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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA

Jazz Rock/Fusion • Multi-National


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Mahavishnu Orchestra biography
Formed in New York City, USA in 1971 - Disbanded in 1976 - Reformed from 1984-1987

Led by the incomparable guitar of John MCLAUGHLIN, The MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA combined jazz, rock, and eastern influences into a fiery, dynamic tour de force. They recorded three intense albums during 1971-1973 and then the personnel 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.

Their first two albums are absolute masterpieces of the genre. A stunning achievement and surely one of the greatest albums ever made, "The Inner Mounting Flame" defies categorization as it juxtaposes rock, jazz, classical, Indian, and Celtic influences in a way that is at once aggressive and subtle just one short year after Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" milestone album. "Birds of Fire" was the culmination of a solid year opening gigs for the likes of EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER, and YES. The incredible "Visions Of The Emerald Beyond" is the essential album from the second formation. The focus is the interplay between guitar and violin and it is complex and interwined.

See also:
- Shakti With John McLaughlin
- Al di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucía

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5cd Original Album Classics (The Inn Er Mounting Flame/Birds Of Fire/Betw Een Nothingness And Eternity/Apocaly Pse/Visions Of Emerald)5cd Original Album Classics (The Inn Er Mounting Flame/Birds Of Fire/Betw Een Nothingness And Eternity/Apocaly Pse/Visions Of Emerald)
Columbia/Legacy Europe 2011
$14.49
$18.59 (used)
Birds Of FireBirds Of Fire
SMG 2011
$5.19
$7.75 (used)
Birds Of Fire (180 Gram)Birds Of Fire (180 Gram)
Speakers Corner Records 2019
$35.70
$15.00 (used)
Best Of The Mahavishnu OrchestraBest Of The Mahavishnu Orchestra
Wounded Bird Records 2011
$9.89
$10.23 (used)
Visions of the Emerald BeyondVisions of the Emerald Beyond
SBME Special Markets 2008
$4.96
$3.10 (used)
Between Nothingness & EternityBetween Nothingness & Eternity
Legacy 2008
$4.76
$2.31 (used)
ApocalypseApocalypse
Music on Vinyl 2019
$21.86
$11.01 (used)
Lost Trident SessionsLost Trident Sessions
Music on CD 2016
$8.55
$11.09 (used)
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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.27 | 933 ratings
The Inner Mounting Flame
1971
4.33 | 1241 ratings
Birds Of Fire
1973
3.63 | 262 ratings
Apocalypse
1974
3.89 | 282 ratings
Visions Of The Emerald Beyond
1975
2.52 | 108 ratings
Inner Worlds
1976
2.34 | 57 ratings
Mahavishnu
1984
2.46 | 53 ratings
John McLaughlin & Mahavishnu: Adventures In Radioland
1986
4.18 | 195 ratings
The Lost Trident Sessions
1999

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.71 | 161 ratings
Between Nothingness & Eternity
1973

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.62 | 17 ratings
Live At Montreux 74/84
2007

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.53 | 12 ratings
The Best Of The Mahavishnu Orchestra
1991
4.53 | 22 ratings
Original Album Classics
2007

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.33 | 1241 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Trevere

4 stars Fire is the ultimate symbol of human dominance. When early primitive humans discovered fire, they planted the first seed for humans to dominate the planet. With fire, they had a weapon, a smoldering, dangerous weapon. They had something to give them warmth. Without fire, the space race would be impossible, nearly all weapons would never work, and cooking becomes a much more devious task. To some, fire might be the creator of everything evil--animal cruelty, war, technological rivalry. Despite all this, fire also represents intensity and energy. For this reason, I suspect, The Mahavishnu Orchestra's two album titles contain references to fire. They considered themselves a band full of intensity and energy, which is a fairly accurate description of the band.

