Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Mahavishnu Orchestra

Jazz Rock/Fusion

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Mahavishnu Orchestra Visions of the Emerald Beyond album cover
3.89 | 354 ratings | 30 reviews | 28% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Eternity's Breath Part 1 (3:10)
2. Eternity's Breath Part 2 (4:48)
3. Lila's Dance (5:34)
4. Can't Stand Your Funk (2:09)
5. Pastoral (3:41)
6. Faith (2:00)
7. Cosmic Strut (3:28)
8. If I Could See (1:18)
9. Be Happy (3:31)
10. Earth Ship (3:42)
11. Pegasus (1:48)
12. Opus 1 (0:15)
13. On the Way Home to Earth (4:34)

Total Time 39:58

Line-up / Musicians

- John McLaughlin / 6- & 12-string guitars, vocals
- Gayle Moran / keyboards, vocals
- Jean-Luc Ponty / violins (electric & baritone electric) (10 solo)
- Ralphe Armstrong / bass, double bass, vocals
- Michael Walden / drums, percussion, clavinet, vocals

- Bob Knapp / flute, trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals
- Russell Tubbs / alto & soprano saxes
- Steven Kindler / 1st violin (5 solo)
- Carol Shive / 2nd violin, vocals
- Phillip Hirschi / cello

Releases information

Artwork: Chris Poisson (" Ashok")

LP Columbia - PC 33411 (1975, US)

CD Columbia - 467904 2 (1991, Europe) Remastered by Larry Keyes
CD Columbia ‎- CK 46867 (1991, US) Remastered by Larry Keyes

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Visions of the Emerald Beyond Music

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Visions of the Emerald Beyond ratings distribution

(354 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(28%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Visions of the Emerald Beyond reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Owl
4 stars A deleriously wonderful mix of spiritual, funky and just downright fun! A wonderful party of Indian, classical, fusion and funk pulled together by Johnny Mac and company! I even got a kick out of the hysterical laughter at the end of "Pastoral" (violinist Carol Shive laughing at the ridiculous speed at which the ending passage is played). "Eternity's Breath", "Lila's Dance", "Can't Stand Your Funk" and "Faith" are real standouts here!
Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Keeping the Apocalypse line-up intact (minus the orchestra, of course) and adding a brass section, which will be playing the whole of Apocalypse at the Festival of Montreux in 74 (now available on DVD); VotEB is more a return to the fiery force of the debut album, even if we could call this album jazz-funk, rather than jazz-rock. Indeed with Miles' Big Fun, Weather Report's Mysterious Traveller, the jazz rock thing had now shifted to jazz-funk, partly because of Vitous' departure (replaced by Afro-American Alfonso Johnson) from WR and in MO's case Laird's replacement with another Afro-American Ralph Armstrong. Sooooo, keeping the Apocalypse quintet, plus the small string section also present on that album, Mc also hired a brass section, that had played in concerts previous to this album, among which the Montreux Festival of 74 (on DVD), where the full Apocalypse was played and the brass had to invent their own role. Graced with a superb artwork, reminiscent of BoF, this album returns to more sober form of jazz-rock, consisting of shorter tracks (except for the opener conveniently split in two), but does often fray into funk territory as well, which was not only keeping with the times but also suggesting the next album.

One of the most striking feature in this album is the presence of much singing, done by Gayle Moran, backed mostly by Narada (he would sing he Inner World) and to a lesser extent Armstrong and Mc himself. The opening 8-mins Eternity's Breath certainly contains loads of signing (all things considered for MO), but retains the same great spirit of their previous works, the only negative remark I have is for Ponty's too strident violin parts in the closing minutes. Lila's Dance starts on an ascending riff, again reminiscent of MkI, but soon drifts into bizarre (at first) break where Ponty rules, then Mc takes over with a Hendrix passage before both take up the opening ascending riff in unison answered by the brass section, before slowly segueing into Can't Stand Your Funk, where the brass section and strings make this track something grandiose, much like Papa Was A Rollin Stone. With evocative bird singing and Ponty's violin, backed up by the string section (Hirsh's cello works wonders in setting bass drones when needed), Pastoral is almost a rip off from Stravinsky's Rites of Spring and Beethoven's Sixth. The same birds lead us into the guitar arpeggios of Faith, before Armstrong and Narada take the debate up to Ponty's violin and a weird ending.

