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SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock • Multi-National


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Shakti With John McLaughlin biography
Shakti was formed in 1975 by the legendary British jazz guitarist John Mc Laughlin. The approach of the project was exclusively orientated to East meets West musical arguments. For this original musical adventure, Mc Laughlin is accompanied by classical Indian instrumentists whose Zakir Hussain on tabla, L. Shankar on violin and "Vikku" Vinayakram on "ghatam" percussions. Mc Laughlin's new exploration in India, raga "world" music is very far from his electric, dynamic jazz rock project "The Mahavishnu Orchestra" and really more into a kind of progressive jazz music including a great variety of instruments from Indian classical music. The result features long improvisational, collective playings with many intuitive leanings, interactions between sacred melodies and typical "raga" rhythms. The three main efforts released by the project are the self titled album, "Handful" of Beauty" and "Natural Elements". All recordings melt rather short tracks with sometimes long epic tunes, mixing powerful, technical & emotional acoustic guitar ingredients, to peaceful violin lines and rhythmical like "trance" percussion patterns. A very relevant illustration of a successful "alchemy" between traditional Indian music and modern European jazz.

: : : Philippe Blache, FRANCE : : :

See also:
- John McLaughlin
- Mahavishnu Orchestra
- Al di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucía

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SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN discography


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SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.09 | 94 ratings
Natural Elements
1977
3.62 | 38 ratings
A Handful Of Beauty
1977

SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.45 | 43 ratings
Shakti with John McLaughlin
1976
3.70 | 18 ratings
Remember Shakti
1999
3.54 | 10 ratings
The Believer
2000
3.48 | 12 ratings
Remember Shakti - Saturday Night in Bombay
2001

SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Remember Shakti - The Way of Beauty
2006

SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.05 | 2 ratings
The Best Of Shakti
1995
2.33 | 2 ratings
Remember Shakti (Box Set)
2002

SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Shakti with John McLaughlin by SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN album cover Live, 1976
3.45 | 43 ratings

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Shakti with John McLaughlin
Shakti With John McLaughlin Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars John McLaughlin's first major reinvention of his musical vision occurred in 1976 when he hooked up with both Northern and Southern Indian musicians to create a new band called SHAKTI. Despite a lame looking cover and John's name attached for apparent recognition, the music is a give-and-take affair with each musician contributing his all to the whole. Out of the three albums they released in the 70s, the first simply titled SHAKTI WITH JOHN McLAUGHLIN was a live album displaying all members' abilities to shred like nobody's business. It is stunning that the live album and the studio albums are almost indistinguishable save the audience applause since the studio albums were basically recorded live on the spot.

This is a kind of music I seem to like more than most. It is true that of all the three albums there is not a lot of musical variation. You get lots of Indian percussion, violin solos reminiscent of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and John's guitar skills breaking the sound barrier. All tracks are based on traditional Indian music of both North and South India with American jazz fusion added to the mix. The musicianship is outstanding and as a fan of technically challenging musical displays, I find this quite an exciting listen. If, on the other hand, you only have patience for one of these types of albums, I would head straight to the best of the lot, "Natural Elements" which is the most refined of the original three albums. I on the other hand find this just as good as the next album "A Handful Of Beauty." Great pacing of slow and fast with emotive passages allows a smooth listen from beginning to end. The well-seasoned musicians display their chops effortlessly and as a lover of classical Indian music AND jazz I dig this stuff a great deal.

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 Natural Elements by SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.09 | 94 ratings

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Natural Elements
Shakti With John McLaughlin Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Epignosis
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars For those who appreciate the skillfulness of Jean Luc-Ponty, seeking out Shakti is a must. Strictly speaking, and despite the Indian percussion, there are distinct stylistic characteristics from all over the world present, including Cajun, Irish, Caribbean, and Chinese, even though the entire album is tonally static. Everything present in this album is agreeable and consistent.