In the early 70s, jazz fusion was entering its prime. Miles Davis' landmark album Bitches Brew singlehandedly created the genre, with members that would continue in the jazz fusion genre, including John McLaughlin. After Bitches Brew, McLaughlin formed The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Although only releasing two albums (and later The Lost Trident Sessions), The Mahavishnu Orchestra became one of the most well-known fusion bands along with bands like Weather Report. Bands like Aerosmith and The Eagles opened for Mahavishnu. Why did this band catch on so fast" They, to the mainstream, were a completely original band unlike anything they had ever heard before. The distorted rock guitar of McLaughlin accompanied with the prog keyboards of Hammer and the violin of Goodman definitely created a unique sound even in the jazz world. The jazz world accepted Mahavishnu well for their virtuosity unique sound and feel, but the rock guitar drew many jazz fans away. The rhythm section of Rick Laird and Billy Cobham drove through all the complex time signatures thrown their way. Due to this seemingly new sound to the mainstream, Bird of Fire had an 11 week stay on the Billboard Album Chart and peaked at 15.

The album begins by mesmerizing the listener immediately. The title track and album opener starts with a gong crash, giving an epic feel about the album within 2 seconds. The gong crashes get louder and a guitar melody fades in. The electric guitar is somewhat fuzzy and picked with a tremolo style. Bass and violin add in creating a melody of their own. Finally, the drums enter making a seemingly simple rock beat but given the time signature, it isn't. John McLaughlin takes his first solo while the keyboard maintains his melody underneath and the bass continues the bassline created by him and the violin. As always, - McLaughlin's solo is extremely virtuosic. The solo is one of the most rock-esque on the album, often playing extremely fast and then holding a screaming high note on the fretboard. At 2:50, the song picks up steam with an extremely progressive feel, but the song ends up reverting back to the original riff and McLaughlin continues to solo. The entire song continues between these two feels and McLaughlin remains the feature throughout the song. The song fades out on the original riff.

The album continues on its high with a composition dedicated to McLaughlin's mentor, Miles Davis. The song is entitled Miles Beyond, and throws references to "Mademoiselle Mabry." That song itself was a reference to Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary." The song opens with keyboard going through a jazzy chord progression. A bassline and drums enter, creating an excellent groove. The first soloist on the song is Goodman, showing that a violin can fit with a jazzy song. The solo is short and everything drops out except for quiet plucked guitar and the same keyboard progression faintly heard in the background. The guitar plucking is extremely fast and up on the fretboard extremely high. During a variation on the riff, Cobham is given a drum feature, since he does not really play much of a given beat and fills the entire time. While Cobham fills, McLaughlin plays a solo above him, creating a sonic frenzy that only Mahavishnu can create. The song closes out on the groove and a drum crash.

The longest song on the album, One Word, gives each member of the band a feature. The song starts with a drum roll, which fades in slowly before stopping and entering into a beat based on the drum roll. A guitar, violin, and bass line enters along with the drums. While the rest of the instruments hold out a note, the keyboard will play a blisteringly fast run. Then the bass plays a driving bassline and faint keyboard lines can be heard along with extremely fast guitar lines. Everything gets louder and louder before reaching a tripletized climax. The song then enters a funky section which features Rick Laird. He solos all over the fretboard, maintaining a funky groove throughout. The solo is reminiscent of Jaco in his Weather Report days. This is his only real chance to stand out on the album without McLaughlin or anyone else trying to steal his thunder. He goes on for a minute or two before settling on a bass line and McLaughlin begins playing chords and the drums get more intense. The chord strumming pattern becomes more and more complex as the song creepingly gets louder. Finally, McLaughlin launches into a solo. He and Hammer trade off between solos. McLaughlin sounds like two instruments because he continually gets panned in different ears. The trading becomes more and more frantic and rapid throughout the song until they just start playing at the same time. All hell breaks loose, yet the rhythm section holds everything together until Cobham launches into a drum solo. He starts just playing the drum beat with some sparse tom-tom hits. Progressively, the solo drifts away from the drum beat and gets more and more complex. However, he still maintains a sense of time and feel within the solo which is free-form. The solo continues to about 8:20, where the rest of the band enters even though Cobham is still filling. Goodman comes in with his violin and joins the frenzy of McLaughlin and Hammer. The rhythm section continues to impress by holding all of this frenzy within the complex time signatures the song continues to throw up. The song ends by progressively getting louder and louder until a drum fill and then a held note.

