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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)

4.29 | 1067 ratings
The Inner Mounting Flame
1971
4.33 | 1398 ratings
Birds of Fire
1973
3.66 | 307 ratings
Apocalypse
1974
3.89 | 336 ratings
Visions of the Emerald Beyond
1975
2.59 | 128 ratings
Inner Worlds
1976
2.33 | 68 ratings
Mahavishnu
1984
2.52 | 62 ratings
John McLaughlin & Mahavishnu: Adventures In Radioland
1986
4.20 | 231 ratings
The Lost Trident Sessions
1999

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

3.77 | 192 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
4.56 | 25 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 | 1398 ratings

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Birds of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The English guitarist John McLaughin (1942) was a young prodigy who formed instrumental groups capable of blending free jazz, progressive-rock, psychedelia, raga, post-bop melodies. His guitar had an original sound thanks to electric pickups and thick strings. After collaborating with Miles Davis, and having already released three albums, in 1971 McLaughlin formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, an electric fusion group. Joining him were violinist Jerry Goodman, pianist Jan Hammer, bassist Rick Laird and drummer Billy Cobham.

With this group McLaughin gave his best from 1971 to 1973, the years of the heyday of the prog.

Birds of Fire, year 1971, is perhaps his masterpiece-of him and of the band, made up of excellent instrumentalists.

1. Birds Of Fire (5:41) it's an electric bluesy track with a very aggressive Hendrix-style guitar that keeps the listener attached to the headphones. Besides him, Goodman's violin stands out, which actually outlines the melody (while the guitar plays solos and the drums overflow). Great track. Rating 8+.

2. Miles Beyond (Miles Davis) (4:39) It is a more varied piece, closer to prog where an acoustic guitar plucked in the most relaxed moments alternates with a more bluesy electric guitar. The melody is made up of keyboards and violin. Every so often the guitar alternates in tracing the melody. Rating 8.

3. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters (2:53) Hard-blues a la Hendrix short piece, with overwhelming drums and guitar. Rating 7.5.

4. Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love (0:22) ;5. Thousand Island Park (3:19) After a short atmospheric intro comes 5), a classical piece with acoustic guitar, chamber music. McLaughin wants to show off his virtuosity. Rating 7.5.

6. Hope (1:55) Guided by the violin, it always repeats the same theme. Rating 7.

These four short, heterogeneous and impromptu pieces have undermined the homogeneity of the first ones and brought down the quality of the music.

7. One Word (9:54) It is the most ambitious track on the album, 10 minutes of jam and fusion, with jazz touches (Rick Laird's bass in evidence) and then an explosion of hard-blues with almost wah wah touches (Hendrix is ​​around the corner) which reaches an excellent climax. This is followed by a pedantic drum solo that unfortunately lasts a long time, partly ruining this bluesy jam that ends with a crescendo. Rating 8,5.

8. Sanctuary (5:01) Slow, meditative, vaguely raga instrumental piece, guided by the guitar, nice atmosphere but ... I don't see a nice melody. Rating 6,5/7.

9. Open Country Joy (3:52) Instrumental piece that starts slowly but has a bluesy explosion after a minute. McLaughin's lead guitar is heard on three channels simultaneously, the three melodic lines alternating in the texture of the music. The violin gives a folk touch to this beautiful bluesy jam, which unfortunately suddenly ends. Rating 7.5

10. Resolution (2:08) Very percussive short piece thanks to Goodman's violin, good tension but the piece remains a fragment. Rating 6,5

Total Time: 39:48

I don't see in this record a prog masterpiece, I see an heterogeneous good blues album, a jam fusion where a great guitarist stands out who, thanks above all to Goodman's violin, managed to fuse blues with folk. It is great in the firsts two pieces and in the Jam of One World, mediocre in the other parts.

Rating 8. Three an a half Stars.

 The Lost Trident Sessions by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.20 | 231 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
4.29 | 1067 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
4.33 | 1398 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).

 Between Nothingness & Eternity  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Live, 1973
3.77 | 192 ratings

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Between Nothingness & Eternity
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mirakaze
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

5 stars Between Nothingness & Eternity presents the original Mahavishnu line-up at its absolute best and is, in my opinion, one's best bet for a quintessential release by this mighty ensemble. The instrumental performances are unbelievably stellar as far as improvisation-heavy live performances go, rare mistakes only arising due to the occasional minuscule breakdown in coordination. McLaughlin, Goodman and Hammer work seemingly without end to outdo each other in pumping out stellar instrumental solos while Cobham backs them up with his furious drum pounding. Additionally, "Trilogy" and "Dream" both rank among McLaughlin's greatest compositions, perfecting and harmonizing his trifecta of complexity, catchiness and a sense of transcending into heaven. The album's only real obstacle is that the sound quality and the live mixing aren't the greatest, yet somehow this adds an approachable, garagey quality to what is obviously still a highly professional performance of amazing celestial music. Between heaven and earth, perhaps even between nothingness and eternity, McLaughlin and his compatriots succeed in providing the best of both worlds.
 The Lost Trident Sessions by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.20 | 231 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 | 62 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
2.33 | 68 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
2.59 | 128 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.

 Visions of the Emerald Beyond by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.89 | 336 ratings

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Visions of the Emerald Beyond
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

4 stars After the first incarnation of the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA collapsed from the ego clashes and shock of sudden stardom, bandleader John McLaughlin wasted no time gathering a new batch of seasoned musicians to take the project into the next phase which borrowed some aspects of the power team of Jan Hammer, Billy Cobham, Rick Laird and Jerry Goodman but offered a more varied expansion to the already decorative fusion palette presented on the stunning classics "In The Mounting Flame" and "Birds Of Fire." The result was an equally ambitious followup titled "Apocalypse" which took on the grandiose additions of The London Symphony Orchestra embellishing the already jaw dropping jazz-rock-fusion techniques. Despite the possibility of a bloated disaster unfolding, McLaughlin despite his egotistic power control was possibly one of the top dogs in the highbrow world of progressive rock and jazz.

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

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

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

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

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

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