Saturday, August 25, 2018

RTF - Romantic Warrior

In February 1976, Return to Forever headed to Chicago producer James Guercio's popular and isolated Caribou Ranch in a remote part of Colorado to record Romantic Warrior. It's a fusion classic and, coming out of 1976, surely one of the genre's final highlights. Placing their musical topography somewhere in the middle ages, RTF rethinks its strategy to be more large-scale and consciously more musical; an electrically-charged Ellingtonian statement that's like a soundtrack for a non-existent film or an electronic symphony for a post-jazz age.

The same group that cut its previous Where Have I Known You Before and No Mystery is reprised here — Romantic Warrior features strong originals from all principals, including Lenny White's "Sorceress," Al Di Meola's "Majestic Dance," Stanley Clarke's "The Magician" and Chick Corea's "Medieval Overture," "The Romantic Warrior" and "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant."

For me, it went down like this. While riding in a van one day in the later '70s, Pete Felder stuck in an 8-track tape and said,"Dude, listen to this guitar." After 10 minutes, I was finally able to close my frozen jaw and wipe the drool from my chin and I asked him if I could borrow it; Felder didn't get it back until I bought the album. And it wasn't just the guitarist - the bassist blew me away! And all the synthesizers that complimented everything so perfectly. Of course, it wasn't just the musicianship and cool sounds either, the weed was excellente, but you didn't need to be high to get it. Today, I still feel like I'm sitting in front of an old console stereo. That clear, warm production drew me in as much as anything. 

I've been writing about music for nearly 40 years, but nothing ever grabbed me like that day in the van. In a time when disco ruled, what a dramatic departure to discover a collection of baroque tunes played at breakneck speed on rock 'n' roll instruments full of funk and experimentation. A huge chunk of great music from the last 40 years exists because of this album. And most people don't even know that RTF ever existed.

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