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Mahavishnu Orchestra - John McLaughlin & Mahavishnu: Adventures In Radioland CD (album) cover


Mahavishnu Orchestra


Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.53 | 67 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
3 stars The 1980s were not kind to 70s pioneers of prog and jazz as the decade was one of the most engineered in terms of steering musical styles away from anything remotely similar to the decade before, at least in terms of major labels and what musical innovation that did come about gurgled up from the underground which gave rise to the alternative and experimental 90s to come. John McLaughlin was no exception as a former innovator stumbling around in the dark as his once forward thinking innovation had been supplanted by trying to keep up with the current trends, in his case fortifying his once feisty and innovative jazz-fusion with cheesy 80s synthesizer sounds which may have sounded good in the context of new wave and synthpop but somehow failed to capture the essence of the soul of what jazz-fusion represented.

After doing the unthinkable and resurrecting the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA name albeit with the truncated moniker MAHAVISHNU, McLaughlin released a couple of albums that sounded like nothing from his 70s tenure. Apparently following in the footsteps of other jazz artists dabbling in the world of synthesizer jazz in the vein of Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and more successfully Pat Metheny, McLaughlin startled his fanbase in 1984 with the release of the self-titled MAHAVISHNU album which showcased a synth-based approach which adopted some of the worst sounds the 80s had to offer and disgracing his canon with a rather lifeless limp representation of theoretical ideas that just didn't quite work out in practice. The album was panned and has been all but forgotten but McLaughlin was a determined one and decided to dabble in this stylistic approach for yet one more album.

Always basking in self-glory with the tagged on "with John McLaughlin" that was featured on the early MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA albums as well as with Shakti, technically speaking the 7th album ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND of this once excellent group was released under the name JOHN McLAUGHLIN AND MAHAVISHNU and emerged three years after the previous effort with a new cast of characters beckoning to McLaughlin's oft misguided whims. Out was original drummer Billy Cobham who attempted to make amends for past skirmishes but found the experience a bit underwhelming and in was drummer Danny Gottlieb, one of the founding members of the Pat Metheny Group who provided some of the newer stylistic approaches that McLaughlin adopted presumably hoping to cash in on the lighter and airier sounds that 80s jazz-fusion was implementing. The rest of the band remained the same as "Mahavishnu" with Jonas Hellborg on bass guitar, Bill Evans on saxophone and keyboards and Mitchel Forman exclusively on keyboards.

The self-titled MAHAVISHNU album sounded very much like a rough draft as the band stumbled upon one style after another but never really latched onto anything tangible despite a few worthy tracks. After three years of establishing a more uniform stylistic approach, ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND proved to be a much more developed continuation of this 80s synth-based jazz-fusion sound albeit very much in the theme of the more chilled out approach of the Pat Metheny Group. Despite McLaughlin's outstanding success of the prior decade, he had clearly fallen out of the relevance pool and struggled to find any label that would release ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND but finally found a sympathetic ally with the Wounded Bird Records, a fitting title for the mastermind behind the classic masterpiece "Birds Of Fire" which once flew so high and mighty that like Icarus seemed to have flown too close to the sun only to have his wings suffer a serious meltdown.

Perhaps one of McLaughlin's least known albums of his massive productive career, ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND is actually a step up in quality and cohesion from the lackluster "Mahavishnu" that preceded it. Unlike that album, this one showcases a return to excellent instrumental interplay with John's feisty guitar style coming back to life along with excellent keyboard runs form Forman made all the more jazz worthy with Bill Evans' talented saxophone works. The tracks are all distinct from another and the return to jazz-based compositions instead of souped up funk was indeed a wise choice as the album does delve into the extremities of traditional jazz and flamenco styles.

Surprisingly ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND holds up quite well as a uniform and consistent listening experience although the over reliance on drum machines and synthesizers gives the album a dated feel that feels a bit hollow and sterile. The production is particularly shoddy with that thin tinny sound notorious of mid-80s releases. While not nearly as detestable as the 1984 precursor, this followup nonetheless suffered from an over reliance on Metheny copycatism and electronic drum overload. While compositionally sound, this album unfortunately was not worthy of falling under the MAHAVISHNU moniker and has been all but forgotten as new generations discover the magnificence of the band's first lineup and earliest masterpieces. While not a bad album and even fantastic on tracks such as "Florianapolis," The Wall Will Fall" and "Mitch Match," ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND only excels in creating a moment in time that made true disciples of the mighty MAHAVISHNU scratch their heads in dismay. Interestingly good but by no means essential. This would be the end of the road for anything MAHAVISHNU related until the archival release of "The Lost Trident Session" emerged in 1999.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |


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