"Mind Ecology" Frenzied and technical guitar and violin race to keep up with the harried percussive instruments. The harmonies are staggering.

"Face to Face" Abandoning the wild abandon of the previous piece, John McLaughlin provides graceful strums to accompany an elegant, silky violin. Midway through it adopts the character of an Irish jig.

"Come on Baby Dance with Me" The title is appropriate, given the nature of this upbeat and sprightly caper.

"The Daffodil and the Eagle" One of the most industrious pieces, this alternates between rapid-fire guitar phrases and almost New Orleans-like slippery fiddling.

"Happiness is Being Together" Once again, McLaughlin takes to hammering out the rhythm while Shakti ascends to the farthest reaches of the neck and spirals back and forth all over it. Cheery vocals make an appearance in what sounds like a background music for a Caribbean cruise ship.

"Bridge of Sighs" Exploring a sullener style, "Bridge of Sighs" is occasionally folksy and occasionally bluesy.

"Get Down and Sruti" Alternating again between open, respiring rhythm and swift passages of guitar and violin, this piece keeps returning to a very happy theme while closing with rapid vocalizing.

"Peace of Mind" The album concludes with its most tranquil offering.

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 Natural Elements by SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.09 | 94 ratings

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Natural Elements
Shakti With John McLaughlin Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The second studio album by SHAKTI pretty much picks up where "Handful Of Beauty" left off. It is basically a refined version of that album with the same layout of fast to slow tracks, however on NATURAL ELEMENTS everything the band did very well before is played perfectly here. The stars aligned and so did the musicians becoming comfortable with their daring and cutting edge indo-raga-prog-jazz-fusion collaborations. The call and response between instruments is impeccable, the songwriting is more interesting and there are more instruments to be heard as well adding extra layers of richness to the experience.

John McLaughlin sticks to his lightning fast acoustic guitar but Zakir Hussain adds more percussion instruments to the mix, Lakshminarayana Shankar picks up viola as well as violin and Vikku Vinayakram the ghatam and kanjeera to his percussion mix. The result of all this is that the band hasn't shifted gears and headed into new directions but simply refined the sound they had already mastered into musical perfection. I find this to be a perfect album. Every song is extraordinarily well-crafted and the album goes by too fast unlike the previous one that had parts that dragged on a bit too long. A huge hit in my world.

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 A Handful Of Beauty by SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.62 | 38 ratings

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A Handful Of Beauty
Shakti With John McLaughlin Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

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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 Remember Shakti - Saturday Night in Bombay by SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN album cover Live, 2001
3.48 | 12 ratings

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Remember Shakti - Saturday Night in Bombay
Shakti With John McLaughlin Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Prog 74

2 stars Remember Shakti? Actually no I don't. This is my first encounter with them. However, I would like to go on record and say that I dig Indian music and I also dig jazz-fusion, so naturally I wanted to hear this Jazz-Fusion-Indian album. Shakti was initially a fusion project between phenomenal jazz guitarist John McLaughlin and some Indian musicians in the 1970s, but disbanded after a few years. Some 20 years later Shakti reunited and one of the results of that reunion is this particular live album. Having not heard their 70s albums I cannot comment on how this compares to those older albums, but I do know that this live album is a pretty fascinating experience. The two tracks I want to point out are Shringar and Bell' Alla. These are both quite exceptional. McLaughlin is really on fire here and plays his guitar as if it was a sitar. Rather convincingly I might add. The other two tracks are non-essential and both feature a vocalist singing in a particular scat style that becomes a little annoying after awhile. I've never been a fan of scat singing personally. This album is not really essential for progheads unless of course they are a little bit curious about jazz-inflected Indian music.

