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Mahavishnu Orchestra - Apocalypse CD (album) cover

APOCALYPSE

Mahavishnu Orchestra

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.59 | 172 ratings

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The Quiet One
Prog Reviewer
5 stars The only Mahavishnu Orchestra album which actually features an Orchestra!

Apocalypse by Mahavishnu Orchestra is the first album without the classic line-up of their first two albums, with this album(and the following one) John created something totally different from what the band was known of, even more-so with the addition of the London Symphony Orchestra bringing delights and majesty the band had never showed before, leave the over-complicated and frenetic passages, and technically brilliant musicianship to the original line-up.

Mind you that this new line-up is no less than incredible; drummer Michael Walden full-fills with blasting and unpredictable fills, Jean-Luc Ponty shines like he always has done, Ralph Armstrong plays some thrilling bass lines and Mahavishnu himself is no less than extraordinary, as you should expect. Gayle Moran is the only member of this line-up that doesn't spark as you would expect, she's a subtle though efficient jazzy keyboard player, but Jan Hammer who played in the original line-up really overshadows her, the main reason of this is that Gayle doesn't play any solos, so what this new line-up doesn't have that made so characteristic of the first line-up are those breathtaking duels between guitar, synths and violin, though that does not take that there will be exceptional duels between Ponty's violin and John's guitar allthrough this record.

The overall result is an original blend of Classical arrangements and Jazz Rock interpolations, the former obviously being played by the Symphony and the later by the original band. Mind you this is not like Time and a Word by Yes in which the orchestra or symphony plays along the musicians on board, Apocalypse is very much in the style of Jon Lord compositions in which both Classical and Rock appear but both have their separate turn and rarely touch each other: both have their own separate moment.

Exception to the ''rule'' would be the opener, Power of Love, in which showcases a delightful and gentle orchestral arrangement led by John's sweet, slow paced, acoustic guitar. A beautiful entry to this album which reminds me of John's tranquil, though mind-opening work on Natural Elements by Shakti.

The next song, Vision is a Naked Sword, on the other hand sticks to the ''rule'' of each having their own turn; starting with the orchestra in a very glorious and powerful way, all soon to fade and let the jazz rock band come-in and do what they know best: play Jazz Rock. This song pretty much sums up what this line-up was capable of producing; Jean-Luc Ponty with his electric violin shining underneath the orchestra and over-top John's guitar, Michael Walden delivering always strong and unpredictable drumming, Ralph adds every now and then some cool bass lines, Gayle some typical jazzy keyboards, finally John with a wah-wah sends us an unforgettable frenetic solo spot, and of course the London Symphony Orchestra with the main role of playing the central theme in that glorious and powerful way I mentioned before.

Carries on, Smile of the Beyond, in which starts-off sweetly like Power of Love with the smooth Orchestra, this time with Gayle Moran's lovely vocals! However, unlike the opener, Smile of the Beyond does have the separate turns well-defined, after the 4 minutes of the charming orchestra it all becomes an up-lifting Jazz Rock fest with McLaughlin and Ponty taking the lead with some astonishing solos.

The album continues in the same vein with Wings of Karma, introductory part made by the London Symphony Orchestra, while the main attraction being made by the rock-instrumentalists.

Finally the 19 minute Hymn to Him is the peak of the whole band (including the symphony orchestra). If you need music that mixes both classical and jazz/rock in such an extraordinary and original way, you either recur to this or the First Movement of the Concerto for Group and Orchestra written by Jon Lord. Hymn to Him has it all, besides amazing jazzy sections and magnificent orchestral sections, and even a mind-blowing duel between both; this proves that John can make really outstanding music without having to be technical in any way like their first two albums had to be.

Apocalypse ends up being a real eruption of incredibly gorgeous and exciting fresh music, that is if you can handle an Orchestra in your music in which it has a main role as a theme and mood settler. If you can't handle that, you'll either find this boring after some few minutes which happened to me when I first heard this or will just say this isn't the real Mahavishnu Orchestra just because it doesn't have much of the fierce and raw jazziness and rock prowess their first two albums had.

Mind you, this album is not strictly for Jazz Rock/Fusion fans, open-minded Symphonic fans might want to have a peek at this as well. All in all a really emotional, powerful and progressive album, which deserves no less than 5 stars.

The Quiet One | 5/5 |

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