Birds of Fire shows the apex of Mahavishnu's abilities in their short yet illustrious run in the jazz fusion world. The Mahavishnu Orchestra is criminally unheard of these days and serve as inspiration for those interested in rock and jazz.

 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.33 | 1241 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by patrickq

4 stars I downloaded Birds of Fire a few years ago, and it was one of the first "fusion" albums I ever listened to closely. In fact, the only other fusion-related albums I owned all featured Bill Bruford: Moraz & Bruford, Earthworks, and the Bruford band. (Later, I found Miles Davis, including some of his work with John McLaughlin.)

Coming in to Birds of Fire, I knew of John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham. I knew Jan Hammer from his "Miami Vice Theme." And I knew the song "Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love" by heart (the They Might Be Giants song, that was - - named after the song on Birds of Fire, as I found out). Oh, and I recognized that Roger Dean must have done the cover.

As I began to listen, I began to form the opinion that this fusion album was like jazz, but with electric guitar, violin, and synthesizer replacing the stereotypical trumpet and saxophone. That was fine for a working theory, and it fit several of the songs on the first vinyl side, as well as "One World." But it was a poor fit for "Thousand Island Park," it failed to explain either of the last two songs on the album, "Open Country Joy" and "Resolution."

After the solid opening song, the Mahavishnu Orchestra really announces its presence with "Miles Beyond" and the incredible "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters." Things return to earth a bit for the next three songs (whose total time is less than that of "Miles Beyond:" "Sapphire Bullets," "Thousand Island," and "Hope." The jazzy "One Word," with its drum solo, is the centerpiece of the album, and harkens back to the sound of the beginning of the record. It's followed by the simmering "Sanctuary," which at five minutes in length is about twice as long as it has to be.

After its opening minute, the penultimate song, "Open Country Joy," threatens to become a mellower "Sanctuary." But its down-home fiddlin' gives way to some awesome jazz-rock. The song ends with a reprise of the opening passage. Finally, "Resolution" (couldn't they have come up with a more creative name?) is a fitting close to the album, even without the unnecessary, drawn-out finality I would've expected from this kind of album. It's more like a coda than a finale, I guess.

Everyone on Birds of Fire is a virtuoso. I'm convinced that even the guy who dusted the mixing desk each morning was one of the world's best at his job. The sound quality is very good overall, although in a few places, the soloing instrument (usually a synthesizer of the violin) is mixed up front and loud, which conflicts with the mixing style on most of the record. I recognize that this is a common practice in jazz, but on jazz records, the effect is achieved more so by having the supporting instruments play more quietly. Anyway, minor quibble.

The composition is also very good. If I had to cite a weakness, it would be that of the rhythm, dissonance, and melody which comprise a work of fusion like Birds of Fire, the melody seems to be in relatively short supply.

Birds of Fire is a very good album. I'd recommend it to any fan of progressive-rock music, even to those who aren't fans of jazz. Fans of instrumental rock will also probably find a lot to like here.

 The Inner Mounting Flame by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 933 ratings

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The Inner Mounting Flame
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars As the free love 60s ceded into the 70s, the party was seemingly over as the blues based rock'n'roll turned psychedelic art rock scene was reeling from the deaths of some of the greats of the era. The year 1970 saw the untimely deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix as well as the beloved Beatles calling it quits after a decade long reign after they continuously upped the ante by reinventing rock music. Once again, the very next year of 1971 saw the similar fate of Jim Morrison of the Doors meeting his untimely demise and it seemed that the boldest and brightest stars in the biz had been snuffed out or were calling it quits. The time was ripe for a new era in the evolution of the rock paradigm and British born John McLaughlin was up to the lofty task of assembling one of the most ambitious collaborative efforts in the contemporary fertile cross-pollination of the disparate worlds of jazz and rock. While carefully taking notes under the tutelage of the greats such as Tony Williams in Lifetime and Miles Davis on such classics such as "In A Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew," McLaughlin set out to find the perfect ensemble of extraordinary musicians to bring his musical visions into fruition.

