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John McLaughlin - Where Fortune Smiles CD (album) cover


John McLaughlin

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars I always had problems consider this a full-fledged McLaughlin album, it is more of an equal partnership between him and saxman Surman. And to be quite truthful, this album sticks out like a sore thumb in McLaughlin's discography as it is probably the closest thing he ever did to free-jazz. This superstar line-up comprises legendary Dave Holland, Surman and McLaughlin, drummer Stu Martin and German vibraphonist Karl Berger.

For those fearing the free jazz etiquette I gave just above, please do not. Yes, the album does have strong atonal or dissonant intervention, but we are still far away from Ornette Coleman and Pharoah Sanders or Keith Tippet's later 70's works. The improv taking place in the opening Glancing Backwards contrast strongly with the cool jazz of Earth Bound Hearts (awful transcription to Cd, BTW on the BGO label), while the title track is more of a solo of vibraphone Berger (amazingly on a Surman composition). New Place picks up where the opening track had left off and is quite homage to the later Coltrane (just before his death) and actually quite a stunner. Actually this track is one of my fave in the improvised free- jazz genre. The following Hope is another corker and the more accessible on the album as the improvs stay in more conventional canvas.

A rather difficult album, and not really recommended as an intro to McLaughlin's career, not even in the first ten album.

Report this review (#94888)
Posted Wednesday, October 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars A great companion to McLaughlin`s phenomenal 1969 debut Extrapolation with a renewed association with supersaxman John Surman. Again, this is not really a McLaughlin solo effort but a collaborative effort with four outstanding musicians from the post bop school conducting elaborate free-form jazz experiments and sometimes is catologued under Surman`s name.

A rather less balanced album than Extrapolation with most of the excitement taking place early on, it contains only six tracks which are more or less improvisations over initially stated themes. Oddly, a vibraphone, which is mis-identified as a piano here on progarchives, replaces the prefered keyboards of the day such as the Hammond organ or a Fender-Rhodes piano. It definitely offers some contrast and we even get to hear a piece centered around this instrument. As for McLaughlin`s playing, he`s much more focused and sure of himself than on the patchy My Goals Beyond, where he can`t decide whether he`s a jazz-man or a raga-man while appearing as a Jimi Hendrix re-incarnation on the psychedelic Devotion, both of which are also from the 1970-71 period. He sounds like a jazzman more than ever here and Dave Holland`s double bass gives the quintet an even "jazzier" feel. Although devoid of any fusion or rock influences McLaughlin`s playing does get devious at times foreshadowing some elements of the firebreathing Mahavishnu Orchestra with heated exchanges between guitar, saxophone and vibes.

Overshadowed by the onslaught of the fusion jazz movement which turned ears away from purer forms of jazz which were uncontaminated with technological advancements and rock influences, Where fortune Smiles contains some innovative contemporary jazz in the free form mode which is worth turning the clock back for. Although a double CD package with Extrapolation would be a godsend, an additional ecclectic live recording of Surman & drummer Stu Martin from 1974 is available on a 2 CD set.

Report this review (#119970)
Posted Friday, April 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Though it is often regarded as an album recorded under the leadership of guitarist John McLaughlin, Where Fortune Smiles is more truthfully an equal collaboration between McLaughlin and saxophonist John Surman. Recorded in 1970 and released the following year, this is an ambitious free-jazz release that hardly resembles the style of fusion that McLaughlin is most renowned for. With its loose structure and dissonant melodies, Where Fortune Smiles may not be an album for everybody, but it's still an interesting purchase for curious jazz collectors.

As I've previously mentioned, Where Fortune Smiles should not be looked at as a John McLaughlin solo observation, and maybe even viewing it as a collaboration between McLaughlin and Surman is a bit unfair. Although all of the tracks are credited to the aforementioned musicians, the compositions are so loose in their structure that the direction of the music largely depends on where the soloist decides to take the piece and how bassist Dave Holland and drummer Stu Martin decide to hold the song together. It's a challenging listen for sure, especially if you're not well-versed in free jazz, but each track still has a distinct melody to latch onto. The solos are consistently enjoyable, with Karl Berger's frantic vibraphone work stealing the show for me. The man's playing is simply outstanding, and the other musicians deliver great performances as well.

Some of the tracks here - namely, "Glancing Backwards", "New Place, Old Place", and "Hope" - are totally off the wall jam sessions, but there are some more mellow tracks to break up the madness with "Earth Bound Hearts" and "Where Fortune Smiles". The former features some nice soloing from John Surman, and the latter has some great melodic playing from both John McLaughlin and Karl Berger. While I wouldn't call either of them particularly standout tracks, they serve as effective breaks from the dense and highly improvisational nature of the other tunes.

On the whole, it's a bit tough to recommend Where Fortune Smiles since it is such an improvisational and difficult listen, but I don't think avant-jazz aficionados would regret picking this one up at all. While I personally demand a bit more structure from my jazz music, I still found plenty to enjoy here. Where Fortune Smiles is a cool little album from a quintet that I wish recorded more material, and while it may not be essential, it's a nice bridge between free jazz, post-bop, and fusion.

Report this review (#912321)
Posted Sunday, February 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The truth about this rare album is that it was released originally as John Surman's work, but the later reissue was credited to John McLaughlin for pure marketing purposes.

Anyway, this music is quite different from anything released by McLaughlin before or after. This album features an excellent team of jazz musicians, (rhythm section of Dave Holland and Stu Martin) and they sound great. Surman's reeds lead the band, but they are sometimes pulled down by Karl Berger's busy vibraphone work. McLaughlin is the composer of most of the album's songs and the only other composer is Surman.

The music itself is free-form knotty complex free jazz with only a few fusion licks. This isn't an excellent record, but it makes for an interesting example of an almost unknown side to McLaughlin's music.

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Report this review (#1379582)
Posted Sunday, March 8, 2015 | Review Permalink

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