The flipside, which is something I consider a side-long suite, not only because of the space-theme track titles, but songs melting into each other, the flipside starts on the funky Narada-penned Cosmic Strut, which directly shows the funk of its mood, with again a great brass section underlining and strings backing up, but I find nothing cosmic into it. The atrocious but thankfully short If I Could See (where Moran's soprano vocals are cringey) leads into the 200 mph Be Happy where the group is obviously so through the many chord changes in the closing section. Earth Ship is a very calm track, sung by Gayle over her electric piano and accompanied by a lovely flute and Mc's gentle guitar, shares a pure ethereal beauty and leading us into the short Pegasus and its almost Gong-like space whispers, complemented by the ultra short Strav-like Opus 1, before Mc's mean guitar sends us light years away aboard his spaceship, shooting the hell out of interfering path-crossing asteroids, before landing us back into our seats, where Cosmic Strut had torn us from.

Partly because of the increase in vocal content, shorter tracks and the funk element, I had long seen this album as a lesser ingredient of MO's oeuvre and the first signs of decrepitude, but this album is grower on me of late. While not of IMF, BoF, BNaE, LTS and Apocalypse's calibre, VotEB remains a jewel in MO's crown of king of progressive jazz-rock.

Review by Philo
3 stars It is certainly arguable that John McLaughlin should have abandoned the Mahavishnu Orchestra name after the original band broken up in 1973. For they were without a doubt were an original, unique and intense unit that anything released under the Mahavishnu Orchestra name afterwards could never match the powerful Inner Mounting Flame and Birds Of Fire albums. McLaughlin tried an alternative with the George Martin produced orchestration of Apocalypse, and then again a more conventional line up with this effort and though not bad as an album it does not reach the scale of the original band. Yet McLaughlin claimed the unit responsible for this album, including violinist Jon Luc Ponty, was real deal, and somewhat naively I would feel. McLaughlin is a fine musician and perhaps the finest guitarist of his generation as well as a capable composer but the Visions Of The Emerald Beyond is a pale imitation of what came before it under the banner of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Even the cover looks like a tired imitation of the Birds Of Fire album cover artwork. Some cool funk on "Can't Stand Your Funk" freshens things up nicely and there must be a loose concept to this album, I'm not sure. I have it on vinyl and it contains zero information beside the song titles and composers, which again are mainly McLaughlin works but drummer Michael Walden gets a credit for "Cosmic Strut" and a few of the songs have space influenced titles. Unusually though this album has a very rough production and a very muddy mix. Overall Visions Of The Emerald Beyond is a very tame, almost safely constructed album missing the fireworks that were the trade mark of the early Mahavishnu Orchestra yet it still good enough to warrant a purchase.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After they recorded three intense albums during 1971-1973, the personnel of Mahavishnu Orchestra changed completely for the second version of the group. A reformation of the group in 1974 brought Jean-Luc PONTY on board to play violin, along with a host of new supporting musicians. Gayle Moran, whom I knew the first time with Return To Forever is taking keyboard and vocal jobs. Rick Laird whom previously played bass is now replaced by Ralphe Armstrong while Billy Cobham is replaced by Michael Walden.

The band still maintains its music approach and style with previous album. Through this album the band brings in a bit of blues style into its songwriting approach. The opening tracks "Eternity's Breath Part 1" (3:10) and "Eternity's Breath Part 2" (4:48) sound like one track with blues based rhythm section, inventive violin solos and excellent vocal ine by Gayle Moran. The exploration of guitar and violin result into balanced harmony. John McLaughlin sometimes injects his guitar solos in some transitions as well as in the body of the song. "Lila's Dance" (5:34) continues the music stream of previous tracks with more bluesy touch but with longer guitar solo by John McLaughlin.

As the title imply "Can't Stand Your Funk" (2:09) gives funky soul to the album through a combination of bass guitar, guitar rhythm and brass section. This can be paradoxical with the fact that it actually rejects funk but the music was composed with funk groove. The next track "Pastoral" (3:41) is more on exploration of violin solo with acoustic guitar. The music offers great combination of brass section and guitar / violin solos with some vocal line. This is one of excellent jazz rock fusion album. This can be observed obviously at "Faith" (2:00) - "Cosmic Strut" (3:28) - "If I Could See" (1:18) - "Be Happy" (3:31) where John gives his stunning guitar solos and fills all way through from start to finish. Jean-Luc Ponty injects his dazzling violin work in some segments. He sometimes provides long solo augmented with upbeat music. I truly believe that after his involvement with Mahavishnu Orchestra, his virtuosity was widely recognized by many people, even though he already started his career since 1964 with more jazz music. Jean-Luc Ponty's solo albums like "Cosmic Messenger", "Imaginary Voyage", "Enigmatic Ocean" and "Mystical Adventures" are excellent addition to any prog music collection.

"Earth Ship" (3:42) provides musical break with a mellow music, violin, guitar and vocal line. The album concludes excellently with "On The Way Home To Earth" (4:34) which contains distorted sounds of guitar combined wonderfully with dynamic drum solo through the passages of the song. It's initially like a jamming among musicians but in the later part there is guitar solo which gives melody line of the song.

