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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 | 1016 ratings
The Inner Mounting Flame
1971
4.34 | 1342 ratings
Birds Of Fire
1973
3.65 | 274 ratings
Apocalypse
1974
3.89 | 303 ratings
Visions of the Emerald Beyond
1975
2.56 | 112 ratings
Inner Worlds
1976
2.29 | 59 ratings
Mahavishnu
1984
2.52 | 55 ratings
John McLaughlin & Mahavishnu: Adventures In Radioland
1986
4.21 | 205 ratings
The Lost Trident Sessions
1999

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

3.72 | 176 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
4.54 | 23 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
 The Lost Trident Sessions by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.21 | 205 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 | 55 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 | 59 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 | 112 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 | 303 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.

 Between Nothingness & Eternity  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Live, 1973
3.72 | 176 ratings

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Between Nothingness & Eternity
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

4 stars MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's ascent to stardom was a quick one with the band dazzling the world as the first supergroup of technical wizards of jazz-rock weaving music magic in ways the 60s only hinted upon. Initiated by the ex-Miles Davis guitarist John McLaughlin, the band was taken into the stratosphere with some of the best musicians the world of jazz and rock had nurtured up to the year 1971 when this group was formed in New York City. McLaughlin, who led the supporting cast of Jan Hammer (keyboards), Rick Laird (bass), Jerry Goodman (violin) and Billy Cobham (drums) had his work cut out as bandleader, main composer and guitar god and although the band synergized its talents for a brief moment in time crating timeless seemingly otherworldly fusion music that blurred the distinctions between jazz, rock, gypsy folk, funk and traditional world music, the clash of personalities and sudden ascent into the spotlight was too much for this cast of behind the scenes musicians and the project ended after two albums and three years after it started.

During this first lineup's tenure, two albums ("The Inner Mounting Flame" & "Birds Of Fire") were released but enough extra material was written and recorded but never came to be due to the band's untimely disintegration. While the world would have to wait for the 1999 archival "The Lost Trident Sessions" to finally emerge from the vaults, this live album BETWEEN NOTHINGNESS & ETERNITY which came out in November 1973 somewhat served as the next best thing to the final third installment of the original lineup's output. Recorded live at the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park in New York City on August 17 and 18, 1973, the album featured three tracks that were to be on the band's third album which never came to be. For decades this album was the only game in town when it came to the material presented and although has been somewhat eclipsed by "Trident Sessions" still remains relevant as a testament to the uncanny musical genius that these five musicians delivered in their fiery and mind-numbingly complex compositions that surely must've required unthinkable hours to master.

McLaughlin once again wrote the bulk of the material including two of the three tracks leaving Jan Hammer to contribute the rare self-penned composition "Andrea" which showed McLaughlin stepping out of the control freak's seat for a brief moment. The album only spanned the playing time of a normal album at 42:24 but when re-released as part of the 2011 compilation "The Complete Columbia Albums Collection" included new songs and extended versions from these same live performances. While the material presented here won't sound much different than what's presented on the superior production of "The Lost Trident Sessions," BETWEEN NOTHINGNESS & ETERNITY featured extended versions that offered more improv and live performance spontaneity. "Dream" for example is nearly twice as long as its studio version, a boon for some but a bane for others. The musicians are all on the top of their game here and the beauty of a live album like this is to fully comprehend that this band was by no means a studio gimmick and could crank out those wild roller coaster rides of virtuosity in a seemingly effortless manner.

The downside of this live album is that it seems woefully short. This easily could've been a double album and i honestly wish it was. The other major flaw is the production which is thin but contains a rawness complete with audience participation and extended jamming liberties. While the album's relevance has clearly been demoted in the wake of "The Lost Trident Sessions," the album still very much deserves the attention of any true MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA buff as it captures all the magic that the albums did in full regalia. For production snobs this may be a hard sell but for those who are more interested in the actual performances then this one will not disappoint one little bit. The first rendition of the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA took rock music to unthinkable heights that has never really been exceeded and despite the flaws, this only live album from this era displays that in its incredible run of three well-crafted tracks that dazzle the senses with emotive strongholds as well as the technical soloing tradeoffs that are unparalleled therefore this live album is a must.

 Apocalypse by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.65 | 274 ratings

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Apocalypse
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

4 stars John McLaughlin and his MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA had a stunningly successful three year run after releasing their milestone fusion albums "The Inner Mountain Flame" and "Birds Of Fire" by blending the dexterity of progressive rock and the colorful chord progressions of jazz with world music including gypsy folk, Indian classical music with a touch of funk and psychedelia. The original five-man lineup of McLaughlin, Jerry Goodman, Jan Hammer, Billy Cobham and Rick Laird were taken by surprise with their sudden ascent to stardom and even found their albums of intricate complexity climbing up the Billboard album charts but the intensity of the touring schedule, the pressures of fame and the disputes between a cast of seasoned musicians took its toll fairly quickly and the original MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA ceased to exist before a planned third album could be completed.

The world would have to wait a couple more decades to finally experience the long lost third album find a proper release in the form of "The Lost Trident Sessions" but in the meantime instead of completely abandoning the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA altogether, McLaughlin completely reinvented the project with a completely new cast of members and when he decided to carry on to the next level, he really wasn't messing around. After reforming in 1974 McLaughlin decided to keep the core style of the original band in tact but released the third album APOCALYPSE as an even more ambitious project that took on the usual jazz-rock-fusion of the earlier albums but added the elements of symphonic prog and a cameo with the London Symphony Orchestra with Michael Tilson Thomas as the conductor.