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 Natural Elements by SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.09 | 94 ratings

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Natural Elements
Shakti With John McLaughlin Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by admireArt

5 stars A balanced performance that goes beyond the "exotic", this, as mere MUSIC (without tags), is awesome. The indo-raga/prog element is pure in its source, and yet, the song writing, kidnaps the whole experience fom its limits (as all tagged things suffer of) with sheer genius. All the musicians are top players, close to virtuous, but they are too professional, to exceed or pretend to be "main characters" in the process of creation. This by turn makes it unrepeatable, unique and an unforgettable audiophile experience, and it all has to do with music composition.

John McLaughlin's restrains himself from his natural "speed", in able to follow Lakshminarayana Shankar's vioin or viola, and it turns out to be far more interesting without it. He displays one of his most perfected acoustic performances. Of course, this is all due to the fact that L. Shankar's performance is impeccable, and most of the time he delivers the "wild' and "spiritual" side of the album. The percussive side runs like magic with Zakir Hussain and Vikku Vinayakram and both alongside Shankar are the vocal section of the ensemble.

Since this album appeared in my Prog/collection, I have not found something so free of its roots without losing its own identity. To be so Prog, without the obvious instrumentation, I insist, has to do with the undercovered side of music composition, therefore the instant connection to any kind of ears, more if they are "Prog" or "World".

Still waiting for something more from Shakti in this kind of genius level. *****5 PA stars.

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 Shakti with John McLaughlin by SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN album cover Live, 1976
3.45 | 43 ratings

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Shakti with John McLaughlin
Shakti With John McLaughlin Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer

3 stars My first real stab at the Indo-Prog genre came from listening to a copy of NATURAL ELEMENTS from the SIUE library and walking away from it liking it. I never really followed up on getting any Shakti material until recently when the debut live album came my way. It's a good album, but there's one flaw that I'll approach later.

Shakti is the band that arose from the dissolution John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, a band that burst onto the fusion scene with tremendous fiery technicality only to implode upon itself soon thereafter. Technical based bands seem to only sustain themselves for so long. So, McLaughlin decides to take part in the raga music of India, and he assembles a team of Indian musicians to help him achieve his vision of his guitar skills in raga.

In a way, we have the end result of what the Mahavishnu Orchestra would sound like if it was a raga band with solely acoustic instruments. The main attraction is the speed-of-light dexterity from both McLaughlin and violinist L. Shankar (not sure if he's related to the late Ravi) that harkens back to the McLaughlin-Goodman trade-off solos of MO. Yes, these two instrumentalists are intended to be the main attraction here, but the percussionists are the ones that really shine in that they pin the rhythm down for the soloists to do their work, and their constant drive is what seals the good quality of this record.

However, this is essentially an acoustic MO as a raga band. And the fact that only ''Lotus Feet'' is under fifteen minutes is daunting to the minds of those who listen. The long runtimes kill the excitement of the music here, and the percussionists can only do so much before my mind starts drifting. There's only so much trade-off violin and guitar before everything bleeds into itself. I never was fond of MO going over ten minutes, and similar problems that plague long MO songs can be heard here.

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 Shakti with John McLaughlin by SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN album cover Live, 1976
3.45 | 43 ratings

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Shakti with John McLaughlin
Shakti With John McLaughlin Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Although I have to respect John McLaughlin for moving into startlingly different musical territory with this album, on balance I have to say it just doesn't do that much for me. John's playing is just as fast on the acoustic guitar as it is on the electric, and his Indian collaborators do a good job of keeping up, but I find the whole experience rather discomforting. As well as the prominence given to John in the mix and on the cover leaving a bad taste in my mouth - it comes across to me as cultural appropriation, with a white guitarist putting an acceptable face on Indian music - the music manages to be technically very proficient without sounding to me as if it has much in the way of emotional depth, in stark contrast to the early Mahavishnu work. Add another half-star if you are particularly enamoured of Indian music being adulterated to market it to a white audience, I guess.

