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Crate Digger’s Gold: Return To Forever – Where Have I Known You Before

September 15, 2019

One album that turned me on to jazz was Return To Forever’s (RTF) Romantic Warrior (1976). For whatever reason I did not explore RTF’s back catalog – especially No Mystery (1975) and Where Have I Known You Before (1974) which had the same incredible lineup as Romantic Warrior:

  • Chic Corea – keyboards
  • Stanley Clarke – bass
  • Al Di Meola – guitar
  • Lenny White – drums

In hindsight, it seems odd I did not explore the catalog since I got seriously hooked on Al Di Meola’s solo albums on Columbia in the late 70s (Elegant Gypsy and Casino) and Di Meola was such a big part of the RTF sound. It is only recently, via dollar crates, that I have been properly introduced to a couple RTF Polydor albums with the Romantic Warrior lineup: No Mystery and Where Have I Known You Before. They are both fantastic.

The Corea/Clarke/Di Meola/White version of RTF leans toward prog-rock mainly due to Corea’s arsenal of keys (acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Hohner clavinet, Yamaha electric organ, ARP Odyssey and Minimoog) and young Di Meola’s (he was just 21 at the release of Where Have I Known You Before) flashy rock guitar.

The album opens with Clarke’s “Vulcan World” which showcases all the players. It is RTF at its kinetic best. This is show-off music and it works because these cats have the goods to show-off.

Next is a short acoustic interlude, Corea’s “Where Have I Loved You Before” that joins the hyper “Vulcan World” to the slower and lyrical, but equally spectacular, “The Shadow Of Lo” composed by Lenny White.

Corea’s acoustic piano, “Where Have I Danced With You Before,” creates another interlude to “Beyond The Seventh Galaxy” another full band show-off piece with a strong prog feel.

Side two opens with “Earth Juice” which is a funky jam (all four band members are given writing credit). Di Meola gets the bulk of the solo time.

“Where Have I Known You Before” is the final acoustic piano interlude.  The album ends with “Song To The Pharaoh Kings” which is a fourteen and half minute tour de force. It sounds like the most formally composed piece on the album. All four players strut their stuff, but Corea is the main event with his wall of keyboards throughout the song (which is more of a suite).

If the thought of prog infused jazz with highflying soloists grounded by melody sounds appealing, give this album a spin. It is easy to find in the dollar bins and is on all the streaming services.

One Comment
  1. Well you are going to send me on a binge. This is real good stuff.

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