The search was on and in the end McLaughlin cemented his dream lineup of a truly international cast of characters. The whole vision came together as a quintet that included a violinist, bassist, guitarist, keyboardist and an extraordinarily strong drummer. McLaughlin, of course, had the guitar parts covered (making his famous double necked guitar his signature feature) but when it came to a dazzling virtuosic percussionist, his first gaze was fixed on the inimitable Panama born Billy Cobham who worked with McLaughlin in various Miles Davis sessions. The next slot to fill was the role of violinist-in-chief. Originally slated for the great Jean Luc-Ponty, the idea was scrapped due to immigration issues which prevented him from coming to the US where the band was founded (Queens, NYC to be exact.) This led to some investigation work and after listening to some contemporary violin based artists, the final decision was to ask Jerry Goodman of The Flock who turned out to be the only USAmerican of the team. He accepted. Next up, the Czechoslovakian extraordinaire Jan Hammer was a suggestion of Miroslav Vitous (from Weather Report) for keyboardist that panned out and and the final slot of bassist was awarded to Irish Rick Laird who had been an acquaintance of McLaughlin back in England who fit the bill perfectly.

After a complete lineup of top notch talent, McLaughlin chose the name MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA after a name he attained with his studies with his spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy. Right from the getgo the band was a huge hit even at their very first appearance at the Greenwich nightclub "Gaslight At The Go-Go" and soon would release their debut album THE INNER MOUNTING FLAME which found instant popularity and even charted the Billboard charts. In no time at all, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA became a hugely successful popular live act performing a grueling schedule and receiving critical acclaim for their unique fusion of disparate musical styles. Their sound encompassed a heavy rock infused energy ushered in by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and other late 60s heavy rock acts with intricate complex jazz compositions infused with Western classical and Indian classical elements. The band was notable for engaging in frenetic virtuosic performances in perfect unison and the ability to effortlessly transfer into calm bucolic passages, funk dominated rhythms and even basic blues only in unorthodox 7/4 time signatures. This was a band where everyone was the highest caliber of their respective instruments and one of the few examples of a band where five virtuosos shined equally. A true supergroup before most were household names.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was revolutionary in the maturity of their sound. While the 60s were ratcheting up the complexity in the rock paradigm with such monumental albums as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by the Beatles and the birth of progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion, this group took all the maturing elements and crafted a fully ripened musical style that unlike many of their contemporaries married the youthful energetic flair of rock music without sacrificing the intricate compositional sophistication of jazz and Western classical music. The overtones of Eastern ethnic influences added yet one more layer of compositional genius to their overall approach and the gypsy folk aspects of Goodman's violin performances cemented this unique group as one of the most innovative of the ages. The band had achieved in retrospect the perfect marriage of the contemporary styles of music with each representation: jazz, rock, folk, classical and ethnic each receiving an equivalent heft in the mix with the musicians exuding lightning fast finger melting prowess accompanied by Cobham delivering some of the most intricately complex and comprehensive percussive attacks unmatched until the advent of the most extreme forms of metal music. In fact i would surmise that MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was just as essential in the development of metal music. Whereas Black Sabbath created the primeval darkness and distorted tritone features and Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin the compositional flair, it was this band that unleashed the full primal energetic fury that most music was lacking during the era.

