It was a metamorphosis that no one anticipated. In 1973, Return To Forever, the jazz group led by ex-Miles Davis keyboardist Chick Corea, shed several of its key personnel (including Brazilian percussionist Airto and his wife, singer Flora Purim) and acquired electric guitarist Bill Connors and drummer Lenny White. Reborn as a quartet, the group left the breezy Latin jazz of its first two LPs behind and unleashed Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy, a record packed with sinewy grooves, heavy, high decibel rock riffs and ornate electronic keyboard passages. Connors left in ’74, to be replaced by lightning-fingered fretboard genius Al Di Meola, whose incendiary guitar playing pushed RTF deeper into a new musical realm where prog-rock, cosmic funk and cerebral jazz collided.
At the height of their fame in 1978 the group disbanded. Thirty-one years on and the classic RTF line-up of Corea, Di Meola, White and bassist Stanley Clarke are back, having just embarked on a mammoth world tour. This chronologically-sequenced 2-CD retrospective features the complete albums Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy and Romantic Warrior, plus the key tracks from Where Have I Known You Before and No Mystery. The first thing that strikes you is the superb audio quality – not only have all 20 tracks been remastered, but they’ve also been remixed from the original multi-track reels. Consequently, old familiars such as Captain Señor Mouse, Theme To The Mothership, Sorceress and The Magician have an appealing aura of freshness about them that should surprise even the most phlegmatic and fastidious of the group’s fans.