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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
- Jan HAMMER
- Jerry GOODMAN

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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)

4.28 | 1041 ratings
The Inner Mounting Flame
1971
4.34 | 1368 ratings
Birds Of Fire
1973
3.65 | 288 ratings
Apocalypse
1974
3.89 | 317 ratings
Visions of the Emerald Beyond
1975
2.56 | 117 ratings
Inner Worlds
1976
2.29 | 62 ratings
Mahavishnu
1984
2.52 | 58 ratings
John McLaughlin & Mahavishnu: Adventures In Radioland
1986
4.19 | 217 ratings
The Lost Trident Sessions
1999

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

3.73 | 181 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
4.55 | 24 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
 Apocalypse by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.65 | 288 ratings

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Apocalypse
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars Over time there have been many attempts to combine rock with classical. The marriage between the rock band and the orchestra, more or less nourished, seemed to want to give a symphonic touch, soften the guitarists or simply add a new section to songs already performed. The idea, initially, might seem to belong to the far-sightedness of some and was read in the broader concept of experimentation, in reality and perhaps more prosaically, the aim was to meet the favors even of people usually far from the rock band tout-court. Deep Purple, Caravan, New Trolls, Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Elton John ... over time many did the experiment in the studio or live, even highly questionable and somewhat unlikely attempts by Heavy Metal + Orchestra. In 1974, daring on different tracks, even the jazz rock band par excellence, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, decided to offer their own music by expanding the ensemble with the famous London Symphony Orchestra. Of course, this is not a very new idea, given the various examples of some big jazz bands that have already been moving towards symphonic jazz schemes for some time. Then there was also the mega super group Centipede, which in 1971 proposed a record filled with those intentions, but with clear differences in the scores: largely improvised for the latter and absolutely written and punctually performed for the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The choice to perform unreleased songs with orchestra was also the coup de grace to the band, already in strong friction during the recordings of the previous album "Between Nothingness and Eternity" and which managed to continue only because John McLaughlin was the holder of the name. Thus Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman (drums, keyboards and violin), not at all agree on the recording of an album that would have been, in their opinion, too distant from the first record episodes and therefore would have removed the public from the concept of the band, they left permanently. In light of the facts it is more likely that behind an apparent fear of a symphonic turn, their problem could be attributable to the fear of being less visible in a record with orchestral features. McLaughlin began putting together all the necessary pieces. At the production counter he wanted none other than Sir. George Martin, who obviously brought with him the number one sound engineer Geoff Emerick. In the new lineup, Jean Luc Ponty, with credentials from Mr. Zappa, on the violin, the very young and very technical Michael Walden (from the late 70s Narada) on the drums and the young and unknown Gayle Moran, keyboards and vocals. He also changed the bass player, with Ralphe Armstrong replacing Rick Laird. With this powerful team, jazz rock scores by McLaughlin himself and symphonic scores by conductor Michael Gibbs, the recording started quickly and the result, full of strength and contrasts, was remarkable.

Five pieces of various lengths, from the four minutes of "Power of Love" in which a subtle orchestration on electro- acoustic architectures by McLaughlin prevails, to almost twenty minutes of "Hymn to Him", a true orchestral suite with violin raids and chases continue with the guitar, in a truly effective dualism, on powerful and complex rhythms. If we want to look for a song more linked to the past and to the first production we have to refer to "Vision is a Naked Sword" with Walden pushing like a damned not to make Cobham regret. The exercise is not the simplest and the magic touch of "Fourstick Man" is missing, but Walden does his very good, his technique is remarkable. A somewhat separate story on the disc is "Smile of the Beyond", a soft watercolor where Moran's dreamlike singing, while very precise and technically perfect, is guilty of a certain drop in tension and shifts the listening to more spiritual shores.

An anomalous episode in his career, as it was for anyone who wanted to try their hand at mixing band + symphony orchestra, but the result is there. "Apocalypse" cannot be defined as the best album of the band, it remains a highly recommended, intriguing work that can be savored for the great and warm mastery of McLaughlin and associates and for the large and positive symphonic openings, which often illuminate and soften the typical angularity of Mahavishnu jazz rock.

 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.34 | 1368 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by prog_traveller!!

