on 14 March 2009
This is nothing less than essential for all those who have enjoyed RTF's work since the 1970s, or who are interested in modern jazz or fusion generally. If there's just one thing you do-bop today, score yourself a copy of the superlatively jazztastic 'Returns'. This double live album was recorded on the 2008 reunion tour of this fusion supergroup: Lenny White, Stanley Clarke, Al di Meola and Chick Corea. If the 27 minutes long version of 'Song to the Pharoah Kings' won't put you in a jazz trance, nothing will! The rest of the album features excellent solo spots by the individual members, plus a selection of RTF's best tracks from the 70s, such as 'No Mystery' and 'Dual of the Jester and the Tyrant'. These are not mere retreads of the old studio recordings, but have been wonderfully reimagined for this tour. The version of 'Romantic Warrior' performed at the BBC Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony is particularly good. Live albums don't get much better than this: the sound quality of these recordings is fantastic, as is the musicianship. Can't recommend it highly enough.
NB the DVD live recordings from this tour were recorded at a different concert to those featured on this CD, so no doubling up if you get that too.
RTF seem to be playing closer than they did even in their pomp. All four musicians give their all on this album but the ensemble is the real star. Fantastic music; time flies by. I am going to lodge a whinge though. The BBC award track at the end adds nothing to the album, indeed it takes away. I deleted it from my download and no longer dread the arrival of five minutes of honeyed congratulations and humility. The album ends better without it. Incidentally, the title above isn't complete hyperbole. The Romantic Warrior album led me into the RTF catalogue, Chick's work in particular and the natural progression into Miles Davis, Gary Burton and, more recently, Hiromi.