Album Remarks & Appraisals:
All About Jazz
It's also great to hear Hymn's tracks 40 years on; at the time of its recording, Clarke had yet to incorporate the thumb-popping and slapping technique that he began to use on Where Have I Known You Before; instead, his Gibson bass (a predecessor to the much cleaner and funkier Alembic that he'd begin using on subsequent RTF recordings) was a heavily overdriven, thunderous sound that left little room for subtlety. Not that Clarke's testosterone-filled playing on The Mothership Returns is understated; but there is a greater sense of dynamics on "After the Cosmic Rain," which runs the gamut from its original rock-edged (and, at times, Latin-tinged) power during Ponty's exhilarating solo, to a surprisingly swinging groove when the spotlight turns to Corea and his Fender Rhodes.
Chick, Stanley and Lenny tell the inside stories behind the music as only they can. RTF's classic rhythm section - Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White - add Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Gambale to the powerhouse quintet lineup.
All in all though, this is a fantastic live release from one of the all time great fusion acts. Wonderful sound on the CD portion, and the audio & video on the DVD is superb. Throw in a great fold out digipack with thick booklet loaded with info & photos, and you have another classy release from the folks at Eagle Rock.
Jazz-rock supergroup Return To Forever unveils a special 3-disc set, The Mothership Returns: two audio CDs filled with over 100 minutes of carefully-selected live music, culled from over 200 performances of RTF's 2011 planetary tour, and a bonus DVD featuring nearly two hours of unique footage, including 2 full length live song performances and a brand new documentary - Return to Forever: Inside the Music.
The music herein encompasses various eras of RTF (of which this band is the fourth incarnation) as well as classic songs from the individual artist's catalogs. It's a dream scenario: getting to hear Ponty open up and interpret in his highly idiosyncratic way such a cherished RTF ode as "The Romantic Warrior" (from the groundbreaking 1976 Romantic Warrior album) is simply transcendent. To hear Gambale, the Australian who made his mark playing with Billy Cobham and has since gone on to be recognized as one of the most complex and ingenious guitarists on the planet, tackle "Beyond The Seventh Galaxy," is like hearing a new standard being set. How do you improve upon existing greatness? This tune, and others from Return To Forever's groundbreaking quartet records from the '70s, broke the mold for electric lead guitar in jazz. Gambale takes that risk and not only nails it but adds to it. These are the kind of performances that permeate The Mothership Returns.
Return To Forever are one of the most innovative and successful jazz/rock fusion bands.
Orignally formed in the early seventies, they had reunions in 1983 and 2008 before the current line-up got together in 2010 with the arrival of new members Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Gamble.
This set contains a double live CD recroded in 201 plus a bonus DVD containing the "Inside The Music" feature which combines live footage with the band discussing the tracks performed on the CD. Also included on the DVD are full live performances of "After The Cosmic Rain" and "The Romantic Warrior" and an extended trailer for the upcoming film "The Return To Forever Story".
The 3-disc package features 2 audio CDs, which cover RTF's full set, from "Medieval Overture" to "School Days" and "Beyond the Seventh Galaxy." The bonus DVD is packed with almost 2 hours of footage, including the new documentary "Return to Forever: Inside the Music," in which the band tells the stories behind classic tunes like "After the Cosmic Rain," "Sorceress" and "Spain."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.105) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[They] bridge the gap betwixt jazz and prog in spectacular style."
Personnel: Frank Gambale (guitar); Jean-Luc Ponty (violin); Chick Corea (piano, keyboards); Lenny White (drums).
Audio Mixer: Mick Guzauski.
Liner Note Authors: Chick Corea; Jean-Luc Ponty; Lenny White; Robert Trujillo; Stanley Clarke .
Photographers: Andrew Elliott; Matt Bizer; Arne B. Rostad; Martin Philby.
When guitarist Al DiMeola left Return to Forever (again) after their 2008 reunion tour, Chick Corea solicited the help of the band's original axeman, Bill Connors, to rejoin the band for another tour. He did. While he rehearsed with Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White, health issues forbade him from returning to the road. Corea then enlisted his former Elektric Band guitarist Frank Gambale, as well as guest violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. The 2011 tour, by all fan accounts, blew the doors off the 2008 reunion. Gambale, every bit the technical virtuoso as Di Meola, is the stronger jazz player of the two. And with Ponty's added fireworks, the vintage RTF material took on an entirely new life, as did other pieces performed here. This two-CD/DVD package offers visual as well as audio proof that the fans were correct. While the set opens with a gorgeously played "Medieval Overture" from Romantic Warrior, it then shifts into what is perhaps the most intense version of "Señor Mouse" on record at over 12 minutes. Next up is a medley of White tunes in "The Shadow of Lo/Sorceress," clocking in at nearly 17 minutes While the first part is a largely acoustic piece, it gives way to the band's full slate of jazz chops full-on. Clarke, Gambale, Ponty, and Corea all shine, while White is so ambitious and propulsive, he makes this entire jam sound more like prog rock than fusion. Ponty's 19-plus minute "Renaissance," from 1975's Aurora, is a showcase for his composition. As a soloist, he remains fully committed to the fusion aesthetic and is every bit as technically gifted as he was in the '70s. He's dazzling, as is Clarke, in his swinging pizzicato bass solo. Disc two begins with a burning, free-flowing "After the Cosmic Rain" that heads directly into an extended version of "Romantic Warrior" before shifting gears into a gorgeous medley of composer Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto Aranjuez paired with Corea's "Spain." Things get massively funky on Clarke's "School Days" before heading off into a straight -- and brief -- "Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy" to close it all out. It's a breathtaking 110 minutes. The included DVD contains a documentary called Return to Forever: Inside the Music, concert performances of "After the Cosmic Rain" and "The Romantic Warrior," and a sneak peek trailer for the forthcoming film, The Story of Return to Forever. ~ Thom Jurek
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