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Shakti With John McLaughlin

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

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Shakti With John McLaughlin A Handful Of Beauty album cover
3.71 | 62 ratings | 5 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. La Danse du Bonheur (4:48)
2. Lady L (7:23)
3. India (12:31)
4. Kriti (2:58) (trad. South Indian composition)
5. Isis (15:11)
6. Two Sisters (4:41)

Total Time: 47:32

Line-up / Musicians

- John McLaughlin / acoustic guitar, producer

- L. Shankar / violin
- Vikku Vinayakram / ghatam, mridangam
- Zakir Hussain / tabla

Releases information

Artwork: Steinbicker-Houghten (photo)

LP CBS ‎- S 81664 (1977, UK)
LP Columbia ‎- PC 34372 (1977, US)

CD Sony Records ‎- SRCS 7015 (1991, Japan)
CD Columbia ‎- 494448 2 (1999, Europe/US) Remastered by Kouji Suzuki

Thanks to Philippe Blache for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN A Handful Of Beauty ratings distribution

(62 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Having missed out to date on the highly acclaimed Natural Elements album I have to say that this release from 1977 is simply awesome.The album starts with the vocal harmonies of ' La Danse du Bonheur ',various vocals combining to a climatic percussive rhythm. A pleasant song with an upbeat almost comical mood.' Lady L' follows which is sevn minutes of equisite sound arrangements as Shakti and JM deliver the goods. The best song on the album follows ' India'. This is a twelve minute epic pretty much defining the best moments Shakti can produce. The emotions evoked from this song stand testimony to the hightened level of spiritual awareness these musicians are on.' Kriti' ans ' Isis' are also great typical Shakti numbers. The closing ' Two Sisters' is melancholic and just plain beautiful. Four and half stars is a fair assessment.
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 starts really!!!

This formation's second album is a bit more of the same really, as points out the similarly bland photo artwork, even if the tracks are much shorter and the recording is much clearer, this one being recorded in London's Trident studio (as opposed to the debut being Live). As just said, the music realm is much the same as in the debut with the resulting music being very credible Indian music for profane "fan" that I am.

Opening up on a capella intro, Danse Du Bonheur (happiness' dance) is a very lively track, contrasting heavily at first with the smoother and slower Lady L following it, but the track picks up much speed with Mc's almost too fast guitar lines, probably hiding still a lack of confidence on his part. India is, IMHO, the album's best track and possibly Shakti's crowning achievement. After a poor Kriti, Isis has us dreaming of Mid-Eastern desert sands and harem, even if the percussions are not suited for the full illusion. As much as Isis had us wandering westbound, Two Sisters has a definite Far-Eastern feel, but it is the poorer track on any of their three albums.

No better and no worse than its predecessor, and just like it not exactly essential for progheads unless they are looking in ethnic fusion as their favourite music, Handful Of Beauty might seem more adventurous and varied than its forerunner, but it looses a bit in over-indulgence what it had gained in freedom.

Review by Kazuhiro
4 stars There might have been a fact that he informed them of the name worldwide as a guitar player in the latter half of the 1960's. The performance and the technology of man who had done the item of Jazz and Fusion were the methods of the expression with a strong originality exactly. However, some the parts where the music character of John Mclaughlin did not have the specific location either might have existed. It might be able to discover some respects by researching this album.

The expression of the music character of him who had been done by demanding Miles Davis in the latter half of the 1960's might have been offered to the listener as an exactly reformative part. The part where a limit musical Miles Davis had been felt was succeeded to John McLaughlin in shape in close relation to the cancellation and development from Quintet. The reformative element might have been suitable for a music character at that time at the time of having done exactly as a part mainly composed of Rock by Miles Davis. In should advanced directionality in a situation at that time of John McLaughlin, it might be also true to have contained some necessities.

