Artist: Return To Forever feat. Chick Corea
Album: No Mystery
Genre: Jazz-Funk, Fusion
Quality: APE (image+.cue)
Flight Of The Newborn
Excerpt From The First Movement Of Heavy Metal
Celebration Suite (Part I)
Celebration Suite (Part II)
As humor and ignorance go hand in hand, I’ll let the former lead the latter in a little poke at jazz-wise folk… No Mystery plumbs the paradigmatical prog fusion cum Latin jazz that RTF is acronymically known for (noting that in fact it’s not an acronym at all). Paralytic rhythms overtake the funky aspirations of side one, proffered most profusely on Lenny White’s darkly funny “Sofistifunk” and in a suffusion of profusity on the seven-minute “Flight of the Newborn” (with a brief layover in Axesaw and the Keys of Reed). If they don’t get your foot tappin’, try on the metatarsal modalities of Stanley Clarke’s bass on “Dayride” or steeling yourself against the humor of “Excerpt From The First Movement of Heavy Metal.” Oblations to the great funk nation, the first half of No Mystery is a piece of prog fusion history worth preserving. Side two slips into the matador’s suit of My Spanish Heart, a part and yet apart from Mystery’s space spelunking start. The title track is patronymic parlor jazz with a forest scorpion’s sting (having earlier resided underwood in ruth), the two-part “Celebration Suite” a cause for celebration if you enjoyed My Spanish Heart. The seriality of songs is less important than it was on Romantic Warrior, the ability to transhumanize jazz remains as keen. What occurs is a consubtantiation of creative forces, revealing the mysteries of the universe through sound. Ironically, it was L. Ron Hubbard who pointed out that we as human beings let our attention slip out the open window of a large and foreign word, but jazz critics insist on slippin’ ‘em in anyway. No Mystery earned them a Grammy in 1975 for Best Jazz Performance by a Group. Far from vindicating the Grammy selection process, I’ll simply note that even a blind man can pick the right nutshell in an honest game every third time.
The fourth edition of Return to Forever was a band that emphasized the screaming wah-wah guitar of Al Di Meola and every electric keyboard Chick Corea could get his hands on to play furiously fast runs. Where the initial, airy Flora Purim/Airto/Joe Farrell edition gave way to the second undocumented group featuring Earl Klugh, and the third band with electric guitarist Bill Connors, this RTF was resplendently and unapologetically indulgent, ripping through riffs and charted, rehearsed melodies, and polyrhythms like a circular saw through a thin tree branch. Their immediacy and visceral power is why rock audiences were drawn to them, impressed by their speed-demon vagaries as much as their concern for musicality. Thank goodness No Mystery had more than its share of toned-down acoustic moments, as well as the powerhouse fighter jet stance that most of their fans craved. It’s not nearly as balanced as the previous album Where Have I Known You Before?, but expounds on those themes — inspired by Neville not Harry Potter — in a more progressive though louder manner. The bold, dancing, and funky “Dayride” in a higher octave and vocal-type keyboard range perfectly identifies the group sound in a scant three-plus minutes. The two-part, 14-minute “Celebration Suite” gives you a larger view of the classical Bartok/Chopin influence of Corea, and the dramatic medieval or regal stance they alchemized with so many keyboard sounds. It’s pseudo-funky, Spanish in a 6/8 rhythm, wailing with Di Meola leaping forth in true guitar hero form, with some group-oriented perfunctory subtleties and complex lines. The title track is the jewel, an acoustic romp through fields of flowers with Lenny White on marimba buoyed by a beautiful, lilting, memorable melody and shifting loud and soft dynamics — a classic in the repertoire and a fan favorite. The tromping beat of “Jungle Waterfall” supersedes Stanley Clarke’s lithe lines, while noise keyboards dominate the silly “Sofistifunk.” Corea’s acoustic piano is featured on the chordal, grandiose solo “Excerpt from the First Movement of Heavy Metal,” and in duet with Clarke. the improvised “Interplay” shows a more spontaneous rather than rehearsed side of these brilliant musicians. Over time, No Mystery yields mixed results, where initially they were viscerally driven and ultimately impressive. The next phase of the group, as indicated by this recording, would take them into even more technologically dominated music.
Review by Michael G. Nastos