As THE INNER MOUNTING FLAME begins with its very first moments, it is clear that this is a band unlike any others with members steeped in a multitude of influences and able to latch onto each other's irregularities and complex interchanges like a seasoned flock of birds in unison traversing the vastness of the atmosphere above. The appropriately titled opening track "Meeting Of The Spirits" displays the band in full unifying prowess as guitar, bass, keys, violin and drums all take turns in the spotlight and stepping out of the limelight at the appropriate moment for a satisfying melodic tradeoff steeped in complex time signature deviations like true jazz masters in a heavy rock infused context that without warning can cede to calm smooth jazz passages before erupting into pyroclastic volcanic eruptions of sound. The album is incredibly well paced as well as not to overwhelm and enervate the listener with its frenetic heaviness. The tracks "Dawn," "A Lotus On Irish Streams" and "Dance Of Maya" contain significant sections of calm bucolic contemplative although heavier sections wrest control away ultimately. The general methodology of track placement finds the heavy tracks followed by the slow and dreamy ones until the final track "Awakening" ups the intensity and creates not only one of the most insanely intense tracks on the album but perhaps of the entire early 70s with an insanely electric violin leading the pack that tracks off with drum rolls, keyboard outbreaks, adrenalized bass lines along with McLaughlin's signature guitar fret melting technical wizardry.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was one of the rare musical entities of the era that not only conjured up highly innovating and uncompromising compositions performed in the most unhinged and eclectic fashion but they also achieved rock star status with sold out venues, a record deal with Columbia Records and were loved by both the music loving public and critics alike. The convening of kindred spirits was the lightning bolt of creative energy that the music industry needed at the time and helped bring the progressive rock fusion scene to the forefront allowing other musicians to exercise new musical freedom tamped down by commercial interests. While the pressures of instant success and fame would take their toll on the five members in just a few short years, on their debut THE INNER MOUNTING FLAME, the band had already struck gold by culminating the various strains of rock, jazz and folk from the 60s while retaining the elements of funk and blues. Another aspect of the latter half of the 60s was the spiritual quest to seek out a guru with India becoming the destination of choice and McLaughlin's involvement with Sri Chinmoy inspired the ethnic influences which added yet another layer of sophistication in the mix. Personally i probably prefer the followup "Birds Of Fire" just a tad over this debut but there is no doubt that the debut by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA remains one of most amazing amalgamations of musical mastery in the entire rock / jazz fusion paradigm and is one of those rare albums i never tire of. A true masterpiece of all ages.

 The Inner Mounting Flame by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 933 ratings

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The Inner Mounting Flame
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The primal flame to really fused jazz and rock?

4.5 stars

This is perhaps what a volcanic eruption may sound like...

First effort of one of the big 3 fusion bands of the 70's, with WEATHER REPORT and RETURN TO FOREVER, "The Inner Mounting Flame" can be considered as the first record to genuinely combine the raw fury of hard rock with free unconstrained jazz. Of course, funk, jazzy rock or jazz incorporating rock elements have already been heard since the end of the 60's, but I cannot think any other artist went so far in this fusion of genres before. Compared to pioneering records such as Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way" or Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats", "The Inner Mounting Flame" marks a clear evolution. This debut album is a pure magma, an acoustic and electric maelstrom sculpting heavy musical mantras inside mountains. Jazz, rock, blues and Indian ragas find themselves melted together to fuel an unique loud, rapid and mystical fire, with multiple uncommon time signatures and complex rhythms.

Like most line-ups from this time period, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's members are all virtuosi in their respective instrument and form a true dream-team: incredible guitarist John McLaughlin, who just spent 2 years at Miles Davis' school to record no less than pioneering albums, organist Jan Hammer, who will later compose Miami Vice theme, whirlwinding violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird and extraordinary drummer Billy Cobham. The fast and spiritual aspects of the music is logical when you know John McLaughlin was the only composer as well as a disciple of the Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. That's certainly where these stylistic choices come from.

The disc opens with the incandescent "Meeting Of The Spirits". Violin and drum explodes in a lava of burning guitars. Wow! After all this condensed fury, "Dawn" arrives as a welcomed spacey pause. A calm beautiful jazzy and bluesy kind of ballad. Then appears the raging "Noonward Race". This high-speed delirium jazzy hard-rock can stand for an overboosted jam. In contrast, "A Lotus On Irish Streams" is the perfect soundtrack to wander barefoot in peaceful hanging gardens. A bit mystical and dominated by Jan Hammer's relaxing keyboard textures, this track is a delicate and soothing passage.

Back to life with "Vital Transformation", maybe the hottest and grooviest composition of the album. Not really sounding like an ancient Center American ritual, "The Dance Of Maya" starts with a dark oppressive pattern. This first half tends to become a little repetitive though. Then it surprisingly mutates into a heavy blues-rock! The slow desert jam "You Know, You Know" is enjoyable, nonetheless not varied enough. The record finishes in fireworks with its wildest track, "Awakening". A thundering and breathtaking piece, fast-paced, with multiple breaks and corrosive moments. Guitar, bass, violin, keyboards, drums, each musician displays his virtuosity here!

