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Mahavishnu Orchestra - The Inner Mounting Flame CD (album) cover


Mahavishnu Orchestra


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.27 | 889 ratings

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3 stars Not as good as the diehards would have you think!!!

After seeing and hearing the glowing praise heaped upon this album, I tracked it down in its original vinyl format - making sure I had a First Pressing, naturally!

I gingerly lowered the needle onto the platter, and was duly blown away, as the other reviews here promised, by a full production and gorgeous musical textures. So far so good!

So excited was I at "my" new discovery, that I went back several times for more - but each time, something was lost. Instead of discovering new delights with each listen, I found new disappointments as well; Whatever McLaughlin's pedigree, he uses a lot of bluff and simple repetitions played fast to cover the fact that on this album at least, he had a shortage of musical ideas. This leads to many passages that become boring noodle after just a few listens, the only saving grace being those other passages where the entire band gets it together and hits the musical high, so to speak.

Meeting of the Spirits is one such high point. From the crunching opening to the end, we are treated to atmospheric textures of delights; Lights and shades - especially shades - of jazz rock fusion and sensual parts from all players, except, maybe Laird's slightly boring, repetitive bass. That said, the solidity is welcome, with the dizzying gyrations of the upper parts . However, McLaughlan seems to feel the need to noodle all over the top of much of this. Some of the noodling is incisive, where it attempts to accentuate and decorate the melodies. The unison duetting with the violin produces a wonderful timbre, and Hammer's electric piano rings through beautifully. Cobham's drums really are a treat, and are clearly an influence on the Ozric Tentacles' first drummer, Tig.

Dawn begins in a kind of lounge bar Jazz mood. Mmm. Just how I like Dawn... Again, there is a beautiful melody unisonned on guitar and violin, and the band produce a glorious chilled texture. Then McLaughlan gets all noodly and spoils the mood. The noodling starts OK, but then he puts in bursts of fast bluff and fudged bent notes which the band gracefully relieve - and it is a relief when the band come back, as they bring in a gorgeous jazz groove, with Goodman giving it some gypsy Rose on the violin.

Noonward Race begins with a kind of badly played Hendrix riff, and some awful bluff orchestrated with the drums - really, this is quite nasty. We get a bass riff that wouldn't be out of place in any psychedelic band, and some truly amazing keyboard work - but this is pure jamming, not really prog. Who cares? It's great fusion rock, until McLaughlan goes off on another one. Yes it's fast. But it's bluff - there is no attempt to get with the groove that Hammer was in or create something melodic, dynamic or even musical, it's pure self-indulgence of the worst kind. *Yawn*. It's easy to tell towards the end of the piece that the remaining band members aren't really into this either by the mechanical soulless playing - so it's not just me!

A Lotus on Irish Streams would be a nice chill-out piece if it wasn't for that incessant noodling, Hammer providing superlative textures, and Goodman giving wonderful, aching melodies. It makes you wish there was a McLaughlan "Off" switch, such is the contrast between the sheer beauty that transpires when he is not playing, and the irritating fly buzzing when he is. If only he would play something that actually went with the music...

Vital Transformation - starts a pure rocker, but springs surprises via starts and stops. McLaughlan finally proves that he really can play that baby by making it sing the way I've wanted to sing for four whole tracks - a real Vital Transformation! The band hang this one together in a really tight groove, but the urge to descend into fast bluff is seemingly irresistable, however, as you can feel McLaughlin teetering on the edges of musical creativity.

The Dance of Maya opens with Wah drenched guitar and bass (just to prove to those who think I might not be listening properly that I am!), and Cobham provides a dynamo entry to one of the most upside-down drum beats I think I've ever heard. This is exactly the reason you should own this album; rhythms like this are lifeblood to any progger. The "less is more" concept fully proves its worth, until a bizarre chugging rock 'n' roll style section which, despite the mad time signature I could have done without, as for me, the initial spell is broken. I feel like I was set up for something way beyond rock 'n' roll, and am then presented with something that is merely fringe. As expected, there is more aimless noodling to come... tiny moments of genius do flicker through, but sadly the dance dies, and the directionless dirge lives.

You Know, You Know, is nice enough, but directionless, and Awakening is an obvious attempt to end the album on a high - but again, there's no "shape" to it, only texture, so leaves (me, at least) somewhat unsatisfied...

...but willing to go through it all over again - so definitely not a bad album all in all. I originally gave 4 stars, but because of the horrible noodling I feel that the 4th has to be docked. Really, there's some 1st class material in here, so buy it to satisfy your curiosity and you will not be disappointed.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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