A universal part of the character and the directionality of the music character of John McLaughlin was emphasized further in the 70's. The performance with Lifetime of Tony Williams will have been liberating of the involved power of music exactly. The power gradually opened exactly became the flood of the sound and emphasized the part of the nucleus.

It is said 1970 meeting of Sri Chinmoy and John McLaughlin who is the spiritual guide in India. This meeting be might inevitability and a certain kind of fatal part for John McLaughlin. Mahavishnu Orchestra that had started in 1971 was a moment when the power of the music had been completely liberated further. A philosophical part and the thought of India might have been reflected in the nucleus. The deriving part from the element that Miles Davis at that time had advocated might have been related to the music character that Mahavishnu Orchestra had done. However, originality for John McLaughlin was always universal. In the situation that shifted from Lifetime to Mahavishnu Orchestra, he might have caught the directionality that had always to be done. Philosophical thought and the creation of India are gradually indeed opened. 1975 year when Mahavishnu Orchestra was temporarily dismantled might be being exactly recognized as a borderline for this Shakti by the listener.

The creation of the music that should be done for John McLaughlin and opening thought are almost expressed by the music character of this Shakti. The reflection of power, the technology, and the thought discharged from the body might exactly almost exclude the part of the extra and be expressed. All facts that appoint musician from India for election of member. And, the element that excludes the electronic part used till then. Part of relations that demand sitar guitar of custom-designed from Gibson Co. to advance music character that John McLaughlin expresses it with Shakti more concretely. And, the point to have appointed the Violin player while following the music character that Mahavishnu Orchestra had. These elements might be completely expressed by Shakti. The technology of Lakshminarayana Shankar and Zakir Hussain might be overwhelming. It is music that is exactly expressed by the element that the technology and the limit become nuclei and consists.

"La Danse Du Bonheur" advances with a complete dash feeling from the part of the imitation of the percussion instrument by the voice. The overwhelming ensemble and a high-speed rhythm might be splendid. Flood of melody of Violin and rhythm with percussion instrument that is reminiscent of Mahavishunu Orchestra. And, the obbligati of the guitar that expands the width of the tune. The technology of the band is complete.

As for "Lady L", thought of India and a philosophical element are reflected in the tune well. Unison of melody by guitar and Violin. And, rhythmically of the percussion instrument that puts fast and slow. Development with a melody that flows in the space and an intermittent part will invite the listener to the world of meditation.

"India" starts by an overwhelming technology of the guitar. The flow that appoints making the melody to make good use of the tuning as an idea is splendid. The production of the melody and the anacatesthesia to get on the calculated arpeggio has been completely passed as a tune. The involved power is gradually opened. It has the part where thought and the philosophy were completely reflected in the tune. The performance of Shakti that flows consistently might be steady.

"Kriti" progresses attended with a bright melody. The melody of the guitar and Violin produces the dash feeling. Rhythm of percussion instrument played by high-speed tempo. And, the height of the quality of the unison and ensemble. The quality will never fall.

As for "Isis", a gentle melody of Violin and the guitar is impressive. The melody of Violin has completely decided the directionality of Shakti. Ensemble might be complete. The height of the performance power of the percussion instrument can be discovered. The melody of the sitar guitar twines round the rhythm developed by a high-speed tempo well. The tune shifts to the part of Solo with the percussion instrument when about eight minutes have passed since the tune started. Offer of complete technology with percussion instrument. And, rhythmically of the continuation high-speed. Performance that puts fast and slow. Resonance of original sound of percussion instrument. Meditation continues. Solo of about six minutes might be a highlight of this tune. And, the processing of the part of Coda is also perfect.

The melody of "Two Sisters" with expression of feelings is impressive. A fantastic melody of the guitar and Violin expands the width of the element of the album. The composition pulled by the melody might be expressed partially of the directionality at which Shakti should aim.

