bound to fail, but for the short time that it was in existence,it was a true trailblazer of a band.
Connors gave up playing electric guitar for several years and took up classical. He has many solo albums to his credit, but despite his fingerstyle approach, in sound nowadays he reminds me rather of Holdsworth. I still imagine that he might resume the wonderfully poised playing of those long distant days but I don't hold out too much hope.
One of the things that stuck in my mind as a 23 year old was the fact that Corea's band appealed both to the older guys who were bopping along with the rest of us. Obviously they had been listening to him for much longer than we had, but they seemed to have no difficulty accepting his crossover band. Like that gig, the songs on this album are exquisite, the musicianship and control of dynamics is sensational. This is one hell of an album- perhaps a little dated now, but nowhere near as much as many of its contemporaries. One of my Desert Island choices.