Overall, this is a highly recommended album especially for those who like jazz-rock fusion with many improvisations of guitar and violin. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars I was reminded a lot of Jean-Luc Ponty's "Enigmatic Ocean" when listening to this record for some reason. Oh yeah, it's because Jean-Luc plays on it ! The first three songs are amazing. Some Funk added to this one as well as vocals, so it's different from the first two classics but of course we have a different lineup too. Only John McLaughlin is left at this point from that classic lineup.

"Eternity's Breath Part 1" features some fantastic drumming from the new guy Michael Walden, and the lower end guitar tone is great, while the violin melodies come and go."Eternity's Breath Part 2" opens with horns and light drums, and features the same vocal melody as part 1 that states "Love supreme, supreme". There is some intricate guitar work that turns into a soaring melody, and then the violin comes in. More amazing drums and piano. "Lila's Dance" opens with some beautiful piano. Lots of violin, and at 3 minutes the drums, guitar and violin melody is awesome.

"Can't Stand Your Funk" is well...funky. "Pastoral" is well...pastoral. "Faith" opens with acoustic guitar and then drums are added.The song ends with guitar and violin. "Cosmic Strut" is a good song, the guitar is great ! The vocals are back on "If I Could See". "Be Happy" is where the guitar and violin set the soundscape on fire. Yes it's uptempo and happy. "Earth Ship" is slower paced, kind of spacey. "Pegasus" is spooky sounding throughout. "On the Way Home To Earth" is another very good song. Opening with clanging cymbals and strange guitar noises. Drums come in, and then we are treated to some amazing, scorching guitar.

Not as good as the first two or "The Lost Trident Sessions" but man this is excellent.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "Can't stand your funk". . .indeed

"Visions of the emerald beyond" is the second album by the reformed Mahavishnu Orchestra, and thus the second to feature violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. Recorded in New York over a period of just 11 days, the album has a welcome diversity and energy which contrasts well with the first line up's work. Ponty more or less shares centre stage on equal terms with John McLaughlin, but it is arguably Gayle Morgan's contributions on keyboards (especially piano) and vocals which characterise the album. On "If I could see" she strikingly adds some unexpectedly angelic vocalising.

Admittedly, Ponty's virtuoso work on violin is compelling, and McLaughlin's guitar is predictably excellent (if rather sparse), but on songs such as the two part opener "Eternity's breath", Morgan provides the perfect foundations for their performances. On "Lila's dance" the delicate piano bookends belie the almost Hendrix like burst of guitar pyrotechnics which are at the core of the piece.

Personally, I could have lived without the brass arrangements which adorn many of the tracks. They add little to the overall quality, but give the album an unnecessary funky element.

The aforementioned diversity is especially noticeable on tracks such as "Pastoral" an almost classical violin based piece, and "Faith" which has more themes in the space of 2 minutes than most entire albums.

Those who expect Mahavishnu albums to simply be a vehicle for the talents of John McLaughlin should approach this album with some caution. For want of a better pun, he largely plays second fiddle to Ponty here. In all though, an enjoyable and reasonably accessible album which would have been so much better had the funk elements been suppressed.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The true Mahavishnu Orchestra

I'm sure that after reading this review many members will strongly disagree with me, being that most of the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA consider "Birds of Fire" as the greatest artistic expression of McLaughlin and company, but I have to be honest with the visitors who read this review, and most important have to be honest with me, so I will proceed.

I read reviews in which the authors describe the original MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA formation as close to perfection, also others who believe that after Goodman, Cobbham and Hammer left, the band should had changed the name, I respect all this opinions, but I respectfully disagree, in my opinion "Visions of the Emerald Beyond" is by far the best album of this band.

It's true that Goodman is a force of nature and a brilliant performer, but the addition of Jean- Luc Ponty, with his amazing classical formation and melodic style, added the melodic component that MAHAVISHNU required,. they ceased to be mainly a Jazz band that adds other genres, to be a Progressive band that completely blends Jazz, Rock and even Classical music with a delicate touch, less frenetic than the previous incarnation, but I believe much more coherent.

Until "Apocalypse", I respected MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA and John McLaughlin very much, but they never convinced me completely, lets remember I rated "Birds of Fire" with 3.5 stars but being that this is impossible in our system, played with the possibility of 3 or 4 stars, but due to the importance of the album and the skills of the musicians, went for the higher rating.

As I said before, MAHAVISHNU sacrifice the Free Jazz spirit they had, but the price they paid was fair, they became a more structured, solid and melodic band that is easier to listen by non Fusion fanatics like me, with more pleasure and understanding; If before I listened an album and the skills gained my respect, now the music itself is the one tat captures me, the mystic beauty combined with Jazz, Rock and Classical is closer to my taste as Symphonic listener.

