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Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds Of Fire CD (album) cover

BIRDS OF FIRE

Mahavishnu Orchestra

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.34 | 1369 ratings

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Articuno1
5 stars After the stunning debut of Inner Mounting Flame, I dont think anyone could have expected a follow up more skilled, more musical, more brilliant. But they got one in this incredible masterpiece, Birds of Fire. The group chemistry, already excellent, became almost transcendent in unison and artistic power. John McLaughlin kept up his blazing guitar work, while Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman took more assertive roles with piano and violin. Rick Laird's bass was forced to deal with even more complex rythyms and came through swimmingly, while Billy Cobham's drums added energy and precision to the group. This album comes across as a more balanced work than the debut. McLaughlin gives his fellow members more of a chance to shine, and the resulting sharing of wealth allows for more artistic variation. The title track, the opener, starts the album off with ominous arpeggios of guitar and a shreiking, soulful electric violin. Soon guitar and violin go into a duel of simply amazing virtuosity, all over the rich foundation of cymbals and rythym. Miles Beyond is a tribute to Miles Davis, with whom McLaughlin had worked in the past. Bass and keyboards open this slower-midtempo piece, then violin joins the song. The guitar keeps fairly subdued and is used only mutedly until the end of the piece, for great effect. Celestal Terrestial Commuters shows off Jan Hammer's "new toy", the Mini-Moog, while other members of the ensemble keep up the groove. Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love is really weird... you lovers of Electronic Prog might get it, but it seems to be a bunch of spacey sound effects played over sped up violin and guitar. It is only 21 second, though, and serves almost as a comical break before the next, more serious acoustic piece.

That next piece is the excellent Thousand Island Park. It is the only acoustic work on the whole album, and piano, bass and guitar unite without the other members for a beautiful change of pace. Hope is kind of a let down for me. It is very good, to be sure, but seems too short for its grand, ascending theme. One Word, however, is brilliant. It may be my favorite jazz fusion song of all time. One Word features the technical brilliance of Billy Cobham, from the blazing drum roll fade in to the mid-piece solo. Guitar, violin, and keyboards also all get workouts in this driving up-tempo beauty. Sanctuary is slower, almost mournful in tone, but very expressive and well played, with emphasis on violin. Open Country Joy starts lighter, with an appropriately pastoral performance by Jerry Goodman and Hammer. It then transforms into something still light, but now with the strength of guitar and a slightly Mooged keyboard. It then returns to the original country theme... the transformations must be heard to be fully appreciated.

The appropriately titled Resolution ends the album by building up a scale with violin and power guitar. It keeps on building and building, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the final violin hold and drum roll out... the end of one of the greatest albums ever made in fusion. The skill and energy and balance between members who know what they are doing and know how to show it... it is a thing of great art. And it gets this reviewer's five stars.

Articuno1 | 5/5 |

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