Tuesday, January 6, 2009
You Can't Return to Forever
The Beatles are gone. I know that. But I keep thinking if I buy just one more Paul McCartney CD, maybe the old magic will return.
Maybe. But it never does.
Paul McCartney is like that. You know how great he was with the Beatles. You even know how great some of his solo records were. And even though you know he'll never write another "Band on the Run," and surely he'll never write another "Sgt. Pepper," you keep hoping.
Chick Corea does that to me, too.
I came to jazz through Chick Corea -- through the back door. I discovered jazz indirectly. It began with the rock bands Chicago and Emerson Lake & Palmer. With Chicago, it was the horn section. With ELP, it was the synths. ELP led directly to Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock and, yes, I confess, even "Switched on Bach."
So I discovered "Return to Forever" and "My Spanish Heart" and "Light as a Feather." That led me to acoustic Chick, including one of my very favorite jazz records, his two-piano duets with Herbie Hancock. Not only is it great music, but it reminds me of a very happy time in my life. Just like Paul and the Fabs.
But then years passed. Chick Corea put out more albums. Some were good, some were so-so, but none seemed as good to my ears as the Chick Corea of old.
Then last year I heard on the radio cuts from a new Chick Corea album, "The Ultimate Adventure." It sounds just like old Return to Forever! The magic was back! I had to have it! So I bought it. And now, after a year of repeated listening, I have to admit: It's good, but not classic.
There are moments. Complex rhythms. Flightly flutes. Middle Eastern motifs. Latin tinges. Both piano AND synths. But no memorable melodies. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help comparing it to 1970s Chick. And while I enjoy it, it's not the same. Maybe it's unfair to think it would be.
So it's OK to enjoy a new Paul McCartney CD now and then, but I never fool myself into thinking the next one will be "Rubber Soul." Unfortunately, I did fool myself for a little while about "The Ultimate Adventure." It's good. I like it in small doses. But Thomas Wolfe was right. You can can't go home again. You can never Return to Forever.