The whole album has really impressed me, but my favourite songs are:

the openers "Eternity Breath Part I and II" are two sides of the same coin, the strength of McLaughlin's guitar joins Ponty's melodic sense in the middle point between both musicians, each one playing in his own style but the second one making it softer, if Goodman threw away all the force of his violin, Ponty plays in a more subtle and structured mood, simply fantastic, and if we add the mysterious chants, we get two masterpieces.

"Can't Stand your Fun" is a delightful song from start to end, the Funk element added by the band places us before unexplored territory by MAHAVIDSHNU, but this doesn't mean they forget their Jazz roots and Rock component. They found the perfect equilibrium with the brilliant participation of Michael Walden, who doesn't make me miss Cobbham.

"Pastoral" is the confirmation that we are before a different band, Ponty performs a breathtaking solo in which the elements of Classical and Jazz combine as if both genres were created to fuse in some moment, the musicality and strong melody are the trademark of this new MAHAVISHNU.

"Faith" is one of those short racks that I wish could be turned into an epics, even when the band adds everything they have in their repertoire, the song is absolutely structured and coherent, no abuse of jamming, they follow a book adding their own talent..

And of course I can't end this review without mentioning "Earth Ship", an incredibly beautiful melody with Ponty adding his experimental violin and some chants in the vein of "Magma", another mystical contribution.

The rest of the tracks are in the same level, but I had to choose only the ones I was really impressed with, because I'm not a Fusion expert, but a guy who recognizes quality but overall knows what is closer to his taste, and loved this album from the first to the last note.

It's unusual for me to rate an album without any doubts, but in this case I have no doubts, "Visions of the Emerald Beyond" deserves five solid stars....At least in my book.

Review by The Quiet One
4 stars Another album with Birds of Fire on the cover....

Visions of the Emerald Beyond is the second album by the brand new line-up of Mahavishnu Orchestra. This new line-up, noticing from their previous effort, is less frantic, does not feature ultra-complicated passages, it's way more melodic and has a lot of subtleties, also exploring a bit more the funky side of things like most other jazz rock bands were doing at that time, and as a result a way more accessible kind of jazz rock.

However the previous album featured the London Symphony Orchestra, which this(the Symphony Orchestra) had a very important role in the music in which the new line-up might not have come-up as they wished they had, but don't get me wrong Apocalypse was(and is) one hell of a album. So Visions of the Emerald Beyond could be considered like the real debut album by this new line-up from the composition side of things, this featuring grandiose violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, the forgotten Michael Walden on the drums, the skilled Ralphe Armstrong on bass, and the subtle but efficient Gayle Moran on keyboards and vocals.

Opening with the double part Eternity's Breath you know you're in for a new treat, well organized symphonic-esque composition featuring a very powerful guitar/violin riff which engages you completely and commands you to crank up your stereo. Ponty and John are continuously dueling with absolutely mind-blowing solos, while Michael Walden delivers some very intense drumming which will confuse you and think you have Billy Cobham once again on board. One of the best openers I've heard in a long time, but far from being the exhausting and mood-builder as the openers featured in Birds of Fire and Inner Mountain Flame.

That's as far as how the opener goes anyways since Visions of the Emerald Beyond was made to listen to it all in one shot, no skipping tracks, since many of the tunes in here are connected with others, so I really can't point out a standout track since it's mainly the connection of two or even three tracks that really standout, like If I Could See with Be Happy or the already mentioned opener which is compromised by two tracks.

Overall one accessible Jazz Fusion album without the rawness of early Jazz Fusion records which many people might prefer, but this does not takes the greatness this album offers. Recommended to Jean-Luc Ponty fans and for anyone who is looking for more from the accessible side of Jazz Fusion/Rock but still maintaining it's originality. However for a more unique experience by this line-up, Apocalypse should be it.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Visions Of The Emerald Beyond" is the 4th full-length studio album by multi-national jazz rock/fusion act Mahavishnu Orchestra. The album was released through Columbia Records in February 1975.

"Visions Of The Emerald Beyond" features 13 tracks which are all relatively short. The longest track (and the highlight of the album) is "Lilaīs Dance" with itīs 5:34 minutes long playing time. The music style varies greatly from fast-paced fusion with an emphasis on soloing, to shorter arranged pieces and even a touch of hard rock in the opening track "Eternity's Breath". As a new feature there is brass section playing on some tracks on the album. There are some spiritual sounding vocal parts on the album too but the music is predominantly instrumental. I prefer the shorter arranged pieces, but like the case is with most of Mahavishnu Orchestraīs material, I find the compositions sligthly underdeveloped. Listen to a track like "Faith" as an example of that. While what goes on in itīs 2 minutes playing time is intriguing enough, I want more when it ends. Why does it end just when it gets started? Unfortunately thatīs the case with too many of the tracks on this album.

