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Mastermind - Excelsior! CD (album) cover

EXCELSIOR!

Mastermind

 

Eclectic Prog

3.87 | 31 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Dick Heath
Special Collaborator
Jazz-Rock Specialist
4 stars Best Jazz Rock Album of 1999.

There have been several attempts by bands to recreate the sound of the legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra. The Mahvishnu Project, with a line up of jazz musicians, recently pulled it off, impressing Johh McLaughlin to boot. The Japanese band Kennedy did a knock-about version of the "Birds Of Fire" tune, on their "Live" album (Musea Records). However, to me "Excelsior!" is the best recording with the feel of Mahavishnu, without the wholesale lifting of compositions and arrangements. The addition of Swedish keyboard master Jens Johansson to the brothers Berends, is inspired - Johansson is the modern day Jan Hammer. When not doing his night shift job with Stratavarious keeps reminding us elsewhere, that he is a major league keyboard player - check out the Jens Johansson section in the Archives. Apparently, Mastermind started out aiming for a tight, instrumental, heavy progressive album. Instead, they have managed to go much further and produce a latterday jazz rock gem. (It should be noted their European record label SPV insisted the term "jazz rock" be avoided in publicity - but what do record companies know?)

All tunes here are excellent. The opening track "On The Road By Noon" is an obvious reference to MO's "Noonward Race", but is no slavish copy. While there is the tight interplay (i.e. one of the hallmarks of Mahavishnu O, heard as call and response between two or three lead instruments), the arrangements and excellent playing skills on "Excelsior!" differ. Bill Berends has claimed he is an inferior guitarist to McLaughlin, but what he produces here is free of the obvious progressive rock cliches: it is fresh and grips you. And then there is a lot to be said about the synergism generated by between Berends and Johansson, it is phenomenal. (To hear the same musicians but in a completely different context playing music of equal excellence, check out Mastermind's follow-up album "The Angels of the Apocalypse" and especially the superior version of ELP's "Endless Enigma"). Add to this all sound effects rarely heard since the beginning of the 70's (e.g ring modulators), then you have a special album

Dick Heath | 4/5 |

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