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Shakti With John McLaughlin - Remember Shakti CD (album) cover

REMEMBER SHAKTI

Shakti With John McLaughlin

 

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

3.79 | 14 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Guitarist JOHN McLAUGHLIN has been building musical bridges between East and West for most of his professional career, but this 1999 double-disc represents maybe the purest expression yet of his love for classic Indian music and philosophy.

All the same, these performances (recorded live in England over four concerts in 1997) aren't for everyone. The band assembled here isn't the same SHAKTI of McLaughlin's post-MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA years, and the music has its source in a foreign tradition far removed from his earlier Jazz Rock innovations. This is true fusion: not merely of musical styles, but of whole musical cultures, and needs to be approached from an entirely different perspective.

The songs are built around long instrumental improvisations (sometimes very long: "Mukti" clocks in at a staggering 63+ minutes!), in classic raga fashion allowing plenty of time for gradual thematic development and resolution, and with no shortage of virtuoso interplay between the players, numbering anywhere between two and five at a time. McLaughlin himself is hardly the star of the show, or at least not the only one. At times he's almost more of a guest among the other, Indian musicians, and in fact doesn't even play on the opening track, "Chandrakauns" (which at 33+ minutes takes up most of Disc One).

But his electric guitar, even lacking the familiar distorted frenzy of his first MAHAVISHNU albums, provides rock audiences with an easy point of reference, functioning as an anchor of sorts in the middle of all that exotic Indian instrumentation: tablas and ghatam and bansuri and tanpura. And if those sound more like side dishes at your local Mumbai greasy spoon, maybe you're not quite ready to make the aesthetic leap from a mere 7-minute Carl Palmer drum solo to a 28-minute (!) percussion duet performed in large part on something resembling an earthenware jug.

I'm no judge of tabla virtuosity, but I will say these discs contain some of John McLaughlin's fastest and yet most fluid guitar runs, no small claim for an artist of his caliber. And yet even at its most frenetic (and there are moments when the hands of each musician must have been simply a transparent blur on stage) there's always an air of meditative calm and grace surrounding the entire album, a sharing of musical space and spirit all but unheard of in other musical arenas.

Clearly this was not a concert about egos, but about cooperation and trust. And if you extend the same courtesy to listening to the CD itself, it will reward you more than you can imagine.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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