The musicianship is outstanding on the album and while I generally find the compositions underdeveloped, the high level of musicianship does work as a redeeming factor. The violin parts by Jean-Luc Ponty, the guitar parts (I enjoy his rythm work more than his soloing if I have to be honest) by John McLaughlin and the drumming by Michael Walden are all great assets to the bands sound. Bassist Ralph Armstrong and keyboard player Gayle Moran also contribute greatly to the wild instrumental excess that goes on.

The sound production is really strong and powerful although the guitar could have prospered from a better choice of sound.

If you donīt care much about developed, detailed and arranged compositions but put more emphasis on virtuosic playing this album is recommendable. Parts of "Visions Of The Emerald Beyond" appeal greatly to me, but thereīs simply too much of an unfinished feeling about most of these compositions for me to call the album excellent. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After an album with extended jams and full orchestra, Mahavishnu returned to the Birds of Fire formula. Even with the album art.

Next to Birds of Fire, this one had always been my favourite album of theirs. At least until the Trident Sessions came along.. While that is not in correspondence with the general appreciation of this album, it is hard to contest that this is their most versatile record. It is well composed; it has beautiful songs, fusion frenzy, jazzy touches, funk and heavily dramatic moments. I even like the vocals a lot on this one.

Though it has 13 titles for just 40 minutes, the songs flow smoothly into one another, and the album registers with me as one continuous listening experience. There's only one reason why I haven't marked 5 stars and that is because I need the extra star to single out the amazing Trident Sessions.

Review by CCVP
4 stars Those birds again?

Mahavishnu Orchestra is a band widely known in the jazz circles as one of the greatest embodiments of the jazz fusion movement, that had it's height from the late 60's to the mid 70's, that shared with progressive rock more than their golden years. This 1975 album, entitled Visions of Emerald Beyond, did not featured the majority famous classical line-up of the Orchestra (the only remaining member from the original band that is still playing here is John), but that does not mean that this album brings us anything less than the early Mahavishnu albums.

Actually, this very album shares with the much fabled Birds of Fire, the band's best selling and most famous album, not only the flaming birds, but they also share at least one more feature, at least in my view: they both appeal to me in the same degree. Beyond this point, the albums have not much in common: Birds of Fire feature a very aggressive, energetic and very powerful kind of jazz, which was played very fast and aggressively by the 5 band members alone, wile in Visions of the Emerald Beyond all those characteristics were clearly toned down, but at the same time the music retrieved some of the feeling and mood it had lost in that said 1973 album, with the addition of supporting personnel (string trio, saxes, brass instruments, flute and supporting vocals) and singing from the whole band. This album brings a bigger diversity of styles as well, when compared to Birds of Fire, which are connected or have some relation with jazz (mostly), classical music or progressive rock.

Despite those differences, this album is some kind of comeback for the band. That is because in 1974, with the brilliant and classical music-driven album Apocalypse, the band completely derailed from their initial approach, which was possibly traumatic for both the band and the fans, which were possibly not acquainted with such style of music. That still have consequences today, as Apocalypse has the second lowest rating from all albums released in the 70's, only losing to the mediocre Inner Words. However, the band's efforts resulted in a very good and distinguished album, but not a comeback, since, despite obviously being a jazz album, it could not be able to regain both the attention and the following the band had before, unfortunately.

Grade and Final Thoughts

All this diversity and the milder approach of the album makes Visions of the Emerald Beyond a very pleasant album to listen to. The album flows very smoothly as most songs, though being rather short, have some relation with another. It is a shame that this is the final good album recorded by Mahavishnu Orchestra. 4 stars for those visions, and I hope you are able to stand the funk!

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Well, this was the last great Mahavishnu Orchestra studio album. Apparently, John McLaughlin couldn't keep a lineup together for more than two albums back then (Robert Fripp, anyone?).

The songs are all relatively short, only one is over five minutes. So while they contain some great music, they rarely give the band any space to stretch out.

There are also some slight traces of what the band will become on the next album. Some funk licks begin rearing their ugly head from time to time. But still, the musicianship issuperb, and the songwriting, while not Mclaughlin's best, is still damn good.

Review by Warthur
3 stars The first studio album from the second Mahavishnu lineup to feature the band exclusively, unaccompanied by an orchestra, is an entertaining and competent fusion album, the main drawback of which is that it isn't much more than that. Whilst the original Mahavishnu lineup created gripping and compelling music with their every album, and their debut was an essential cornerstone of fusion, this time around the group sound just like every other fusion band that followed on from them - complete with a lack of really compelling ideas beyond retreading the original group's tricks.