As the debut opus of a legendary band, "The Inner Mounting Flame" was already, and still remains nowadays, a true sonic blast, stunning and innovative. Such an advanced mixture of hard rock with complex time signatures in the improvisational jazz mold was never heard at the dawn of the 70's.

Simply an essential listen for anyone interested in fusion music. Not the most accessible MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA offering, but undoubtedly their rawest!

 Apocalypse by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.63 | 262 ratings

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Apocalypse
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This was the first album with the new lineup of John McLaughlin, Jean-Luc Ponty, Narada Michael Walden, teenager Ralph Armstrong, and Gayle Moran (Chick Corea's wife). It seemed the egos of the original lineup got so big they exploded like balloons causing the split. Here on Apocalypse I really felt McLaughlin bit off more than he could chew. When it's just the band going into a jam, it's some really nice fusion, which not up to the greatness of Birds of Fire or The Inner Mountain Flame, still nice. It's the orchestral and vocal passages I really felt bog things down. The orchestra was courtesy of the London Symphony Orchestra, but isn't quite so successful as say, the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed or Procol Harum's Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, but at least still had better orchestra/band interaction than Deep Purple's Concerto for Group and Orcestra. I'm sure McLaughlin had those albums in mind, when he wanted a fusion version of said albums. The album isn't too bad, but didn't leave much of an impression on me. So I was really surprised about their next album Visions of the Emerald Beyond, as it was a gigantic relief to me, it's a MUCH better album, about 90% instrumental, only minimal use of vocals, and no orchestra. I much prefer that album over Apocalypse. Apocalypse is probably something you'd get after you get the classic albums from the original lineup, and Visions from the Emerald Beyond.
 Inner Worlds by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.52 | 108 ratings

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Inner Worlds
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I knew I HAD to get this album, at least a cheap used LP. It's because of the utterly ridiculous cover! I mean, what was John McLaughlin thinking? What possessed him to go shirtless for this cover? The shirtless John McLaughlin, as well as that ridiculous haircut he adopted since associating himself with Sri Chinmoy. It's one thing when Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad) goes shirtless, "that's rock and roll", so they say (but I seriously doubt he'd do anything like that these days as a solo act performing Christian songs, but perfectly fine in the old Grand Funk days). It also seriously divides the fans. This is basically the end of the road for Mahavishnu Orchestra (which some believe should have ended with the breakup of the original band). This is John McLaughlin, with Ralphe Armstrong, Narada Michael Walden, and Stu Goldberg. Note that Gayle Moran and Jean-Luc Ponty had left.

The album really isn't that bad, though far from perfect. It's that the vocal tracks seriously conflict with the flow of the album, most of the vocal tracks have that soulful feel. Soul music on a Mahavishnu album does seem a bit inappropriate. Luckily there are several instrumental cuts, some of them exploring that same funky direction of Visions of the Emerald Beyond. Unfortunately some of them feature this guitar synthesizer McLaughlin was experimenting with, so this resulted in a bunch of noise, "Miles Ahead" clearly demonstrating that. It just sounded like technology McLaughlin was not familiar with (to be fair, anyone else, for that matter). Timo Laine (Symphonic Slam) and Steve Hackett also used guitar synthesizers in their music. Because McLaughlin wasn't familiar with this technology, it's little wonder lots of noise and racket were being created, it sounded like he had trouble controlling it. Things work much better, naturally, when he uses his normal guitars. "All in the Family" is the opening song, luckily it's not him and the band doing the theme song of the TV show that bears this name, this is a great opening instrumental fusion number. To me, this is as great as anything the original band could come up with, although there's a Latin-feel to the percussion giving a bit of a Santana-thing song on (which I guess is no surprise given McLaughlin had collaborated with Carlos Santana on Love, Devotion, Surrender). "In My Life", "Gita", "River of my Heart", and "Planetary Citizen" are the vocal cuts, some work better than others, I felt the worst offenders were "In My Life" and "River of My Heart". They were basically soul ballads. Those simply don't work on a Mahavishnu Orchestra album. "Planetary Citizen" works better, as there's more edge to it. I guess McLaughlin felt the need for vocal cuts to get his spiritual message across, something he never needed to do with the original 1971-73 band. The rest of the album is all-instrumental, and this is where they shine best, if the guitar synthesizer isn't out there distracting. I am convinced that had he ditched those vocal cuts and kept his hands off that guitar synthesizer, that this could have easily ended up as a classic, rather than a controversial career ending for Mahavishnu Ochestra.

