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Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds Of Fire CD (album) cover

BIRDS OF FIRE

Mahavishnu Orchestra

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.36 | 839 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars Until today I never had the courage to review a MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album, because I'm far from being an expert in Prog Fusion and to be honest this band has always been extremely complex for my limited understanding.

But this days I have decided to give a new chance to bands that I'm not very fond on, and it was the turn to listen again "Birds of Fire and honestly I was more impressed than ever before, I must admit they are not my cup of tea but the touch of the genius shines even for inexpert ears as mine.

The album opens with Birds of Fire, based in the excellent and ultra complex work of John Mc'Laughlin, adding that unique oriental touch (Enhanced by the gong sounds that Billy Cobham adds to his fantastic drumming), it's almost an uncontrolled chaos where all the instruments overplay one on the other passing the lead from John to Jerry Goodman and his wild violin, the interesting thing is that instead of explosions of power, the soft Jazzy moments are the ones that appear by drops as to give a touch of normality to this mixture of sounds and styles. Amazing track, even when extremely complex.

Miles Beyond acts as a reliever, the intro announces that the song will have more participation of Jan Hammer and his keyboards but soon the duo Mc'Laughlin and Goodman appear adding some sort of controlled wildness, even when this time they managing to avoid the uncontrolled cacophony of the previous track, nice bass work by Rick Laird, another good song closer to the canons of Jazz.

Celestial Terrestrial Commuters is an excellent track that crosses almost every sub-genre of Prog, the experimentation reaches the border of electronica, there's some sort of contrapuntist duel between all the instruments that keeps the listener interested, another wild song, pure adrenalin, Until today I don't know if the short and electronicSapphire Bullets of Pure Love is meant to be an individual song or just a coda to "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters"..Only Mc'Laughlin knows.

Thousand Island Park is my favorite song and one of the examples why I love Prog so much, mostly a duet between Hammer and Mc'Laughlin where John embraces everything he loves, blending his pure Flamenco style with the extreme beauty of Jan Hammer Neo Classical jamming, simply outstanding.

Hope is a short and disappointing track, keeps going in crescendo as announcing something interesting but fails to reach the peak, simply keeps going nowhere, of course the skills of Hammer are evident but skills alone are not enough, probably a filler.

One Word is the longest track of the album and one rare examples of Prog Fusion mixed with some sort of Space Oriented Rock and free jamming, every member is allowed to prove their skills, but always manage to keep the coherence of the track, Cobham's speed drumming is simply breathtaking and Rick Laird is brilliant.

Sanctuary starts dark and haunting with Hammer creating atmospheres (Something very unusual at this point) and then incredibly the music turns into some sort of Symphonic Jazz where the melody takes the central role instead of the aggressiveness of the previous tracks, extremely beautiful.

Open Country Joy is another soft and short track closer to melodic side of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, for the first time Jerry Goodman sounds like a traditional violin player rather than as a force of nature, adding fine textures, but again in some moment of the song they open the cage and John starts challenging Jerry to a duel (Which he accepts), a duel that has no winner but the audience, at the end and as to prove his versatility, Goodman adds some soft Country music lines.

Resolution closes the album with a martial sound that again goes "in crescendo" but never reaching the climax, honestly each time I listen this track I keep expecting some development of the musical idea, frustrating is the word to describe it.

Now my dilemma is how to rate the album, it's obvious that the skills of the band are incredible and the music is very good but still feel like something is missing (maybe I'm the one not able to find it), so five stars is out of the equation. Three stars would be unfair because it's essential to have this album in a decent Prog collection, so I would go to a four stars option, even when I believe 3.5 stars is the exact rating, sadly it's not an possibility in Prog Archives.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |

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