It's a good enough listen if you are a fan of fusion, though if you're just starting to explore the genre I'd say there's plenty of albums in the genre - including the original lineup's studio albums - which should take priority over this one. Still, at least this time the band isn't upstaged by the LSO.

Review by Sinusoid
3 stars I'm going to put my experience with this group into perspective; I loved the first two Mahavishnu Orchestra albums and barely stomached the next two (the live NOTHINGNESS AND ETERNITY included), so I was hoping that VISIONS OF THE EMERALD BEYOND could be at least decent. Mission accomplished; I actually like plenty of what's going on here.

The group adds some funk flair, not just in the track with funk in its name (my choice pick), but in tracks like ''Cosmic Strut'' that employ brass tops which is new to the band. The orchestra is downplayed, only coming out for touches (except the short Opus towards the finish) to provide a security blanket, unlike the last studio effort in which the orchestra section were what drove songs. There's still interplay between McLaughlin and Ponty, and vocals appear far more often than before (notable in''Eternity's Breath'').

The first of ''Eternity's Breath'', the non-explicitly aforementioned ''Can't Stand Your Funk'', ''Pastoral'' and ''Faith'' are the strong tracks with the latter two bringing that beauty to an MO album we've come to expect at this point (unless this album is your first). The last four tracks seem to tie in some spaceship thing that Gong and Funkadelic did better even if JohnMac can make cool effects on the last track.

The real problem with me (this is an overall viewpoint) is that a band that is a collective of virtuoso talent and heavily dependent on that quality can only creatively sustain itself for so long. As is the case with MO, particularly since McLaughlin is the only person that has anything to do with their debut masterwork. I like that the tracks have shortened in length (not a fan of MO beyond the ten minute mark), and some of the pyrotechnics have subsided. But the band jumped the shark once the original lineup disintegrated in that it never was the same, even if VISIONS can get within earshot of earlier classics.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Masters of their craft.

After the blistering start to Mahavishnu Orchestra with the definitive jazz fusion of "The Inner Mounting Flame" and "Birds of Fire", it was the next step to add in some funk and alternative styles to the jazziness of the music. The band do that on this album yet retain the jamming improv style and manic time sig changes. John McLaughlin, guitarist extraordinaire, is the only sole survivor of the original lineup but he is joined by the stalwart company of Jean-Luc Ponty's electric violin, the percussion of Michael Walden, Ralph Armstrong's bass, and Gayle Moran's keyboards.

'Eternity's Breath' is a standout for the band especially 'Part 2' with Luc-Ponty's exquisite violin serrations. It also has a heavier guitar than the usual Mahavishnu and from the outset the music signifies a completely different approach. The electric guitars on Part 1 are heavier and the effervescent violin is an amazing embellishment.

'Lila's Dance' is a brilliant piece of music in a number of odd meters from 7/4 to 14/8 and even 5/4 at times. It is an amazing rhythm with searing fret melting lead work and astonishing percussion and violin. Simply stunning.

'Can't Stand Your Funk' is a jazz odyssey in funkadelic guitar rhythms and the odd trumpet blast and very ominous keyboards. The bassline is as funky as it gets embellished by nasty brass.

'Pastoral' begins with birds whistling and the electric violin generates a peaceful atmosphere. 'Faith' is a heavier percussion explosion with ascending violins and an angular guitar riff. 'Cosmic Strut' is another funky jazz piece with odd time sigs throughout that change often. The intro is in 9/8, there is a medial section with a guitar soloing in a 7/4 metrical progression, soon after the music is in 13/8, and at times 27/8. There is no doubting the virtuosity of the band with tracks like this.

'If I Could See' is a short piece with the soprano vocals of Gayle Moran and this is followed by 'Be Happy', a frenetic jazz blitzkrieg. McLaughlin cuts loose on lead gutar on a rhythmic percussive figure.he dynamic jamming and tempo is jaw dropping on this track. Jean Luc-Ponty joins on violin slicing back and forth with speed bow work. The duo trade off solos as in a duel. These two are masters of the craft.

'Earth Ship' has a very soft, gentle musicality with flute and bass over percussion brushes. The guitar is distant and the vocals are sleepy. 'Pegasus' follows as a short transition. 'Opus 1' and 'On The Way Home To Earth' begins with a spacey ambience of Tangerine Dream textures and synth sustain. It moves into a jam session of the fuzz guitar and extraordinary percussion by the lead break is McLaughlin at his best.