Since I can't say this album is bad, because several songs actually blew me away, the flaws are pretty obvious, so three stars it is. If you want to hear post-Mark I Mahavishnu Orchestra at their best, go for Visions of the Emerald Beyond (as vocals are kept to a minimum, so it's about 80% instrumental, and the funky approach is quite nice).

 Apocalypse by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.63 | 262 ratings

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Apocalypse
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

4 stars Mahavishnu Orchestra is one of the most famous and acknowledged fusion rochestras in the history of rock music. They were'nt active for so many years and their classical studio albums aren't very many but have important places in the history of prog rock. Especially "Birds of fire" of course but also their debut "The Inner Mounting Flame". Now I'm going to write some words about their fourth record(if we count their live record) "Apocalypse" from 1974, fourty years ago this year. It is a long record with a lovely cover where we see a flutist and a forest which is reflected by a lake. The record features, besides the band, the London Symphony Orchestra and it was produced by George Martin. The line up were John McLoughlin(guitar), Jean-Luc Ponty (electric violins), Michael Walden(drums, percussion, vocals, clavinet), Ralph Armstrong(bass, contra bass, vocals) and Gayle Moran(keyboards, vocals).

"Smile of the Beyond" has lyrical vocals which caresses the listener is a very harmonic musical landscape. This is the album's only track with vocals and taht is a bit peculiar in the world of mahavishnu Orchestra(7/10). This orchestra plays in one way very typical jazz music with long compositions where they vary some themes but at the same time the music is very rich and complex. The music is full of heavily expressed details and the compositions are well made. It not feels not like improvisation at all, which a lot of jazz music tend to in my opinion. The longest tracks are the album's best. "Vision is a naked sword"(9/10) is so magnificent and epic and balances all the time between being very pretentious and very humble(9/10). "Hymn to him"(8/10) is the longest song and experimental but in many ways classical. The cooperation with the London Symphonic Orchestra is interesting and worked out well. "Power of love"(7/10) and "Wings of Karma"(7/10) aren't the most itneresting songs I have heard but they are still harmonic and very enjoyable to hear. Over all this record is an excellent addition to a music collection and if you like fusion it is a must have. I rate the record 3.8 which will be four stars. Best track: "Vision is a naked sword"

 The Lost Trident Sessions by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.18 | 195 ratings

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The Lost Trident Sessions
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Sometime in 1973 comes the end of Mahavishnu's Orchestra original line-up.Despite two highly-acclaimed Fusion masterpieces, the relationship between the members was in crisis and the cohesion of the core was doubtful due to the endless lives and exhausting tours.The top of the cake comes via an interview of Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, expressing their frustration on McLaughlin's leadership.Even so the band had already worked on the recordings of a third album, which was never released, apparently they were so close to call it quit that their label thought releasing an album of a dissolved act was not a particularly good idea.Although some of tracks were included in the solo albums of Jerry Goodman and Jan Hammer or the 73' live album ''Between nothingness & eternity'', the complete sessions were released on Columbia in 1999 as ''The lost Trident sessions''.

And yes, it would be a crime if this work never saw the light of day, because this third effort by Mahavishnu Orchestra's original formation was absolutely great, it even sounds greater than ''Birds of fire'', and offers a powerful, furious and intricate Jazz Fusion few bands could actually play with much success.Moreover this is actually the rockier and most dynamic of all Mahavishnu Orchestra early albums, presenting John McLaughlin in a blistering mood for fiery solos and Jerry Goodman setting his violin on fire.The band was going through weird circumstances during the time, but the last thing I feel listening to this album is problems between the band members.What I feel is that these personal frustrations were expressed here through attacking compositions, featuring endless alternations between virtuosic solos and emphatic interplays and some impressive individual performances with dynamic intensity and accurate playing.You will be blown away after meeting with McLaughlin's sharp and mascular guitar parts and I find Goodman being in his best form ever with his tireless violin solos dominating the scene.The rhythm section is flawless and Hammer provides some beautiful work on electric piano and synthesizers.The album features also some bits of Funk, but you should actually focus on the two long opening tracks, you won't believe that Mahavishnu Orchestra had so much gasoline left in the tank and just go sad about this line-up fading away so soon.