5 stars Playing for Miles Davis and on a record like "Bitches Brew" can cause even "apocalyptic" effects on your vision of music. And here is the young John McLaughlin who separated from Davis, forming together with the great and very loaded Billy Cobham what is perhaps the main group of the 70s fusion, or the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This group of very high standing and with an immense technical background, had in the ranks among the best musicians of the electric jazz scene of that time; and we have in addition to the aforementioned McLaughlin on guitar and Cobham on drums: Jan Hammer on keyboards at the time a recent graduate of Berklee College of Music, the classical violinist Jerry Goodman is a very important figure in the group as he is responsible for the delightful forays into classical territory along with McLaughlin, and Rick Laird on bass who will later play with the great Chick Corea. The album in question is "Birds Of Fire" their second work and in my opinion the most intense and sophisticated of their short but still great career. The sound of this excellently produced album never seems to get old, this is to tell us that at the time such a record was truly a revolution. The beautiful unison of guitar and violin built on scales never played before, and enriched by a telluric rhythm section and by the sound wall of the keyboards, help to create a sparkling atmosphere, of great musical and emotional tension. Davis' influences in McLaughin's arrangements are felt but not for this he sinks into repetitiveness and useless quotations, on the contrary, McLaughlin gives proof of his artistic maturity and shows us that he is no longer dependent on the great Miles. But I throw myself headlong into the description of the passages that are sometimes so complicated and rich as to seem "a construction of a Baroque cathedral".

The first homonymous track of the album opens the disc with powerful but disturbing gong hits, which are continuously played until all the instruments enter, which powerfully prepare the ground for the very particular and unusual riffs of the violin and guitar. After the fury of the first piece, sometimes with almost improvised cadences, the second track enters "Miles Beyond". A hopping and lively blues organ opens the piece in moderation, with a mainly slow and enthralling rhythm but never predictable and danceable. It is also noted how Cobham does not want to play on simplicity, but wants to dull the listener with continuous drum fills with a progressive touch and very complicated fingerings. "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters" almost feels like a journey into the universe and the spatial and futuristic keyboard sound reigns throughout the song; the whole band moves in previously unexplored and hardly conceivable territories for an untrained ear. "Thousand Island Park" shows the classical influences of the group, starting with very delicate beats of classical guitar and continuing with other swirling rounds with a flamenco and Latin flavor, typical of McLaughlin's guitar style (the album in which he plays with Paco De Lucia and Al Di Meola ... impressive to say the least). The group supports the classical guitar with as many virtuosities that do not distort the meaning of the piece. The short "Hope" contains fascinating and very soft violin phrases that with the powerful syncope of the drums give a sense of great movement and spatiality. Cobham's very fast roll begins "One World", a song with an engaging and continuous rhythm, and from the infinite solos of guitar, violin and keyboard that with a climax reach a musical symbiosis and an unheard-of intertwining. In this piece you get the feeling that the musical phrases chase each other (human madness). After the dreamy and more peaceful "Sanctuary" and "Open Country Joy", we arrive with a little sadness at the last track "Resolution". The song is a continuous crescendo, in which all the emotions of the disc are synthesized while being relatively simple in structure but shocking in content.

The virtuous, useful, fresh and never predictable technique combined with a revolutionary feeling and approach, make the atmosphere almost explosive. Whoever wants to find a descriptive meaning in this album will fail in the enterprise because the music of the Mahavishu Orchestra being cultured music "does not describe, but emphasizes". Really a shame for this great and crazy band to have dissolved after a short time, but certainly leaving some jobs that enter the jazz musical firmament, but the most cultured, studied, interesting and dazzling.

 The Inner Mounting Flame by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.28 | 1041 ratings

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The Inner Mounting Flame
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars I will not spend many words on what The Mahavishnu Orchestra is or on John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham, that is its main masterminds: those who already know these names do not need my explanations, while for everyone else ... there is wikipedia. However, we could describe this project as the union of the experience and vitality of the young minds of artists who, until recently, were jam sessions with Miles Davis and, at the same time, admired the lightheartedness of Jimi Hendrix's style; exactly as it was defined by many at the time The Inner Mounting Flame is a mixture of jazz and rock: a fusion -fusion- that found and still finds many detractors but that also managed to conquer a very large slice of the public, a multitude that she was mesmerized by the style of the five, so determined that she was able to open a new path in the history of modern music.