The realization of the music character that John McLaughlin and Shakti exactly thought about at that time is expressed by the work. The music character that becomes a nucleus the element of the music of India and is united is splendidly consistently expressed.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Bigger interest to Shakti music always was based on their collaboration with fusion guitar genius John McLaughlin. But he is not only reason why band's music could attract you.

Combination of minimalistic acoustic sound of guitar (McLaughlin), violin (L. Shankar), tabla (Zakir Hussain) and Indian percussions (T. H. Vinayakram ) is incredible. The music roots are deep in hundreds years of Indian classic music, but the reading of it is very modern.

Second Shakti album is recorded as quartet music (percussionist R. Raghavan is gone), and there is the first band's studio work. Very first album song opens with double wordless vocals, supported by energetic strings and percussion. Still with deep Indian music roots, this song has strong influence from jazz rock fusion: violin sound often reminds Jean-Luc Ponty's playing in Mahavishnu Orchestra.

"Lady L " is lighter, more lyrical song, with complex percussion. "India" is fundamental drone, finishing side A. One of the best album's song, melting Western lyricism with Indian meditative tradition.

Side B has similar structure as side A: two short compositions, and the long one. The first,"Kriti", is traditional Indian song, and you can hear it. "Isis ", the longest album's compositions (15+ minutes) opens with violin soloing/interplay with percussion, guitar just adding some backsounds. Then guitar take its place, with some energetic solos, mixing all these sounds in slow wave of liquid music.

"Two Sisters" is only McLaughlin's solo composed songs, and if with feelable Indian music influence, it sounds more of Western manner.

All in all, strong album of early world fusion. I think, to love it you should be deeply interested in Indian culture, tradition and philosophy, but even for unprepared listener this album could be pleasant and interesting experience.

Around 3,5.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars This is really the first album I ever heard of any type of jazz fusion and I loved this music from the very first listen. After the dissolution of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin became obsessed with playing Indian classical music after already having studied and learning how to play the classical Indian stringed instrument called the veena. This ultimately led him to the project SHAKTI where he found three extremely talented Indian musicians to accompany him. Zakir Hussain handled percussion and tabla duties. Lakshminarayana Shankar totally abused the violin and on this release Vikku Vinayakram handled additional percussion duties as well. John had a custom-made steel-string acoustic guitar made especially for the sounds he wished to achieve in this type of fusion band. The guitar featured two tiers of strings over the sound hole like those of a sitar or a veena which created a sound that corresponded better to the Indian instruments.

The band released a live debut album and then released two studio albums in 1977 with A HANDFUL OF BEAUTY being the very first. This album begins with the a firestorm konnakol (the art of performing percussion syllables vocally in South India) that begins "La Danse Du Bonheur" which immediately reminds of the energetic ferocity of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the perfect opener for a band whose name is Sanskrit for "energy." The intensity that the musicians of the band deliver is absolutely incredible to say the least. The beauty of this band is that not only is this an East meets West affair but it is also a Northern India meets Southern India one as well. These musicians seamlessly marry Western jazz with the Hindustani classical styles of Northern India and the Carnatic classical styles of Southern India.

The album drifts from energetic passages beginning with the opening track to more mellow and pastoral moments as heard on "Lady K" and "Isis." The interplay between instruments is always perfect and the harmonies, melodies and rhythms take you on a wild ride through various time signatures and more haunting drawn out percussionless sections. At times some of the passages do outstay their welcome but overall the tracks are well paced.

At the time this was widely acclaimed for exposing western jazz lovers to the ragas and musical textures that traditional Indian music had to offer and guarantees energetic and well-played performances. If you have never been exposed to much Indian music before this then you may be put off for this can be intense but also sensually beautiful at the same time. If you have had the chance to fall in love with classical Indian artists such as Ravi Shankar and love the idea of a world fusion sound with incredibly fast and virtuosic performances than this will truly satisfy all those itches. I for one am still lovin' this one after many years of listening to it and am still completely awed by both the beauty of the emotional depth and the technical prowess of each talented individual involved.

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