O.K first the bad news; this album has not aged well and it sounds very dated. Corea’s keyboards on the ensemble tracks sound like Casio pre-sets and overall Stanley Clarke and Lenny White are not best served by the thin production sound. The bassist is amazing but the producer had no idea how best to record his playing and much the same can be said for the drumming which ( to be mean)often sounds like someone going wild in the next room with some biscuit tins. A couple of the tracks , Shadow of Lo and Earth Juice for all their tricky changes are based around banal tunes and and have that uncomfortable sound of jazz men trying to play like or mimic hard rock or disco musicians and ending up lost.. The good news: there is still something lovable about the slightly demented glory of on form RTF doing their thing. The mind boggling interplay between the musicians is always fun and the abrupt changes of time, tempo, rhythm and musical genre sometimes within two or three bars, sometimes all at the same time still amaze and often beg the question, ‘Why did they do that?’ the answer is obvious, ‘Because they could!’ The frantic band numbers are interspersed with solo piano pieces by Corea which act as a reminder that he had an impressive CV before his head was turned by Birds of Fire. The beauty of the CD format is that you can run these numbers together and if you listen to the title track on headphones you can hear the ghost of Erik Satie banging on the studio door demanding a share of the royalties. If you are a fan of the band there is much here to love. If you are on the fence try ‘Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy’ for the same kind of fusion but with less showing off.
After establishing Return To Forever as a jazz-rock band from it's latin roots in the divide between 'Light As A Feather' and 'Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy', the simultaneous discovery of Al DiMeola and the implementation of synthesizers into Chick Corea's keyboard arsenal suddenly originated the sound of the band that would later produce 'Romantic Warrior'. All the hallmarks are there; Stanley Clarke's expanded role and hi-fi sound incorporating his slap technique and trademark solos, Al DiMeola's ultra fast chops and solid comping, Lenny White's thumping drums and extra percussive gloss and of course, Corea's combination of electric piano, clavinet and synthesizers to create a wall of sound. The sound is generally funkier and less refined than that of 'Romantic Warrior', with the unusual inclusion of acoustic piano interludes from Corea, perhaps a sign of Corea's elevated status, though the group soon became more than just Chick Corea's band, and all the members contribute to the composition, with Clarke's opener 'Vulcan Worlds', being particularly successful.
Having bought this CD (and the original LP 35 years ago) I stumbled on the bargain of the Anthology, which Amazon is 'giving away' at under £6, for a 2CD package. Thinking the sound is overall improved I would caution any owners of WHIKYB to keep the original CD as the sound admittedly is inferior and thinner but more as the LP sounded. But of course the main reason is the beautiful bridging piano tracks (plus Earth Juice)which have not been included (because of space) on The Anthology. Having known this fantastic and in my opinion best RTF album since 1974 it is strange when listening to the Anthology without these short piano links. So do buy the Anthology but if you are a completist or already own WHIKYB then do own both.