This album is a magnificent musical work of virtuosity at its highest level. It proves that the second incarnation of Mahavishnu Orchestra is as good as the original lineup and of course this is always going to be hailed as a masterpiece by many listeners. The music will keep many spellbound with its immeasurable creativity and powerful spirit.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars I couldn't agree with Ivan Melgar more: I always felt more engaged and satisfied by the second incarnation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The flash of the first incarnation never drew me back for reasons of pleasure, more for reasons of amazement and awe. And now, forty years later, I find Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire hardly listenable, while Visions and Apocalypse have a warmth and friendliness that invite me in and keep me wanting to come back. Understand: Goodman, Cobham, Laird and Hammer are amazing and impressive instrumentalists but it was like they were all just waiting for their turn to flash--to solo--not really making music or songs; second incarnation MU are cohesive band playing memorable music, playing songs. The first incarnation are jaw dropping amazing; the second incarnation produced music I want to listen to.
Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars After the first incarnation of the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA collapsed from the ego clashes and shock of sudden stardom, bandleader John McLaughlin wasted no time gathering a new batch of seasoned musicians to take the project into the next phase which borrowed some aspects of the power team of Jan Hammer, Billy Cobham, Rick Laird and Jerry Goodman but offered a more varied expansion to the already decorative fusion palette presented on the stunning classics "In The Mounting Flame" and "Birds Of Fire." The result was an equally ambitious followup titled "Apocalypse" which took on the grandiose additions of The London Symphony Orchestra embellishing the already jaw dropping jazz-rock-fusion techniques. Despite the possibility of a bloated disaster unfolding, McLaughlin despite his egotistic power control was possibly one of the top dogs in the highbrow world of progressive rock and jazz.

While this second rendition of the MAHAVISHNUs that featured Gayle Moran (keyboard, vocals), Jean-Luc Ponty (violins), Ralphe Armstrong (bass) and Michael Walden (drums) would last about as long as the first lineup, this particular congregation of artists continued the style heard on "Apocalypse" and jettisoned the orchestral elements. The result was the album VISIONS OF THE EMERALD BEYOND which focused more on a band effort which featured thirteen shorter tracks, none of which passed the six minute mark and for the first time the addition of a horn section from the help of guest musicians Bob Knapp on flute, trumpet and flugelhorn with Russell Tubbs on alto and soprano saxophones. If that wasn't enough, there were also two extra violinists, Steven Kindler and Carol Shive, the latter of which also contributed vocals in the mostly instrumental terrain that just missed the 40 minute mark. Add a bit of cello from Phillip Hirschi and VISIONS OF THE EMERALD BEYOND showcased yet another bizarrely unique mix of musical genres.

While the first three MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA albums were all about extremes whether they resulted in the fiery energetic frenzies of the first two albums or the more cerebral surreality of the orchestral followup, VISIONS OF THE EMERALD BEYOND comes off as much more of a crossover album which doesn't shy away from the crafty complexities that drift from tender blissful submission to the blitzkrieg soloing attacks of the guitar, keyboard and violin tradeoffs but rather has many more mainstream rock moments that feature McLaughlin practicing standard rock chords and straight forward funk. The compositions are more streamlined by tamping down the jazz aspects and turning up the heat on the funk and rock. While the rhythmic cadences may be less complex overall, the soloing and tapestry of styles is still on full MAHAVISHNU mode. The large cast of musicians on board are parceled out in such a way that nobody ever treads upon the others turf leaving a nice well-balanced album that easily sets itself apart from what came before.

In many ways this album comes off as a mid-70s Herbie Hancock album especially on tracks like "Cosmic Strut" which easily could've been slipped onto his "Headhunters" album with a cameo violinist adding the zesty extra touches. Despite the diminished jazz influences, this is by all means a jazz-fusion album that unleashes its full power enough times to remind you that these musicians are at the top of their game however the times when Carol Shive offers her operatic vocal talents the mood of the album veers more towards something Magma would've been cranking out around the same timeline. It never takes long to forget that this is the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA though when John McLaughlin unleashes his magic guitar atonality in conjunct with the dazzling violin solos and bombastic bass funk runs. While this spastic episodes are no match for the earlier lineup's superiority, they nevertheless cast the proper spell leaving a satisfying alternative take on the MAHAVISHNU's classic tricks.

Like "Apocalypse," VISIONS OF THE EMERALD BEYOND is no match for the powerhouse debut albums of the first lineup but once divorced from such comparisons more than stands up on its own and even offers a much more dynamic procession of varying styles that the first two albums lacked. For those who found "Apocalypse" to be woefully inconsistent with its on-again, off-again devotion to jazz-rock, this one delivers the goods fully and with tracks succinct and to the point offers a nice rotisserie of compositional styles that some of the longer tracks of yore just didn't have. This phase of the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was not one that i took to easily as i was a hardcore devotee to the first lineup but after revisiting these albums several years later with a much more open mind i have come to realize that despite not living up to the first two masterpieces, the two albums from this lineup are indeed excellent albums in their own right and there are even some hints as to where McLaughlin would head with his Shakti projects. While McLaughlin may have been known as an egomaniac and hard to work with, he indeed has what it took to bring out the best in his disciples in the studio and albums like VISIONS OF THE EMERALD BEYOND prove that without a doubt.