The musicians involved in The Mahavishnu Orchestra project were, and still are, established and respected names in the jazz world, people who had cut their teeth by studying books, practicing continuously, applying their knowledge and surpassing them in the live performance phase. and composition, as in the case of bassist Rick Laird, made famous by the numerous collaborations with the great names of the genre. Probably it is a mentality without excessive prejudices: Jerry Goodman came from the classical school, yet he was a great rock listener; Jan Hammer is someone who in his life, beyond the fact that his works have been awarded several times, has experienced everything: he is certainly not one who has limited himself to immature compositions and lacking the necessary courage to face routes to the most dark. Of John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham there is little to say as the former is universally recognized as one of the most influential guitarists in history, and the latter was one of the first drummers to grasp the true musical and solo aspect of drums, whose rhythmicity was shifted more and more in favor of solutions that integrated the music of which I am a part, thus transforming the drummer into a musician who must be "listened to", and not just "heard".

Some might think that we are talking about niche albums, which few know ... nothing more wrong: The Inner Mounting Flame, when it was released, sold about a million copies. In 1971 there were therefore about a million people who, scattered around the globe, listened to and interpreted the very complicated plays of harmonies of the beautiful, and basically oriental, Meeting Of The Spirits; a million heads who were fascinated by the sweet vibrating sound of the violin of a magnificent Jerry Goodman, who in the very first beats of A Lotus On Irish Streams transforms his four strings into a human voice, intertwining his art with the acoustic sounds of the guitar of John McLahglin, in the creation of an exciting and refined work. The lively rhythms of Noonward Race, its harmonic and metric tensions, the ability of these five devils to create suspense - that is: "suspension" - within such an animated song cannot fail to leave its listeners astonished! The virtuosity of Awakening, the relaxed and sophisticated atmospheres of You Know, You Know, the rhythmic progressions of The Dance Of Maya are nothing more than the confirmation of the depth of the musical thought of their authors! How can we not love all this? How can we not open our eyes wide in front of a concentration of style, innovation, diversification and experimentation that today, in 2009, still sounds very topical? Of course this is not music for everyone, in the sense that those who have never found themselves in front of these sounds could be bored and annoyed, being completely out of the ordinary music. But the fact that most people like street performers doesn't make Picasso any less good, does it?

Today we are used to listening to records that, from start to finish, sound the same, in the sense that all the songs are structurally, harmonically, rhythmically and ideally conceived and created in the same way: if we haven't already done it, let's try to extend the boundaries of our experience as listeners and musicians, let us give ourselves the opportunity to enjoy the wisdom of the great inventors and authors of our times! It is a rare opportunity for us, given that there are not many records that allow us to feel this change: buy The Inner Mounting Flame and listen to it as many times as possible, because this is music to be heard to the full, so rich to offer new ideas with every listening. Make it yours and no one can ever take it away!

 The Lost Trident Sessions by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.19 | 217 ratings

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The Lost Trident Sessions
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by JazzFusionGuy

4 stars I need not go into the extended history of how the original tapes were misplaced, forgotten, and now unearthed for this long overdue CD release. What seemed to happen was simply a busy band with internal struggles made a session tape and opted to release a live version instead. Some songs never made it to that live release. Now we have more songs, better sound quality, and a glimpse into a band's past -- nearly 26 years after the fact.

I must forewarn readers that I am a devoted jazz rock fusion fan and an avid proponent for a rebirth and revitalization of the genre. The Mahavishnu Orchestra's music is 98% responsible for my adoration of such a maligned and misunderstood sub-genre of music. Hearing John McLaughlin's guitar volcanics and his leading others in his band to heights of unparalleled improvisation forever changed how I approached my own guitar playing and just plain rewired my neural net beyond recovery. Herein follows some bias.

Between Nothingness & Eternity had its many wonderful moments but I always felt the live recording left much to be desired in many places throughout the concert. Quiet moments were lost in noise and crowd buzz. Loud attacks and dynamic change-ups in the band's supersonic delivery seemed over-saturated and of course instrument separation was deplorably nigh unto music mush. Only at certain times when the sound/recording engineer(s) seemed to know what was going on and get the dials and knobs right did things seem acceptable. Only one magical moment is superior on BN&E's live recording. And that is John McLaughlin's super-nova, lead break on Hammer's "Sister Andrea". Lost Trident Sessions' version of this song has a much, much better synth solo by Hammer even though McLaughlin's LTS lead is less appealing. Overall, I find LTS far superior to BN&E.

As a bonus on this release is bassist Rick Laird's eerie "Stepping Tones" progression and violinist Jerry Goodman's mournful "I Wonder". McLaughlin seems to obligingly riff, patiently pentatonic on "I Wonder", and does almost invisible backing guitar structures on "Stepping Tones" whereas when these two songs made it to the Nemperor label's Like Children release featuring Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Goodman subsequently handled all guitars too and pulled off nearly an exact copy of all McLaughlin's lackluster LTS guitar efforts. It is seems evident his heart wasn't into Laird or Goodman's pieces or perhaps he had been "written out" of the songs' limelight moments. I can't say for sure.

