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on 17 August 2003
Chick Corea confines himself to Fender Rhodes piano here, no banks of synthesizers, and this is a huge advantage for the Fusion shy listener. In fact this album is an excercise in brazilian influenced beauty, nothing like the bombastic sound of later RTF records. Not to say that this isn't burning- Corea along with Herbie Hancock is THE man on electric piano, and Stanley Clarke and Airto Moreira are a ferocious Rythm section,but its just all so lush, uplifting, gentle etc. Joe Farrell is a great tenor player, but his flute is just awesome- if your idea of flute playing is Herbie Mann, then Joe blows him into a million pieces puts them in an envelope and mails them to a high school marching band, which is as far as Mann should ever have gone.Did i forget Flora? With her charmingly delicate, English with a Portugese accented vocals,she must inevitably be compared with that other Brazilian singer who made it into jazz, but by the time of this recording things had moved along way from "girl from Ipanema", and this is no light Bossa session. Also check out the "new way of thinking" hippie lyrics, I suppose wtitten by Neville Potter, whover he is; I like them, and i like the way we get away from smoky nightclub "Distingue Lovers" type jazz lyrics.
This is "jazz" of the highest order, still closely related to the accoustic post bop world but with some exciting differences. Clarke is playing upright bass, and still walking or playing latin shapes, but the bass is so loud and fat, as though you were sitting right next to him in a little club. Similarly Corea improvises mainly within the traditions, but on electric piano it again makes it all louder and more intense- in fact this must be one of the best records for hearing a Rhodes being put through its paces. Watch for the little bit of wah wah.
To my mind later RTF records have aged badly- flashes of genius get swamped in synthy diddly solos that make me think of spotty science students; they just weren't as funky and street hip as the Headhunters. THIS record however, along with the first one, [Return to Forever] are a whole different thing, and pretty brilliant.
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on 31 August 2010
The original line-up of Chic Corea's Return To Forever, with Corea, Stanley Clarke, Joe Farrell, Flora Purim and Airto Moreira flourished for an all too brief few months nearly 40 years ago. The name lasted longer with different line-ups but these 5 musicians produced a variant of fusion that was fresh, lyrical and often surprising. This second helping in the recording studio finds them at their best, A number of the tunes had already been worked out during the time that Corea spent with Stan Getz and the confidence shows. Purim's vocals, always tinged with a Brazilian accent soar above a rhythm section that is always solid, never boring. Corea's playing on the Fender Rhodes is as beautiful as anything ever played on the instrument, Clarke plays both double bass and electric bass, while Farrell moves between flute and soprano and tenor saxophones. The programme is varied, highlights being Purim's soaring vocal on "500 Miles High" and the ecstatic ensemble playing on "Spain". Fusion is often formulaic and complacent. This is vital, challenging music. A generous bonus disc of alternative takes shows the evolution of many of the tracks. This is indispensible in any collection of post bop jazz.
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on 16 August 2010
Totally agree with the other reviewer, this is IMO the best RTF in terms of melody and drive, largely because they kept it simple and melodic at this stage; having completed the original RTF album the same line-up produced a more mature and assured body of work with this album; the title track is a delight by itself. The first 2 albums have. by contrast with the frenetic later work, not aged much at all and are well worth the investment.
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on 3 May 2001
The sounds of this album are amazing, the second disc, previously unrealsed has two tracks never heard before, one has a sixties pop feel, with brazilian vocals on top and the other is classic chick. Its amazing, the first cd is even better, spain an old classic is performed magically. Captain Marvel is amazing and definately my favourite!Some of the grooves the drummer and bass player get together are amazing, this is shown well on 500 hundred miles high, when the groove starts its amazing. A truly great album, well worth the money!
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on 18 January 2016
Who let Flora Purim in ? (Ok, I know, it was Airto).

What a shame. A superb musical concept and instrumental rendition almost totally ruined by Flora Purim's bad performance. Most of the time she's out of tune, singing in an unsteady way with a thin, weak voice. In case of that was not enough, she insists on ending many verses making really awkward ornaments not better than the most amateurish/beginner singer you can imagine. It's like listening to someone who sings while walking a tightrope, constantly fearing to lose equilibrium. She sounds particularly atrocious on the last verses of "Light as a Feather" and the whole "Captain Marvel" and "500 Miles High". And yes, I'm used to the peculiar style of many female brazilian singers, who masterfully play on/with the very limit of "the right pitch" (v.g. Elis Regina), but this I'm listening to is just sheer sloppiness. I must confess I feel a bit bewildered, as her previous work with Corea, 1972's "Return to forever", had been a flawless one. However, despite of all of its unquestionable musical quality, this album has turned out almost unbearable to me just because of Purim's performance.
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on 7 January 2014
i bought this album around 1973 it blew me away then and still does, with the added vocals from flora purim add up to a sublime mixture of entoxicating rhythm and melody with the timing of a swiss watch.
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on 23 August 2004
Whether you love this album probably depends on how early you joined the Corea fan-wagon. I joined in 1976, and found all of 'Romantic Warrior', 'No Mystery' and 'Where Have I Known You Before' to be superb ***** recordings. Working my way back, I wasn't so convinced by 'Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy'. Working forward, I felt totally let down by 'Musicmagic'. Maybe it was the loss of DiMeola's guitar or the disappearance of the hard, gutsy style that I believed was at the core of RTF.
Unfortunately the re-branding of RTF as a latin sax-and-female-vocalist seemed a betrayal of the somewhat masculine values of the previous RTF.
But hearing 'Light as a Feather', it's now clear to me that the Musicmagic style wasn't totally new for Corea and RTF. Substitute Flora Purim for Gayle Moran and you have pretty much the 'LaaF line-up of five years earlier. The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide gives this four stars out of five, saying 'Essential for its joyousness, flawed for its lengthy noodling'. I'm not so convinced about its indispensability. Stanley Clarke's bass, mostly low down in the re-mastered mix, seems undistinguished when you compare it with it subsequently became.
The second disc is no worse than the first, although the idea of giving us no fewer than four versions of a track that wasn't even released on the original LP seems excessive. It's revealing to hear Corea giving instructions at the start of each recording -- he clearly worked his band hard, but they were demonstrably capable of responding to his requirements.
For me, 'No Mystery' is one of the best albums ever recorded, although I'll grant that it's an acquired taste. (Whenever I move to a new music format -- such as minidisc or MP3 -- I'll always try out 'Flight of the Newborn' first.) This album falls somewhat short of that, and I can only describe it as 'pleasant enough'.
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