Like its previously released cousin, the double-CD Return to Forever Live, the Return to Forever Returns: Live at Montreux 2008 DVD (Eagle Rock) offsets moments of concert brilliance by overstaying its welcome. The highlights would’ve resulted in a stellar single CD, and the two-and-a-half-hour DVD would’ve been more effective at 90 minutes.
Keyboardist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke, guitarist Al Di Meola and drummer Lenny White burn early after walking out to raucous applause from the Montreux crowd. Corea’s opening “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy” is, if anything, too harried, partly because of Di Meola’s note-happy solo. But the guitarist certainly delivers on Clarke’s 12-minute opus “Vulcan Worlds,” as he, Corea and Clarke trade breaks with far more substance. Things meander afterward on “Sorceress,” “Song to the Pharaoh Kings” and an acoustic Di Meola solo showcase that comes across as overwrought despite its high points.
Corea’s solo showcase is inspired-at one point he plays the piano’s keys with his left hand while using his right to strike its strings with a mallet-which leads to a lengthy reading of the epic “The Romantic Warrior.” Clarke plays an unaccompanied solo on upright (arguably his stronger instrument), and White creates interesting textures during his solo by using a drumstick in one hand and a brush in the other. Bonus tracks, recorded two weeks later in Clearwater, Fla., include repeat solo sections by all four members, and the results border on overkill. But a closing electric romp through “Duel of the Jester & the Tyrant” ends this document on a literal and figurative high note.