Lastly we gain a listen to the never-heard-before, 5:53 "John's Song". It is a sombre, ominously mutating, fusion excursion. Wandering initially in a free form fusion intro, it builds into a jazz rockin' explosion of Billy Cobham's drums, Hammer's synth textures and manic unison leads with McLaughlin blasting the outskirts of infinity. To top off the climax of this song Jerry Goodman erupts in some of the finer fusion fiddling I have ever heard. It reminded of a mini-version of "One Word" from Birds of Fire. Great cut!

If this song and the rest of The Lost Trident Sessions indicates where The Mahavishnu Orchestra was possibly heading in their long-past future musical growth -- then indeed it is a tragic thing that the individual band members could no longer function together as friends or associates. Who can say what other majesties they held in store? All such things now passed -- we can but all the more deeply cherish this rare glimpse into the final days of The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Cool liner notes and pictures included, this release is strongly recommended. Throw out that "bootleg" tape!

 The Inner Mounting Flame by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.28 | 1041 ratings

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The Inner Mounting Flame
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by JazzFusionGuy

5 stars Your first question is obvious. Is this 1998 remastered re-release worth grabbing to replace that other CD of this you already own? Yes.The difference is immediately obvious in this superior reissue. There is new warmth, clarity without that cold digital thinness, and an almost LP aura present. When checking recording output levels against my older CD track by track the difference was obvious. My old CD registered -7 compared to +4 for the re-release. Remixing brings out the drums noticeably. That washed-out, bland slurry of sound is gone! For once you hear the infinite mastery of each artist crisply, with good separation, and punch. Some source tape hiss still remains especially on "Dawn". No biggee. Consider the extensive liner notes and groovy historical photos included as a nice bonus.

This has got to be one of, if not the most influential albums ever released. Jazz rock fusion successfully exploded onto the scene in 1971 with this singular vision of guitar legend John McLaughlin. McLaughlin collected the arsenal of Jerry Goodman on violin, Jan Hammer on keys, Rick Laird on bass, and Billy Cobham on drums.The musicianship, the spirit, the conversational soloing, the unique compositions, the intensity, and the overall effect this release holds is far too superb for this reviewer to dare confine in mere words. Whether it's "The Dance of Maya" or "You Know, You Know", to this day you hear echoes of The Inner Mounting Flame. Consider this. I sat many of my other albums aside to forever collect dust when I discovered The Mahavishnu Orchestra and I remain a jazz rock fusionist to this day.

 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.34 | 1368 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by JazzFusionGuy

5 stars First off, I shall quote my earliest, "first impressions", upon receiving this remastered re- release, as a special pre-release demo copy,

"WOW!, WOW! and WOW! Superb redo of this classic! This sounds as good as I had hoped it would. Grab it as soon as it is ready for release. Levels are way up, great separation of each instrument, no more muddy mix in the "squashed mid-range glut". This sucker kicks! Mean rich, full bass, up-front drums, violin presence good, keys great, and guitar tracks perfectly awesome!! I was absolutely enthralled to hear Cobham so "right" and "immediately huge" on "One Word". My head popped during the fiery unison outro! Get yer money ready fusionheads -- this be a goody!!"

And have I changed my mind after several months more of listening to an actual official release version? Of course not. This album's original LP release forever changed me - my listening tastes?, my guitar playing?, my views on jazz?, my rock-n-roll addiction? - oh baby, much more than those mere mortal items, Birds of Fire made me view life in a new way. Why? How? It's a simple answer really. John McLaughlin's music went beyond mere music, beyond jazz, beyond rock - it housed a soul, it reached into spirit and the visions within all became new. Sure enough, McLaughlin knew jazz, rock, Eastern Indian music, and melded it all into a powerhouse of jams that blew most everyone away in the jazz and rock worlds. But The Mahavishnu Orchestra forged more than music - they delivered a religious experience. Things McLaughlin needed to say, were expressed through sound, words were spoken beyond hearing, echoes of a vital transformation filled each composition. Birds of Fire was one of my first experiences in hearing the "fire of the soul" coming through the medium of music. Of course I heard it in other music, here and there, in brief swooning movements but this album was non-stop explosions of energies that came from deep within all that the soul of man could experience. I heard bliss, frustration, anger, anticipation, elation, fury, ecstasy, euphoria, sorrow, joy, power, imagination, dreams, hope, stress, release, passion, and so much more. It's all there - and if you cannot feel it when you listen - you have missed the rawest power of The Mahavishnu Orchestra and you're therefore yet to really "feel the tingle" up your spine, the strange rush of winds down the "halls of your soul".