Latest members reviews

4 stars This output has more streamlined and down to earth sound compared to "Apocalypse", which I find a good thing. In addition, acoustic reflective moments start to prevail over dexterity and frenzy rhythms. Violin by Ponty is very expressive able to create a myriad of moods from Asian to European/Ame ... (read more)

Report this review (#2337665) | Posted by sgtpepper | Saturday, February 22, 2020 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Whereas I do acknowledge the sweeping energy of this early Mahavishnu Orchestra album, I have to say that sometimes too much of a good thing is not a such a good thing after all. I used to like Mahavishnu Orchestra quite a bit, but over time I have gradually lost interest in listening to their e ... (read more)

Report this review (#911495) | Posted by Argonaught | Friday, February 8, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Man, I love all of this period of Mahavishnu Orcherstra - but this one might be my very favorite. The overall ensemble feeling mixed with the improvisation is astounding - especially to today's ears of "burnt out on how many notes we can play in a measure" styled fusion. I (who usually hate the ... (read more)

Report this review (#308863) | Posted by tmay102436 | Monday, November 8, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This album is indeed a fusion album, but not traditional fusion in the meaning a fusion between rock and jazz. This album is a fusion between funk, disco, soul, calypso, swing, jazz, classical music and some rock. There is not much rock here though. But it is as close to a Canterbury Scene ... (read more)

Report this review (#239593) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This is one of the worst Mahavishnu records. It's also one of their rarest, lucky me. I found it looking through for some Bill Bruford Earthworks at Best Buy. It features some sort of creative jamming, but with the exception of Eternity's Breath and Be Happy, the whole album repeats itself co ... (read more)

Report this review (#174617) | Posted by Treasure | Saturday, June 21, 2008 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Largerly better than the previous Apocalypse, but still inconsistent by moments. It have some good parts (Eternity's Breath 1 and 2, Cosmic Strut, On The Way Home To Earth), and seems inspired by Birds Of Fire, but I found it boring by some moments anyway. To be listened to once, but no an essen ... (read more)

Report this review (#162841) | Posted by Zardoz | Thursday, February 28, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Perhaps it was a mistake to keep the "Mahavishnu" tag; a name that will for most people always be associated with their first line up; here the second incarnation features - alongside "Mahavishnu" as J McG he liked to call himself - Jean luc Ponty, alllegedly J McG's first choice for the band, ... (read more)

Report this review (#107895) | Posted by Phil | Thursday, January 18, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Definitely my favourite from the Mahavishnu, each song is unique and very different,from the funk to jazz, from pure rock to beautiful acoustic passages this album is a mind blower piece, i like the way the songs are enlaced, the atmosphera in the album is very psychedelic, with some parts on t ... (read more)

Report this review (#104630) | Posted by pepefloyd | Wednesday, December 27, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Majestic piece of music. After the beautiful (semi-orchestral) album 'Apocalypse', the band somewhat returned to their 'Birds Of Fire-style'. Although this is not the classic line-up with Jan Hammer, Rick Laird and Jerry Goodman, the quality of this album's music is equal to their second record, ... (read more)

Report this review (#88124) | Posted by ProgRob | Thursday, August 24, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars wow! this album is really crazy!. I start knowing John Mclaughin because i have the cd of steve morse of major impacts. he is one of his influences, so that song on his album (very recomended too) make me search more of him, and finally a bought this album. What can I say, it music so complex ... (read more)

Report this review (#62715) | Posted by | Sunday, January 1, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is a great album and I am tired of seeing people downgrade it just because it doesn't sound like the first two. Quite frankly, although Birds of Fire is a wonderful album, some of the sounds and ideas are already becoming tired and are repetitious in themselves and when compared with The ... (read more)

Report this review (#36601) | Posted by | Wednesday, June 15, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The defining characteristic of a "masterpiece" album, for me, is where every moment, every sound, every note, every interval of silence, is perfect, grabbed from the Heavens and set down in physical form. Such is this work, a stirring, spiritual journey through the Cosmos, and allowing us ent ... (read more)

Report this review (#22508) | Posted by | Sunday, February 27, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Mahavishnu Orchestra phase III opens up with an electric summoning of unseen stratospheric forces accompanied by a spiritual choral arrangement with crashing drums and cymbals, but for all intents and purposes was it's last true incarnation. A reduced version of the full orchestral concept introduc ... (read more)

Report this review (#22505) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Thursday, April 1, 2004 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA "Visions of the Emerald Beyond"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.