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John McLaughlin - The Promise CD (album) cover


John McLaughlin

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars McLaughlin hit a real high during the mid '90's; a trio of great albums - "Time Remembered" (acoustic); "After the Rain" (electric, jazz); and then finally this - "The Promise" - an experimental, fusion album with a bevy of great guest players. "English Jam" - unfortunately running in at under 2 minutes - features JM, Sting, and Vinnie Colaiuta trading licks; "Django" features Jeff Beck; "El Ciego" sees McLaughlin, Al Dimeola and Paco De Lucia reunited on acoustice guitars. Not all tracks suceed all the time, but you can't deny the ambition of the man. My favourite - "No Return" with JM on keyboards and guitar, and Joey DeFrancesco - primarly a Hammond player - on trumpet; a simple, almost banal riff, but one that gets under your skin for all of its 7:20, and stays with you long after. If you like jazz fusion - this should be in your collection.
Report this review (#99848)
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars "There`s always the promise of something new, good or bad. That`s what the title means: The Promise. You don`t know what it is, but you know there`s a promise of something different around every corner. " - John McLaughlin, 1996

With recording locations as diverse as the artists which appear on this retrospective ( although McLaughlin himself doesn`t see it that way ) this album has often been compared by many to 1978`s " Johnny McLaughlin Electric Guitarist ". Nonetheless, he seems to be a very happy guitarist on every track on "The Promise" which ranges from searing fusion jams ( Jazz Jungle ) to short minitature experimentals ( Tokyo Decadence, English Jam ). It also certainly reflects his musical learning curve which has in the past included influences from the Mississipi delta blues to Ravel even if, at times, the music can sound like it has bee heard before. But, after all this is a "retrospective" album.

McLaughlin`s touring band at the time, which included Joey DeFrancesco on organ and Dennis Chambers on drums appear together on a McLaughlin composition, Thelodious Melodious, a tribute to Thelonious Monk, on which John proves that he can really swing when he wants to. Both Chambers and DeFancesco also appear individually on other tracks on the album which features no fewer than six lineups and 16 musicians.A brief examination of some of the tracks will allow the potential listener an insight into this celebration of McLaughlin`s diversity, versatility and humility both as a human being and as a musician. Arguably, the centerpiece of the work is the 14+ minute free form fusion blowout, " Jazz Jungle " which features Jim Beard on keyboards, James Genus on bass, Dennis chambers on drums, Michael Brecker on sax and Don Alias on percussion. This sort of echoes where McLaughlin was on 1969`s " Extrapolation " albeit in an updated form. McLaughlin`s comment to his bandmates at the end of the mayhem sums up his enthusiasm : " Why did you stop there, I was just catching my second wind!". A second track from the same NYC session is included with David Sanborn`s exuberant saxophone replacing Michael Brecker which is more subdued but captures the same lively spirit.

McLaughlin actually formally studied East Indian music in the early seventies before forming the firebreathing Mahavishnu Orchestra which would ultimately lead to the formation of his acoustic Indian fusion endeavour, Shakti. " The Wish " includes a member from that group, Zakir Hussain, on tabla along with master drummer Trilok Gurtu on percussion and Nishat Khan on Sitar and seems to be a calling back to Indian music as McLaughlin would reform Shakti a half a decade later. A piece which provides a glimpse into both the past and future. A reunion with Paco DeLucia and Al DiMeola also seemed inevitable and we get a flamenco interlude with a cool ambient intro conjured up by McLaughlin using electronic effects.

Two of the less likely guests McLaughlin invited to this flamboyant shin-dig were Jeff Beck and Sting. Beck is in full form with his distinctive twangy guitar on the emotionally charged opening tribute to Django Reinhardt simply entitled "Django " which clocks in at a respectable 7 minutes plus. Not so with Mr. Sting whe he and John run up the electricity bill on the fiery " English Jam" which clocks in at a little less than 2 minutes. Maybe Sting had to catch a plane and McLaughlin was late for a wedding. Would have liked to hear more of this though.

Many more suprises are to be found on " The Promise " from a Monty Python clip, readings from Dante and ambient environmentaleffects. Mention may also be made about McLaughlin`s respect for technology. Even after the 11 years which have elapsed since this collection of recordings was released it still sounds futuristic with midi guitar treatments and other synnthesized effects.An introspective offering from a true virtuoso and a testimony to the respect and admiration he has gained from his fellowmusicians. Sit back, relax and embrace John McLaughlin`s promise.

Report this review (#144854)
Posted Monday, October 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars If someone asks "What do John McLaughlin albums sound like?" , this is the answer. This recording flows through most of th myriad of styles that McLaughlin has touched upon throughout the years. There is be-bop, there is fusion, there is raga, latin jazz, even some electronica (thankfully short). Unfortunately, this album doesn't touch upon the magnificent bombastic fusion of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Luckily, it also does not go near the pop-ish drivel of the final album from the same group.

But every song here is performed well. However, the best rock-based tune, English Jam is far too short, with an awkward fade at the end.

This is not my favorite McLaughlin album, but it ranks pretty high up there.

Report this review (#292859)
Posted Saturday, July 31, 2010 | Review Permalink

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