Now back down to earth, back from my epiphany . . . In comparing the old BOF CD to new CD the volume levels are up a "+3" on my Denon 3-Head's dB monitor level read-outs, noise is down a great deal, overall tones are warm, highs crisp, low-end okay and yeah, you get a ton of CD liner notes and pix, (heavy card stock vs. glossy 'zine feel).

 The Lost Trident Sessions by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.19 | 217 ratings

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The Lost Trident Sessions
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

5 stars Sometimes great things have to be waited for, but 26 years? Geez. Well, that was the case for the highly anticipated third installment of the original MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA which due to squabbles among band members decided to scrap a third album altogether and pull a sneaky move and release a live album in its stead. The MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, initiated by former Miles Davis guitarist John McLaughlin came out of nowhere in 1971 with its sudden rise with its lauded debut "The Inner Mounting Flame" and followed two years later with the equally mind-blowing "Birds Of Fire" both of which catapulted the world of jazz-rock-fusion to unthinkable complexities without sacrificing the emotive connections that make music so riveting.

Graced by five extremely dexterous musicians, the first lineup of MAHAVISHNU ORCHSTRA featured John McLaughlin on guitar god duty, newbie keyboardist Jan Hammer, violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird and drummer Billy Cobham, all musical gods in their own right, who together crafted one of the most spectacular chemistries in the rock lexicon unleashing fiery energetic performances with blitzkrieg technical precision that immediately caught the world's attention and has become forever the standards for excellence in the world of progressive rock and jazz-fusion. However well these guys gelled on stage though, egos and personalities clashed behind the scenes and after a mere two studio albums and a live album being dropped in lieu of a third, the band's three year existence ended on December 31, 1973 with a final performance at the Sport Arena in Toledo, Ohio.

While John McLaughlin would reinvent his project by hiring a whole new cast of players, nothing that came after could match the jaw dropping musical majesty performed by the first lineup so it was a crying shame that a third album never emerged due to the petty disagreements about the minutia such as proper overdubs and other recoding trivialities. Fast forward 25 years when producer Bob Belden went looking for the original tapes of "Birds Of Fire" for a much needed remastering but in the process struck gold by discovering a group of unlabeled tapes that only indicated they were recorded in June 1973 at Trident Studios in London. It turned out that this lucky find was indeed the compositions intended to be the MAHAVISHNU's original third album that found the inferior live release "Between Nothingness and Eternity" taking its place. Jackpot!

After a 26 year delay THE LOST TRIDENT SESSIONS finally emerged from the vaults on 21 September 1999 just squeaking in before the hilarious Y2K scare! Despite the mystery around these delayed compositions, almost all of the material had been released in different forms with the only exception being "John's Song." The three tracks "Dream," "Trilogy" and "Sister Andrea" all appeared on the 1973 live album "Between Nothingness and Eternity" and the two tracks "I Wonder" and "Stepping Tones" were included on Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer's collaborative album "Like Children" which came out the year after their departure. Despite most of these tracks having been released in one form or another, the fact was that THE LOST TRIDENT SESSIONS was and is superior in almost every regard as the compositions display a fully oiled machine from a group of seasoned veterans who had reached a musical perfection due to their incessant live performances for almost two years straight.

The material on THE LOST TRIDENT SESSIONS also displays a turning point for the MAHAVISHNUs in that McLaughlin eased his tyrannical rule over the creative content and allowed band members to contribute in the writing process. Jan Hammer wrote "Sister Andrea" and "Stepping Stones" was by crafted by Rick Laird. Jerry Goodman contributed "I Wonder" which left only Billy Cobham as the odd man out who took the sensible approach and released his material as a solo artist where he found a very successful run of albums after the demise of the original band lineup. His debut "Spectrum" is as revered as the the first two MAHAVISHNU albums in many circles.

While 26 years behind schedule, THE LOST TRIDENT SESSIONS is every bit as essential as the first two installments of the MAHAVISHNU canon and showcases a band that was hitting a new peak in creative content with an uncanny tight-knit cohesiveness of jagged jazz fueled hyper rock that featured those classic soloing tradeoffs as well as atonal angularities run amok. The six tracks on these LOST SESSIONS were in every way a step up from the two antecedents that launched the band into the limelight. Added to the excellent dexterity present on this blistering masterpieces of jazz-rock-fusion was a welcome upgraded production with a warm organic remastering that majorly improved the tracks off the tinny badly produced live album. While the Goodman and Laird tracks may have been criticized for being too "catchy" they actually add a nice respite from the turbulent virtuosity otherwise ubiquitous on this collection of buried treasures.

