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Shakti With John McLaughlin - Natural Elements CD (album) cover


Shakti With John McLaughlin


Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

4.15 | 122 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Virtuosic Jazz / Traditional Indian Fusion

I recently discovered that a fellow parent at my daughter's school was an old prog-head. Not a musician himself, he described trying to find the most out there music as a point of pride. So we traded back and forth band names, and his stumper was Shakti. I had actually downloaded this album about 6 weeks before. Before visiting this site, he would have had me. His descriptor for the album was intense and indeed if you're not used to the virtuosity of traditional Indian music, this is a shocking music. That John McLaughlin fits in seamlessly and that all of the other musicians are at least on his level tells you just how amazing these players are.

The first half of the disc is firmly rooted in the Indian tradition, and the first song (Mind Ecology) is perhaps the most intense of the entire album. Extremely fast sixteenth note tabla drumming, syncopated acoustic rhythm guitar by McLaughlin, slippery violin trading between wailing and shredding, all combine to form a treat for musicians with a taste for a showcase of musicianship. And yet these players are doing more than just showing off their chops. This is a complete music with memorable melody, grooving rhythm, and plenty of variation in emotion.

I've listened to a bit of traditional Indian music in the past, and acoustic guitar is not an instrument that immediately makes sense for this context. However, McLaughlin blends in perfectly, developing slide and bending techniques to match a sitar-style phrasing in addition to his rapid fire runs that evoke both flamenco and jazz. On the other hand, the rhythm guitar reminds me of solo acoustic players in the Windham Hill lineage, though with some added intensity.

The second half of the disc explores a wider variety of styles, with track 5 (Happiness is Being Together) starting with a Chelsea Morning-like riff and then settling into what actually feels like Caribbean island music. Track 6 is one of the stranger renderings of Bridge of Sighs you'll hear, though it's still very beautiful. Track 7 gives the percussionists a chance to show their full range, including the Indian rhythmic vocal style which sounds like insane beat boxing. The album ends in a ballad-like piece that is much slower, less showy than the rest of the album.

This is an excellent album to introduce someone to Indian music, as there is alot going on and the guitar is a familiar voice to anchor you ear to. I don't know that it has much to do with rock other than its intensity, but it is certainly progressive. A great example of fusion, a great showcase of virtuosity, and as my friend told me, a great album to get your heart pumping.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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