[Review] Return To Forever: Musicmagic (1977)

This is moran line with the Corea albums around it (Secret Agent, Mad Hatter) than Di Meola-era RTF.

Kronomyth 19.0: The end of forever.

So what exactly constitutes a Return To Forever album anyway? Musicmagic blurs the line between RTF and Chick Corea’s solo recordings, since the same basic lineup (Joe Farrell, Gayle Moran et al) was employed on Secret Agent and The Mad Hatter. Far from the stellar fusion of Romantic Warrior, Musicmagic is a song-oriented album. It’s some of the most commercial music that Corea has recorded (e.g., Stanley Clarke’s “So Long Mickey Mouse”), but not some of his best. Corea conjures the usual keyboard wizardry, Clarke takes a bow to his bass, and the rest of the band kicks something into the kitty, so there’s fire behind the RTF smokescreen, just not enough of it.

Blame the high bar on earlier incarnations; of the RTF albums I own, this is the lamest and it’s still a pretty good record. Gayle Moran’s voice is expressive, warm and occasionally captivating. It’s on Musicmagic that she becomes, in the words of Beavis, “a full-fledged member,” playing keyboards and writing the graceful “Do You Ever.” The horn section also gives the band a different flavor, evoking memories of Frank Zappa’s The Grand Wazoo. Of Corea’s compositions, “The Endless Night” and “Musicmagic” have their mind candy moments where the mustachioed magician coaxes an armoire of sounds from his speaker cabinets. Stanley Clarke, who also sings on this album, adds the popular “So Long Mickey Mouse,” which is la-la-lovely in spots.

Surprisingly, more than half of this album turned up on The Best of Return To Forever. If you bought that compilation, you were robbed. The selections on Musicmagic are simply too timid when RTF’s toils are taken in toto to testify in such a trial. If your tastes skip toward smooth jazz or disco, then Musicmagic might be the safest entry into deep waters, but you can’t stand in the shallow end forever.

Read more Return to Forever reviews

Original LP Version

A1. The Musician (Chick Corea) (7:11)
A2. Hello Again (Stanley Clarke) (3:49)
A3. Musicmagic (Chick Corea) (11:02)
B1. So Long Mickey Mouse (Stanley Clarke) (6:08)
B2. Do You Ever (Gayle Moran) (3:58)
B3. The Endless Night (Chick Corea/Gayle Moran) (9:41)

The Players

Gerry Brown (drums), Stanley Clarke (electric bass, piccolo bass, acoustic bass, vocals), Chick Corea (acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, mini moog, clavinet, Moog 15, polymoog, ARP Odyssey, vocals), Joe Farrell (tenor & soprano sax, flutes, piccolo), Harold Garrett (Tenor & bass trombone, baritone horn), Gayle Moran (Hammond B3 organ, polymoog, acoustic piano, vocals), Jim Pugh (tenor trombone), John Thomas (lead trumpet, flugelhorn), James Tinsley (trumpet, piccolo trumpet). Produced by Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. Engineered by Bernie Kirsh.

The Pictures

Illustration by Catherine Loeb. Photos by Keith Williamson. Design by Nancy Donald.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, quadrophonic elpee and cassette in March 1977 in the US (Columbia, PC/PCQ/PCT 34682), the UK (CBS, 81959) and Australia (CBS, SBP 234981) with lyrics sleeve; reached #38 on the US charts and #4 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Columbia, CK 34682).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc on October 22, 1997 in Japan (Sony, SRCS 9349).
  3. Re-released on 20-bit remastered compact disc on April 19, 2006 in Japan (Sony, SICP 1031).
  4. Re-released on Blu spec compact disc on September 21, 2011 in Japan (Columbia, SICP 20304).
  5. Re-released on super audio compact disc on October 21, 2016 in the US (Audio Fidelity, AFZ 250).

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