In the end, THE LOST TRIDENT SESSIONS offered a sense of resolution to the missing chapter in the MAHAVISHNU's tumultuous first rendition and offered the prog revival that was taking place in the 90s a new treasure trove of lost classics for those who hadn't quite done their homework of all the 70s had to offer. This album serves as a reminder of how easily such maestrohood masterpieces can literally become lost in the annals of time and of how the MAHAVISNUs were upping their game exponentially from the brutal touring schedule which only served to bolster the Promethean fire which fueled their visionary inner journeys through the sounds of jazz, rock and myriad world genres. It's a true shame when petty human egos that jive so well together otherwise implode when together we are all so much stronger than alone but in the case of the MAHAVISHNUs, just like the fate of Icarus, perhaps they raced oo close and too quickly near the sun thus melting their wings and resulting in the ultimate implosion of one of rock music's greatest lineups. In the end we can only be thankful for the two albums that were released in the 70s and this long overdue masterpiece that was excavated from dark dusty bowels of forgotten record label storage rooms.

 John McLaughlin & Mahavishnu: Adventures In Radioland by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1986
2.52 | 58 ratings

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John McLaughlin & Mahavishnu: Adventures In Radioland
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

3 stars The 1980s were not kind to 70s pioneers of prog and jazz as the decade was one of the most engineered in terms of steering musical styles away from anything remotely similar to the decade before, at least in terms of major labels and what musical innovation that did come about gurgled up from the underground which gave rise to the alternative and experimental 90s to come. John McLaughlin was no exception as a former innovator stumbling around in the dark as his once forward thinking innovation had been supplanted by trying to keep up with the current trends, in his case fortifying his once feisty and innovative jazz-fusion with cheesy 80s synthesizer sounds which may have sounded good in the context of new wave and synthpop but somehow failed to capture the essence of the soul of what jazz-fusion represented.

After doing the unthinkable and resurrecting the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA name albeit with the truncated moniker MAHAVISHNU, McLaughlin released a couple of albums that sounded like nothing from his 70s tenure. Apparently following in the footsteps of other jazz artists dabbling in the world of synthesizer jazz in the vein of Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and more successfully Pat Metheny, McLaughlin startled his fanbase in 1984 with the release of the self-titled MAHAVISHNU album which showcased a synth-based approach which adopted some of the worst sounds the 80s had to offer and disgracing his canon with a rather lifeless limp representation of theoretical ideas that just didn't quite work out in practice. The album was panned and has been all but forgotten but McLaughlin was a determined one and decided to dabble in this stylistic approach for yet one more album.

Always basking in self-glory with the tagged on "with John McLaughlin" that was featured on the early MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA albums as well as with Shakti, technically speaking the 7th album ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND of this once excellent group was released under the name JOHN McLAUGHLIN AND MAHAVISHNU and emerged three years after the previous effort with a new cast of characters beckoning to McLaughlin's oft misguided whims. Out was original drummer Billy Cobham who attempted to make amends for past skirmishes but found the experience a bit underwhelming and in was drummer Danny Gottlieb, one of the founding members of the Pat Metheny Group who provided some of the newer stylistic approaches that McLaughlin adopted presumably hoping to cash in on the lighter and airier sounds that 80s jazz-fusion was implementing. The rest of the band remained the same as "Mahavishnu" with Jonas Hellborg on bass guitar, Bill Evans on saxophone and keyboards and Mitchel Forman exclusively on keyboards.

The self-titled MAHAVISHNU album sounded very much like a rough draft as the band stumbled upon one style after another but never really latched onto anything tangible despite a few worthy tracks. After three years of establishing a more uniform stylistic approach, ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND proved to be a much more developed continuation of this 80s synth-based jazz-fusion sound albeit very much in the theme of the more chilled out approach of the Pat Metheny Group. Despite McLaughlin's outstanding success of the prior decade, he had clearly fallen out of the relevance pool and struggled to find any label that would release ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND but finally found a sympathetic ally with the Wounded Bird Records, a fitting title for the mastermind behind the classic masterpiece "Birds Of Fire" which once flew so high and mighty that like Icarus seemed to have flown too close to the sun only to have his wings suffer a serious meltdown.