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 Natural Elements by SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.09 | 94 ratings

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Natural Elements
Shakti With John McLaughlin Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Andy Webb
Forum & Site Admin Group Site and Forum Admin

4 stars Waves like a daffodil, flies like an eagle

(A note to readers of my reviews, you will note a change in my reviewing style starting with this album) Indo prog is certainly known as the weird cousin to prog that no one really talks about, but is one of the most interesting of its family. Indo prog, as the name suggests is the fusion of Indian ethnic music with progressive music. This fusion makes for one very interesting sound, as Shakti, easily one of the more popular Indo groups, shows. With John McLaughlin leading the way in this quartet of musicians, the band paves an extremely creative path, with intense ethnic jamming contrasting mellow passages of melodic bliss, the album, Natural Elements, has no shortage of incredible atmospheres, feels, and themes to lean on.

There is no doubt the skill of these musicians either. Each song, the opener Mind Ecology especially, has an incredible sense of communication between each player, with an infectious jam feel throughout the music. The harmonies between McLaughlin's acoustic prowess and Shankar's violin grace is purely fluid, creating a sublime atmosphere for the album to dance in. The music rises into the upper echelons of sonic grace easily, flying like an eagle through the airwaves and filling the listener's ears with ecstasy no traditional music could accomplish. Easily one of the most inventive types of music out there, there really is no competition to achieve the excellence this album has. From placid pastures of sound like Face to Face to the jovial and lighthearted soundspheres like Come on Baby Dance with Me, the album has no shortage of dynamic pep and compositional genius.

Through all this fantasizing about the band's prowess, I can't say this album is a pure masterpiece. The music can get redundant and even at times dull. Of course, redundancy of incredible music is never a bad thing, but I would rather have more original music than more of the same. Away from this, however, there really are no flaws in this music. The band has woven a tapestry if pure joy; the aura of incredible sonic mastery that wraps around this album is purely sublime. It really is sad that the genre doesn't get as much recognition as some of the more popular genres, because it truly deserves it.

Of course indo prog isn't for everyone. Without a closer look and careful analysis, one could easily dismiss this music as weird, even when progressive music tends to be weird anyway. The lack of structure, outlandish instruments used, and the overall different sound the music has is not something that the average music listener expects from an album. However, these odd characteristics only heighten my infatuation with the music; the album really fleshes out the pure genius this group of musicians have.

In the end, I really can't stop saying how much I love this album. The amount of pure creativity put into its production is massive. The atmosphere of the music is sublime, with such an elevated sense of sonic grace bringing this album into the wind with fervor. Sonically, the album truly does wave like a daffodil; in the wind it sways with a beautiful grace, acting like a flower kissed by the breeze. It flies into the atmosphere with the power of an eagle; there is no doubt in my mind the power these musicians carry in their instruments, with intense skill going into rapid solo sections complimenting the slower, more mellow and graceful sections of other sections. Overall, this album is incredible, and although it has very minor flaws, it is very highly recommended. 4+ stars.

(I would love to get feedback on my new style; PM me if you have comments. Thanks!)

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 Shakti with John McLaughlin by SHAKTI WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN album cover Live, 1976
3.45 | 43 ratings

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Shakti with John McLaughlin
Shakti With John McLaughlin Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

3 stars I love John Mclaughlin's guitar playing. I love L. Shankar's violin playing. Put them together in a raga fusion group, and the results would be spectacular. Right? Well, sort of. This live album consists of two long one chord raga jams, with a short ballad sandwiched in the middle. Both jams consist of Mclaughlin and Shankar trading alternate blinding fast solos, whil occasionally coming back together for the themes of the songs. At the outset, the sound is exciting. But as the songs go on (and on, and on, and on....) they become tedious.

The group was borne from an interesting idea. I just wish they could have added a little bit more variation to the music.

And What Need Have I for This - What Need Have I for That - I Am Dancing at the Feet of My Lord - All Is Bliss - All Is Bliss is just one of the cheesiest song titles of all time.

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Thanks to Philippe Blache for the artist addition.

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