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Return to Forever - Romantic Warrior - Nearly White Hot Stamper

The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.

Nearly White Hot Stamper

Return to Forever
Romantic Warrior

Regular price
$199.99
Regular price
Sale price
$199.99
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per 
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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus

  • A superb pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides - just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Our favorite Jazz Rock Fusion Album of All Time - on the right stereo this is a Demo Disc like no other
  • None rocks harder - of course that wouldn't mean much without the music being so exciting and brilliant, and we're happy to report it is!
  • These are four instrumental pyrotechnicians - the band is absolutely on fire like no other album they recorded together

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These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that's often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers ("relative" being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don't agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

If you're a fan of '70s jazz fusion there aren't many albums that sound better than this, or have better music. (It's the only RTF record we bother to carry as a matter of fact.) It's an absolutely phenomenal recording, breathtaking at loud levels on big speakers.

What the Best Sides of Romantic Warrior Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

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.

What We're Listening For on Romantic Warrior

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Demo Disc Sound On the Best Copies

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 our experience no record of this kind is more DYNAMIC or has better BASS. Not one. Demo Disc doesn't begin to do this kind of sound 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.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.

Extensive Track Commentary

We really spent some quality time on the track commentary for this one, so make sure you refer to it while comparing what we are saying to what you are hearing at home, using whatever copy you own. 

If you end up with one of our Hot Stampers, listen carefully for the effects we describe. This is not an easy record to reproduce -- everything has to be working in tip-top form to even begin to get this complicated music sounding the way it should -- but if you've done your homework and gotten your system really cooking, you are in for the time of your life.

A Must Own Jazz Record

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Audiophile Jazz Collection, assuming you like jazz fusion. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

Side One

  • Medieval Overture
  • 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 synths occupy their own space, clearly separated from each other, not blurred and inarticulate as they are on the poorer pressings.
  • Also notice how much attack Lenny White's drums have, 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. The best copies prove that nothing could be further from the truth.
  • Sorceress
  • 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 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 can be heard.
  • The Romantic Warrior

Side Two

  • Majestic Dance
  • The blistering opening track for side two is the quintessence of guitar-driven prog rock, a heads up for what's to come. Most copies lack the top end extension that allows the hottest copies to open up and come alive. With the right top to bottom mastering and pressing this track is Gold! Demo Disc Quality all the way and then some.
  • The Magician
  • Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant

AMG 4 Star Review

The most popular and successful lineup of Return to Forever -- Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, and Al Di Meola -- was coming off the Grammy-winning No Mystery when it recorded its third and final album, Romantic Warrior.

It has been suggested that in employing a medieval album cover (drawn by Wilson McLean), using titles like "Medieval Overture" and "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant," and occasionally playing in a baroque style, particularly in Clarke's "The Magician," Corea was responding to Rick Wakeman's successful string of albums on similar themes. Certainly, the music suggests that the musicians have been listening to Wakeman's band, Yes, among other progressive rock groups. But they bring more of a traditional jazz approach to their sound, particularly in the opening statement of intent "Medieval Overture" and the original side one closer, "The Romantic Warrior," both of which feature extensive acoustic piano soloing by Corea.

The original side two -- Di Meola's "Majestic Dance," "The Magician," and "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant" -- is much more in a jazz-rock style, with Di Meola particularly rocking out on extensive, fast-paced electric guitar solos. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Clarke and White is always extremely busy, maintaining a funky, driving pulse and several cross rhythms no matter what's going on above it. This is particularly noticeable, naturally, on White's sole composition, "Sorceress," but it continues to keep the music in the fusion camp even when Corea is sounding like a more traditional jazz pianist.

Romantic Warrior is the sound of a mature band at the top of its game, which may help explain why it was Return to Forever's most popular album, eventually certified as a gold record, and the last by this assemblage. Having expressed themselves this well, they decided it was time for them to move on.