Perhaps one of McLaughlin's least known albums of his massive productive career, ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND is actually a step up in quality and cohesion from the lackluster "Mahavishnu" that preceded it. Unlike that album, this one showcases a return to excellent instrumental interplay with John's feisty guitar style coming back to life along with excellent keyboard runs form Forman made all the more jazz worthy with Bill Evans' talented saxophone works. The tracks are all distinct from another and the return to jazz-based compositions instead of souped up funk was indeed a wise choice as the album does delve into the extremities of traditional jazz and flamenco styles.

Surprisingly ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND holds up quite well as a uniform and consistent listening experience although the over reliance on drum machines and synthesizers gives the album a dated feel that feels a bit hollow and sterile. The production is particularly shoddy with that thin tinny sound notorious of mid-80s releases. While not nearly as detestable as the 1984 precursor, this followup nonetheless suffered from an over reliance on Metheny copycatism and electronic drum overload. While compositionally sound, this album unfortunately was not worthy of falling under the MAHAVISHNU moniker and has been all but forgotten as new generations discover the magnificence of the band's first lineup and earliest masterpieces. While not a bad album and even fantastic on tracks such as "Florianapolis," The Wall Will Fall" and "Mitch Match," ADVENTURES IN RADIOLAND only excels in creating a moment in time that made true disciples of the mighty MAHAVISHNU scratch their heads in dismay. Interestingly good but by no means essential. This would be the end of the road for anything MAHAVISHNU related until the archival release of "The Lost Trident Session" emerged in 1999.

 Mahavishnu by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1984
2.29 | 62 ratings

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Mahavishnu
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

2 stars The 80s was a strange decade indeed as it succeeded in completely detaching itself from what was happening just a mere decade prior as it cast its spell on the old school music styles that dominated the late 60s to the mid-70s. While a very few prog and jazz artists such as Yes, Genesis and Herbie Hancock found some success adapting to the new world of synthpop and new wave with catchy pop hooks and booty shakin' rhythms, the times were not as kind to the majority of the once mighty pioneers of musical innovation. 
Case in point was John McLaughlin who not only played alongside the great Miles Davis in the 60s but launched one of the greatest jazz-fusion acts ever in the form of the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA. After a five album run in the 70s it was clear that McLaughlin's run with that particular project had pretty much run its course and he continued on with his solo career as well as the excellent fusion group Shakti but somewhere in the early 80s McLaughlin did something nobody would've expected and that was to reboot his famous jazz-fusion supergroup only with a completely different lineup and a totally unrecognizable stylistic approach.

Having truncated the moniker to a mere MAHAVISHNU with the double billing of John McLaughlin's own name, the band was relaunched with a surprising return of Billy Cobham in the drummer's seat. Along for the ride was newbie (at the time) keyboardist Mitchell Forman along with another newcomer, bassist Jonas Hellborg. When it came to the saxophone and flute sounds, McLaughlin mined his past with former Miles Davis backup Bill Evans and together they took the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA into a very unexpected strange new world: the world of 80s synthesizer music. While the hardcore fans of yore were probably throwing rotten tomatoes at this unthinkable act, the fact is that the album isn't as horrible as one could imagine. But neither is it great.

Just like the first two incarnations of the mighty MAHAVISNU, this particular lineup would end up recording two albums but it would take this self-titled first one to really get the hang of the sound they were going for. While there is potential lurking around every corner, MAHAVISHNU sounds very much like a rough draft modeled after such jazz turned synth-jazz albums like Herbie Hancock's "Future Shock" or Miles Davis' own "The Man With The Horn" where funk provides the backdrop for jazzy sax squawks and other experiments to wrap around. To give it that totally 80s makeover McLaughlin rocked the house with his brand spankin' new guitar synthesizer which for the most part doesn't sound like a guitar at all much less sound like his signature jazz guitar frenetic style.

The opening "Radioactivity" with its 4/4 time signature and heavy synth runs makes you think you just raided an obscure dance club hit from the era but the jazzy counterpoints lead you to think that this may have been some Herbie Hancock reject as it's not experimental enough to sit alongside such innovative synth-jazz hits as "Rockit" but despite the weak beginning the album actually has some interesting moments. "Nostalgia" drifts into a mediative almost transcendental Oriental feel with a smooth contemplative vibe but is disturbed by the cheesy synth and drum machine claps of "Nightriders" which truly sounds like the worst the 80s had to offer. The rest of the album does deliver some nice jazzy moments such as the excellent "East Side West Side" but sounds much more like the Weather Report than anything remotely 1970s MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA.