This is the excellence of Jazz meeting Prog Rock, taped around 1973 by a group of super-talented guys.It's not as monumental as ''The inner mounting flame'', but its undisputed energy level and the frenetic instrumental parts are absolutely majestic.Highly recommended.

 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.33 | 1241 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

5 stars Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Birds of fire" is a totally magic record. I don't use to like or listen to jazz rock but perhaps I have just listened to wrong jazz rock. This is a masterpiece. From the first drum smash to the last second it thrills ears and minds to euphoria. I am sure this is rock and this one explores what's possible in rock. So wild and crazy, though wonderful music is seldom heard. Thank you John McLaughlin(guitar), Jerry Goodman(violin), Jan Hammer(piano), Rick Laid(bass) and Billy Cobham(drums) for this weird stuff. You do deserve your good reputation.

Birds of fire was released in 1973 and it was the group's second record. On thing spectacular is in my opinion the violin that whirls around almost all the time just like joyful birds. Every track is worth listen to. The title track "Birds of fire" has a skew feeling. It's like an ordinary song that is twisted is a peculiar way. But the musicians do it so good. "Miles Beyond" then is a calmer one, more harmonic but a very rock song. "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters" is one of the best moments. It is edgy and propagandic and then "Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love" is a short form of craziness. "Thousand Island Park" is beautiful, and unlike the others a relaxed song, also one of the best. "One word", the records longest one is experimental and powerful, and very jazzy. "Open Country Joy" feels like a joke with some traditional country music and finaly "Resulution" is quite short but amazing and symphonic.

Birds of fire is a record to rediscover again and again. To the long row of praisers I accede and proudly claim: this is of of the best prog rock albums, ever! Even if it's not my favourite subgenre this raptured me. If you consider yourself a proghead, you have to have opinions on this music. Five stars!

 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.33 | 1241 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars ''The inner mounting flame'' was really succesful, reaching the top 11 at the Billboard Jazz charts and in 1972 Mahavishnu Orchestra toured extensively, covering almost every possible ground in the USA and also visiting the major countries in Europe.Although shadows of conflicts between the members were starting to appear, the band recorded a second album during August 72' at the CBS Studios in New York and the Trident Studios in London.''Birds of fire'' was its title and it was released in March 1973 on Columbia for the US market, although the album was also released in Canada and several European countries around the time.

There were no particular changes compared to the debut, again the opening eponymous track was the absolute masterpiece of a nevertheless very solid Fusion album, featuring McLaughlin's psychedelic guitars and Goodman's frenetic violins over a complex rhythm section.However ''Birds of fire'' sound less tight and with a few weak moments throughout, of course this was another great album by Mahavishnu Orchestra with some real highlights.A couple of tracks are closer to light Jazz Rock with a more constant use of minimoog synthesizer by Hammer, offering a breezy and airy atmosphere.The rest of the album though offers extreme instrumental Jazz/Fusion with a very dark atmosphere, definitely with a progressive vibe.Classical-inspired violin themes, hypnotic guitars that move towards powerful, psychedelic solos, dense and complicated drumming to go along with some beautiful work on synths by Hammer and the always solid bass lines of Laird.The atmosphere ranges from pleasant Fusion with funky rhythms and semi-improvised moments to adventurous Progressive Jazz Rock with tons of breaks and endless instrumental battles.And the Eastern influencers are still apparent in the compositions through series of Indian-inspired tunes.

It would have been really a miracle for the band if having achieved to reach the ultimate pinnacle of the debut.''Birds of fire'' has rather a bit of a limited depth than ''The inner mounting flame'', still it is a very good album of solid and energetic Prog/Fusion, as around the time many bands started to copy the absolutely original sound of the masters.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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