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


Mahavishnu Orchestra


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.27 | 886 ratings

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4 stars Here is a fine example of what really defines the term progressive! By 1969, the musical world was still blues-rock based, short poppy tunes aimed at the dance floor or the airwaves and generally comprised guitar, bass, drums and organ with a strong focus on vocals. With the advent of new technology (synthesizers) and the introduction of old school instruments (violin, sax) played by serious and young music students who were attracted by the counterculture (yes, sex, drugs and rock 'n roll), the sonic universe leapt mightily forward, progressing towards new unattained horizons. This is where the term 'progressive rock' came from (sorry, had to state it!).

With a gifted and original guitarist such as Englishman John MacLaughlin , a masterful genius of technique and tone, a muscular drummer in Billy Cobham from Panama , keyboard whiz and Czech refugee Jan Hammer , master American violinist Jerry Goodman and bassist Rick Laird from Dublin, Eire , this Mahavishnu Orchestra simply devastated that nascent scene with sheer bombastic virtuosity and uncommon flair. They remain arguably one of the pioneering bands of the new rock movement, blurring the line between Rock, Jazz, Pop and creating what is now universally known as 'fusion'. Not surprising that Carlos Santana would unite with MacLaughlin, as the Chicano fretmeister would soon espouse the teachings of guru Sri Chinmoy and search for the 'Emerald Beyond'!

This monumental recording was the first installment of a series of colossal Mahavishnu Orchestra recordings (Birds of Fire and Visions of the Emerald Beyond are of course legendary) and sounds as devastating in 2012 as it did in 1971 when it took the world by storm. I remember the shock and awe of its appearance on turntables and the blizzard effect it had on young impressionable music fans. One word = disbelief!

No time is wasted on pretty intros, 'Meeting of the Spirits' has that same wondrous feel that permeated Santana's Caravanserai, slithering carpets of synths and polyrhythmic drum jubilation that lay the foundation for John to flutter over his electric guitar, the violin in tow. Hammer's e-piano revels in the mid-section showing clearly that he is no electronics-only wizard, as he is shamelessly playing tag with Goodman's screeching instrument. The precious fragility of 'Dawn' is there to behold, a dreamy and elegant instrumental lament that conjures images of an awakening sun, soon to be bold. At the time, no one outside of Hendrix played such a dizzying style of e-guitar, blessed with demonic speed and insane diversity that pioneered more than a few future maestros. Precious loveliness.

'Noonward Race' is just like the title implies a speed freak jam with frantic and exalted soloing from Goodman, Hammer and the Mac himself. All of course delivered at Indy 500 velocity and Swiss timing precision. Cobham is a whirling drum dervish, using his Gatling gun technique to devastating effect, as he did throughout his MO career.

'A Lotus on Irish Streams' is a serene Chinmoy (pun) reprieve, gently bucolic, pastoral and aromatic. Mac prefers using his acoustic talents with the violin coasting its slithering beauty amid the pooling piano rivulets. Meditative and ponderous.

Things get scorching and sweaty again with the forceful 'Vital Transformation', where loopy pyrotechnics are propelled monstrously by skillful drumming and careening guitars, all at quasi-supersonic speeds. The musical definition of delirium if I ever heard one! I could only imagine the shock when listeners first hooked up with this vortex of bewilderment!

'The Dance of the Maya' releases an electrified slinky riff that suggests both historical doom and dense vegetation, furious guitar clanging entwined with agonizing violin that suddenly erupts into a bluesy e-piano led funk. Cobham bashes away in an unusual sweaty manner, cymbals ablaze whilst John's guitar races wildly within a lightning blitzed furrow that addresses both the past and the future brilliantly. Relentless, obsessive and utterly manic.

My fave 'You Know, You Know' is obscurely remote and suave, groovy e-piano, shuffling drums and a repetitive bass figure set the tone for a slow-developing MacLaughlin scratch that veers on the sublime, a sensational and original moody jam that thrills in its lack of blistering notes.

The teetering between tame and wild continues with a preposterously boisterous finale that will wake you up by its sheer maximum velocity and artistic dexterity. The musicians demonstrate true jazz tendencies, each creating their own sonic bubble and when called upon, stellar on-a-dime interplay. John unleashes a blazing solo that defies logic in time and space and Cobham turbocharges ahead like some percussive locomotive.

Scary stuff that will develop into two future masterpieces.

4 clandestine flares

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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