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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA

Jazz Rock/Fusion • Multi-National


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Mahavishnu Orchestra biography
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:
- John McLaughlin
- Shakti With John McLaughlin
- Al di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucía

Mahavishnu Orchestra official website

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Visions Of The Emerald BeyondVisions Of The Emerald Beyond
SBME Special Markets 2008
Audio CD$2.95
$2.92 (used)
Birds Of FireBirds Of Fire
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2011
Audio CD$2.84
$2.83 (used)
ApocalypseApocalypse
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2008
Audio CD$2.89
$0.98 (used)
Between Nothingness & EternityBetween Nothingness & Eternity
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2008
Audio CD$2.86
$2.84 (used)
Whiskey A-Go-Go 27 March 1972Whiskey A-Go-Go 27 March 1972
Klondike Records 2014
Audio CD$9.74
$19.01 (used)
Inner WorldsInner Worlds
Sony/Columbia 1994
Audio CD$32.50
$5.98 (used)
The Lost Trident SessionsThe Lost Trident Sessions
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2010
Audio CD$3.19
$3.15 (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)

4.25 | 767 ratings
The Inner Mounting Flame
1971
4.33 | 1041 ratings
Birds Of Fire
1973
3.60 | 213 ratings
Apocalypse
1974
3.87 | 221 ratings
Visions Of The Emerald Beyond
1975
2.49 | 85 ratings
Inner Worlds
1976
2.31 | 45 ratings
Mahavishnu
1984
2.45 | 42 ratings
Adventures In Radioland
1986
4.16 | 154 ratings
The Lost Trident Sessions
1999

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

3.68 | 127 ratings
Between Nothingness & Eternity
1973

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

3.58 | 14 ratings
Live At Montreux 74/84
2007

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

3.59 | 9 ratings
The Best Of The Mahavishnu Orchestra
1991
4.56 | 18 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
3.60 | 213 ratings

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Apocalypse
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Progfan97402

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.

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 Inner Worlds  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.49 | 85 ratings

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Inner Worlds
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Progfan97402

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).

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 Apocalypse by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.60 | 213 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"

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 The Lost Trident Sessions  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.16 | 154 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.

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 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.33 | 1041 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!

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 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.33 | 1041 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.

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 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.33 | 1041 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by GKR

3 stars As I tend always to ask myself is some album is essential for what matter (established one kind of genre, help to create a tradition, did something off the wall against its context, etc), I tend to give a lot of 5 and 4 stars. I dont think we have to be harsh with albums to be critic of them. I hardly give 2 stars to albums, in that manner.

For this album, regarded as a masterpiece, and "essential" to the Jazz Fusion genre... why am I giving the three stars?

I guess that there is no easy explanation (also, I prefer their first album) besides thinking how much, already in 1973, Jazz could TALK. I mean... some works of Hermeto Pascoal are full of life and expression, and we cant even begin to talk about Area (1973 is the year of Arbeit Macht Frei). But "Birds Of Fire" are completly technical competent and (repeating another reviewer) cold. No one deny the musicians quality in their instuments, and the good melodies. But this album does not necessarily goes in higher places...

Its a good album... but I cant find it essential. Maybe after more listenings I'll return here and change that... maybe not. Time will tell.

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 The Inner Mounting Flame  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.25 | 767 ratings

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The Inner Mounting Flame
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Argonaught

2 stars And here is another, and the last (or last but one) Mahavishnu Orchestra album that I have recently purged from my active collection.

The complaint is the same as with the Birds of Fire: way too much noise. A neurotic guitar dueling with a psychotic violin, accompanied by chaotic drums. An overwhelmingly oppressive, jagged soundscape. This kind of music might have felt (to some) like a revolution in the 1970s, but now, 40 years later, the Inner Mounting Flame simply doesn't cut it any more. A riot, tops.

It's interesting to note that Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and some other best-loved virtuosi of fusion, who played very inventive and vigorous, yet perfectly normal (as in "not crazy") music in the 70s, and who still come up with great records, for some reason have not made it into the Progarchives' Top 100.

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 Visions Of The Emerald Beyond  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.87 | 221 ratings

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Visions Of The Emerald Beyond
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Argonaught

3 stars Whereas I do acknowledge the sweeping energy of this early Mahavishnu Orchestra album, I have to say that sometimes too much of a good thing is not a such a good thing after all.

I used to like Mahavishnu Orchestra quite a bit, but over time I have gradually lost interest in listening to their early albums. What impressed me as "fresh and lively" in the past, now strikes me as distastefully chaotic and at time psychotic. Yes, I mean McLaughlin's screechy guitar and Goodman's unruly violin. Cobham's hysterical drumming seems to be fixated on speed and unbridled power, with a lot less focus on sculpting the music.

I wouldn't dare to assign the Visions a really low rating because of the respect I have for their innovation and boldness, but I will have to honestly admit: last time I played this album, my overall listening experience was nothing short of unpleasant.

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 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.33 | 1041 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Lord Anon

4 stars For their second album the Mahavishnu Orchestra wisely decided not to try and top the explosive fury of their debut, instead seeking to diversify their sound. The closing Resolution recalls the dark tones of their first album, but other songs show a breathtaking versatility on the part of the band - for instance, Open Country Joy somehow manages to incorporate both gentle folk segments and pulsing funk sections. Particularly notable on this album is Jan Hammer's incorporation of a Moog into his arsenal of instruments, allowing him to add synthesiser touches above and beyond his already important electric piano contributions. I don't think it's quite as ground breaking as the first album, which is an absolutely essential piece of the fusion puzzle, but it's very, very good indeed.

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