Return to Forever – Romantic Warrior – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Romantic Warrior

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This White Hot Stamper Romantic Warrior has a side one that will blow your mind. It’s 100% guaranteed to bring any stereo to its knees! Turn this one up and prepare yourself for the kind of sound that perhaps one out of a hundred records has to offer, with cymbal crashes that really crash, bass that threatens to move your house off its foundation and energy that is hard to believe was encoded into a thin piece of vinyl decades ago. But here it is! This copy is all that and more. 

Romantic Warrior is MY FAVORITE JAZZ/ROCK FUSION ALBUM of all time! As good as the music is, the sound is even BETTER! This is the Jazz/Rock Demo Disc that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In my experience, no record of this kind is more DYNAMIC or has better BASS. Not one. Demo Disc doesn’t begin to do these kind of sonics justice.

Simply put, not only is this one of the greatest MUSICAL statements of all time, it’s one of the great RECORDING STATEMENTS. Few albums in the history of the world can lay claim to this kind of POWER and ENERGY.

But the Super Sound has a purpose, a raison d’etre. This is the kind of music that requires it; better yet, DEMANDS it. In truth, the sound is not only up to the challenge of expressing the life of the music on this album, it positively ENHANCES it. Those monster Lenny White drum rolls that run across the soundstage from wall to wall may be a recording studio trick, but they’re there to draw your attention to his amazing powers, and it works! The drums are EVERYWHERE on this album, constantly jumping out of the soundfield and taking the music into the stratosphere where it belongs.

None More Hard Rocking

I can’t think of another record that rocks as hard, and it’s not even a real rock record! We find ourselves playing records like Houses of the Holy and Zep II and Dark Side of the Moon for hour upon hour, with dozens of copies to get through, and we do it on a regular basis. If anybody knows Big Rock Sound, it’s us. But can we really say that those albums rock any harder than this one? Romantic Warrior is to Jazz what Zep II is to Rock — the ultimate statement by a band at the absolute top of their game.

Perhaps “The Sgt. Pepper of Jazz Rock” is a more fitting title: The perfect wedding of the ultimate musical statement and the ultimate recording statement. There can only be one, and this is it. I have literally listened to this album hundreds of times (I keep a cassette of it in my car) and to this day I still discover nuances in the recording and the performance every time I hear it! Any time you make an improvement to your stereo, this is the kind of record that will show you what you’ve accomplished.

Even a year ago there was no way I could get this music to play so LOUD, so CLEANLY, and with such CORRECT TONALITY, from the deepest bass to the highest highs, complete with the wild swings in dynamics that the recording captures so well. The Audio Revolution Is Alive and Well and making progress all the time. It’s never too late to join in the fun. (These Sound Improvements really made a difference in our system and they can make a difference in yours, guaranteed.)

The Average Copy

The main problem with this record is a lack of midrange presence. If the keyboards, drums and guitars are not RIGHT THERE in front of you, your copy does not have all the presence it should because on the best copies they ARE right there in front of you. This recording is not about depth or soundstage or ambience. It’s about IMMEDIACY. All the lead instruments will positively JUMP out of the speakers on the right pressing. This is what we want our Hot Stampers to do. White Hot Stampers like this one do it big time.

This Copy

Side One has AMAZING Triple Plus AGAIG sound. The sound is rich, big, lively and very hard to fault. Side two needed a touch more presence but still destroyed most of the other copies.

Four Musicians, Four Stars

Lenny White only played on four albums with RTF. His contribution here is essential — the drumming on this album is out of this world, some of the best I have ever heard. Years ago I went to see the Miles Davis tribute tour, just to see Lenny White drum. He did not disappoint. He was banging the hell out of his kit. He’s got monstrous biceps and he was really hurtin’ those drums.

But he’s not really the star of this show. He’s one of four stars. The putative leaders are of course Chick Corea and Al DiMeola. I’ve heard many of their albums, and none of them can hold a candle to the work they do here. DiMeola especially deserves the highest praise for what he brings to the table. I know of no other guitarist who can rock with the best of them, with a completely fuzzed out line, and turn around and play the most lyrical and subtle acoustic parts, not showing off, just adding the right licks in the right places.

Stanley Clarke also deserves high praise. He adds another brilliant layer to the mix; in places where he bows the bass the sound is extraordinary.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Medieval Overture Track Commentary

The grandiose opening of this record serves as an important sonic checkpoint, as well as a tipoff for the pyrotechnics to come. On the better copies Corea’s multi-layered, swirling synth sounds occupy their own separate space, clearly separated from each other, not blurred and inarticulate as they are on the poorer pressings.

Also notice how Lenny White’s drums have such powerful a attack, especially in the more exposed sections. The transients are breathtakingly immediate. Run-of-the-mill copies tend to flatten Mr. White, making his acrobatic playing seem two-dimensional and less-than-inspired. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sorceress Track Commentary

This groove-oriented track is a testament to RTF’s diversity, as well as the mastery of Messrs. Clarke and White as a rhythm section. This is a real test for bottom end. Even though the bass goes unbelievably deep, the best copies manage to exhibit plenty of control while still allowing you to FEEL the bass rising up through the floorboards and into your chair. There is so much deep bass at the opening of this track that at any sort of serious levels I would immediately run out of the wattage needed to sustain them. It was either back off the volume or distort like crazy. You need some serious juice to play this track, or a very efficient speaker, or both.

All the members of this All-Star cast are showcased in the improv section, highlighted by Corea’s brilliant piano solo in the middle, one of my personal favorite piano solos of all time. Corea is a musician’s musician. There is nothing he or his bandmates are not capable of on this recording. This is more than mere fusion. On this album the whole world of jazz is on display.

Side Two

The Romantic Warrior
Majestic Dance Track Commentary

The incendiary opening track for side two is the quintessence of guitar driven prog rock, a tipoff for the pyrotechnics to come. Most copies lack the top end extension that allows the hot copies to open up and come alive. With the right top to bottom mastering this track is Gold! Demo Disc Quality all the way, baby.

The Magician
Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant

AMG Review

Corea’s versatile keyboards and composing talents, Al DiMeola’s intense rockish guitar, Stanley Clarke’s funky electric bass and Lenny White’s powerful drumming combined to create a true fusion supergroup.