June 11, 2009

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Return to Forever, Returns
Eagle Records/Fontana, March 17

A revolving-door crew of some of the top jazz players of their time, Return to Forever was a major inspiration of the punk movement for the wrong reasons. So technically adept that they literally made Rush, Yes and ELP look like freshly diapered rookies, they became a running joke in the underground press of the late ’70s and early ’80s for going unreservedly Spinal Tap Meets Weather Report, this by wet-working actual-real medieval music into rock/modern-jazz-funk in their (debatably) high-watermark album The Romantic Warrior.

Featuring three long cuts from TRW, this live two-disker — featuring the reunion of jazz super-legends Al Di Meola, Chick Corea and Stanley Clark – damns every torpedo an erstwhile Johnny Rotten might load up, but there’s a modicum of playfulness in the air when the band are in burn-and-puree jam-mode, not that those moments will be easily recognizable to the uninitiated (or even old-timers who dared try jamming along to the originals on their second-hand Rickenbackers and Flying V’s). And those points aren’t all that jokey; after all, this isn’t Reel Big Fish, it’s Return to Forever, who wouldn’t know Maximum Rock n Roll from Ladies Home Journal. A+EWS