This summer Return To Forever, Chick Corea (keyboards), Stanley Clarke (bass), Lenny White (drums) and Al Di Meola (guitar), reunite for an unprecedented return to the concert stage after more than 25 years apart. To commemorate the World Tour 2008 they have personally selected and overseen the careful remixing and remastering of their ground-breaking repertoire, The Anthology, which will be released by Concord Records on May 27, 2008.
Selected out of their virtual explosion of creativity the band culls tunes from their classic albums Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), Where Have I Known You Before (1974), the Grammy-winning No Mystery (1975) and their top-selling gold record Romantic Warrior (1976) - 20 tracks that propelled the band into history and made them a titanic influence on an entire generation of players. Free-form FM radio of the 70's played these tunes alongside rock peers Yes, King Crimson and Genesis and other burgeoning jazz crossovers like Headhunters and Mahavisnu Orchestra in a heady aural stew of progressive jazz & rock.
Mick Guzauski, whom has a Grammy to his credit for Eric Clapton's Back Home and Latin Grammy's (Alejandro Sanz, Thalia), approached this with a sincere yet workmanlike esthetic taking the original master tapes right back down to the basics and building it all back up with studio tools certainly not available back then; most are considered cutting edge even in the present. Not a reinvention or reimagination - more a restoration of how the band really sounded before less-than perfect digital transfers and other vagaries of the industry's rapid transition to CD. You'll wonder if your stereo really wasn't that good back then - trust us, it was fine - no one has ever heard Return To Forever like this.
Truly, no one has ever held a collection such as this, uniting the Electric period from the vaults of two major labels (Sony & Universal) on a single must-have set. Nearly all the music from that startling and concussive Electric period is represented here, over two and a half hours of RTF-ness across the two discs. Highlights will be different for every fan though surely the frenetic "Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy" is on most people's list as well as Stanley's loping syncopated "Dayride", Lenny's funky radio hit "Sorceress" and Al's arena jazz-rock workout "Majestic Dance". Remember this band is comprised of four real leaders: gifted with huge chops and composers of melodic, challenging rhythms
Clearly, contemporary bands like Medeski, Martin and Wood, Rudder, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, the Flecktones et al have felt the imprint of RTF's iconic canon. Even the hip hop contingent has found riffs for clever sampling and artists including Lupe Fiasco and Dr. Dre acknowledge the power of the group's grooves.
The packaging of this new collection is no less definitive than the music it exhibits.
Designed by Peter Gabriel's (Real World) Creative Director, Marc Bessant the comprehensive and personal nature of this release is displayed in its ample parts.
Never-before-seen photos of the band, individual recollections from each band member and a deeply honorific and entertaining narrative liner essay from Miles Davis reissue producer Grammy-winner Bob Belden all contribute to the top-notch treatment this collection exudes on every page (and every groove.)
There is a moment in a short clip (view at www.return2forever.com) where the band ensconced at famed Mad Hatter studios rips through a tune fueled by the stomp funk bedrock of Stanley & Lenny, ignited by Chick's analog keyboards and gem-cutting flurries from Al's beautiful inlaid wood guitar and you can't imagine it's been 25 years plus. It's as though they just stepped out for a cup of coffee (albeit a long one) came back in and (jazz) rocked out again. A brief reunion in 1982 set a seed in the collective field for this reassembly of talents whom now, almost organically find it the right time to play together again. Long-time fans and new converts should also take heart that the ready for prime time again RTF is already talking about new material and recording as well as DVD projects and continued touring.
This collection will relight the fires of the loyalists and find new cachet in the hip, musical youth of the jam generation.