Yeah baby, this is a smooth jazz attack with radio friendly conformity written all over it and despite the few sax squawks that threaten to break into anarchy, the album is very much restrained and not in a good way. While the closing "When Blue Turns Gold" displays a glimpse of what could've been with a cameo of Zakir Hussein on tabla and a heady raga flute performance by Hair Prasad Chaurasia, the album as a whole sounds totally unbalanced and not even remotely ready for prime time. Yeah, the once mighty innovator John McLaughlin was mesmerized by the magic spells of the 80s synthesizer and thought he could tame it but it was the synth gods who had the last laugh as John released the absolute worst album that bears the MAHAVISHNU name. Shame, shame, shame.

 Inner Worlds by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.56 | 117 ratings

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Inner Worlds
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

3 stars After two completely different lineups that yielded exactly two albums each it had become obvious that John McLaughlin was not the easiest bandleader to work with but despite his difficult nature, he still managed to eke out some of the best albums to emerge in the entire world of jazz-fusion but McLaughlin's energy was too much for many to take and by the time it came to cranking out the fifth album in the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA universe, things were starting to head south which is evident from one of the worst album covers in rock history right up there with Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Love Beach" and the same could be said for the world of jazz in competition with Herbie Mann's famous shirtless "Push Push" faux pas. Nevertheless the fifth album INNER WORLDS while not up to par with what came before isn't as bad the album cover insinuates.

While keeping a group of musicians together for longer than three years wasn't McLaughlin's strong point, after the second lineup run of "Apocalypse" and "Vision Of The Emerald Beyond," at least a few stuck around to enjoy the next phase. During the last album and this, Jean-Luc Ponty moved on to enjoy his fruitful solo career and wasn't replaced at all marking the first time a MAHAVISHNU album was completely devoid of tortured violin strings whizzing up and down the fretboard. Likewise keyboardist Gayle Moran jumped ship and was replaced by Stu Goldberg leaving bassist Ralphe Armstrong and drummer Michael Walden the only two members of the second lineup to sally forth into McLaughlin's next musical chapter.

Reduced to a mere quartet, the new MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA carried over a lot of the funk and simplified rock of the third and fourth albums but offered a more varied journey through the musical universe. Starting off with the fiery Latin infused "All In The Family" with an energetic percussion, conga and marimba section, the track beguiles the listener by insinuating that the album will retain that fiery drive that launched McLaughlin into the world's stage in the first place but the album quickly drifts off into the spacey second track "Missed Out" which breaks out the funk bass and showcases McLaughlin's love of the new technologies emerging, in this case a 360 systems frequency shifter accompanied by Goldberg's customized mini-Moog and Steiner-Parker synthesizers.

The album begins to go south though with the cheesiness of "In My Life" which features Walden on lead vocals. The song is somewhat of a vocal jazz power ballad with a few guitar licks thrown in to keep it from entering top 40 AOR territory but overall signifies the significant decline in standards that McLaughlin had resorted to at this point which to be fair was the industry standard around the 1976 timeline when punk and disco were sinking the once mighty prog and jazz-fusion ship that had a dominant run during the early 70s. The rest of the album drifts off into middle of the road jazz-fusion with a whiff of Weather Report, Herbie Hancock inspired piano runs and funk rhythms as and a collection of very tame guitar solos. This one was obviously marketed for some crossover appeal as the changing tides of the early 70s were ceding to slicker pop standards.

Overall this one isn't that bad with some excellent tracks but the vocal jazz tracks are rather bland if not down right bad. The song "River Of Heart" is about as bland and cliche as it gets and a slap in the face for anyone who stuck around through the various incarnations of the MAHAVISHNU ORHCESTRA changes. The funky vocal driven "Planetary Citizen" with Ralphe Armstrong on lead vocals but still comes across as a second rate Earth, Wind and Fire song. "Lotus Feet" features a stylistic hangover from "Birds Of Fire" but presented in a rather lackluster slow-paced guitar synthesizer dominated procession. Perhaps the most interesting of this up and down experimental album is the closing title track which creates some startling freaky sounds that shows that McLaughlin really does have some creative mojo left in him. It was clearly obvious that the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA project had run out of steam by now so thankfully it was left behind for a series of solo albums and the much more interesting Shakti albums that rekindled that fusion spirit. As far as this one goes, it has some great moments but is by no means an essential album after the excellence that preceded.

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

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