The term third stream refers to the blending of jazz and Western classical music and although the stylistic visionary approach dates back to the 1950s with Charles Mingus and Moondog pioneering the uncanny blend, the attempt to incorporate rock music into the mix as far as i'm aware had never been done up to this point. After a new lineup was chosen the new cast of characters was McLaughlin as bandleader, guitarist and composer, Gayle Moran on keyboards and vocals, Jean-Luc Ponty on violins, Ralphe Armstrong on bass and Michael Walden on drums, percussion and clavinet. The London Symphony Orchestra included a pianist, viola, another violin, a cello and lots of orchestration. This clash of the titans approach resulted in one of the most unique sounding albums in all of the 70s with classic sounds that were carried on from the original MAHAVISHNU lineup but delivered in a completely more cerebral context.

Right from the getgo with the opening instrumental "Power Of Love" it's obvious that McLaughlin took a complete 180 in terms of steering the band's sound away from the technical wizardry non-stop barrage of sizzling energy that the first two albums excelled at and rather took over four minutes to craft a more atmospheric contemplative approach that was developed to narrate the theme of the APOCALYPSE. It was really a go for the gusto type of album which found no other than The Beatles' own George Martin in the the producer's seat. For those expecting a continuation of the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's first two releases, they must've been in shock when hearing this one as it truly has more in common with scores such as George Gerschwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" than it does the previous incarnation of what came before. Nevertheless the album was critically acclaimed although it wasn't quite the hit with the public despite retaining some of the jazz-funk and fusion methodologies of yore.

APOCALYPSE featured five tracks with the sprawling 14 minute plus "Vision Is A Naked Sowrd" and the 19 minute plus "Hymn To Him" as the dominant scores of the album. While the jazz-rock-fusion aspects of the album tend to alternate with the symphonic classical elements, the overall effect turned out pretty darn good as the pacing of the different motifs is what keeps the album from becoming stale. The opening "Power Of Love" provides an atmospheric generator that ushers in "Vision Is A Naked Sword" which focuses on lush orchestral concerto type music with segments that break into the MAHAVISHNU jazz-rock sound complete with John's guitar wizardry. The feisty "Wings Of Karma" operates differently with the heavy rock parts coming first and then settling into the symphony and carries over to the lengthy "Hymn To Him" which tackles all of the different sounds married together for this one superb display of a stylistic truce where all the musicians on board are in total respect of one another.

Unlike the all instrumental albums that preceded, APOCALYPSE showcased some beautiful diva vocals courtesy of Carol Shive although the majority of the album is focuses on intricate instrumental passages. Whereas the previous lineup featured a barrage of testosterone infused aggressiveness, APOCALYPSE adopted a more sensual feminine side of things with long lengthy tributes to atmospheric classical motifs that eschew the rock and jazz altogether but there are often also nice cooperative efforts where the two disparate styles trade off in a crafty call and response. Unlike the first two albums which offered instant gratification, APOCALYPSE very much required a much longer gestation period to win me over and it's not until a recent revisiting of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA albums that this one has finally won me over. This one is a little underwhelming upon first listen but after carefully following its compositional flow reveals itself to be quite eccentrically ingenious. Divorced from the context of the superior masterpieces that came before, APOCALYPSE reveals itself to be quite the brilliant album in its own right.

 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.34 | 1342 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

5 stars After revolutionizing the world of jazz-rock with its stunning debut "Inner Mounting Flame," John McLaughlin and his MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA experienced an unexpected crossover success that catapulted these five musicians onto the world's stage virtually overnight with the groundbreaking fusion style that incorporated complex arrangements of jazz, progressive rock, gypsy folk, funk and Indian classical music. This first lauded lineup of drummer Billy Cobham, bassist Rick Laird, keyboard wizard Jan Hammer and violinist Jerry Goodman with band leader and virtuoso guitarist John McLaughlin took the rock music paradigm to new unthinkable complexities with intricately designed compositions crafted by McLaughlin which offered refreshing original arrangements that immediately resonated with the public.

The first lineup engaged in a very intense existence from 1971-74 before infighting and the pressures of superstardom conspired to shatter the unity that the music suggested. Two years after the debut the band's sophomore release BIRDS OF FIRE was released by Columbia Records and continued the trajectory of the MAHAVISHNU's fiery passion that mixed the harmonic confluences of jazz with blitzkrieg guitar, violin and keyboard deliveries that took rock music into a whole new level of energetic prowess which without a doubt was one of the main influences of the faster tempo styles of music such as punk and metal that followed. Slightly more varied and bristling with sizzling solos, BIRDS OF FIRE offered ten outstanding instrumental outbursts of five musicians who seemed to work in telepathic tandem with some of the tightest musical tradeoffs that had ever been performed.

BIRDS OF FIRE opens with a few gong sounds before launching into a high-octane procession of blitzkrieg drumming patterns, frenzied violin melodies and McLaughlin's signature guitar wizardry. Crafting the fiery rhythm is a funk fueled bass line and the keyboard provides various embellishments to the overall sound. The jazz effect resonates with colorful chord patterns and highly sophisticated harmonic confluences and best of all the musicians know how and when to trade off so that the entire shebang doesn't come off as a non-stop jamming session. The album alternates between sizzling action packed numbers such as the title track, the funky "One Word" and the determined "Resolution" and the more sensual emotive numbers such as "Miles Beyond," a tender dedication to McLaughlin's lengthy gig with the jazz superstar Miles Davis. The album is surprisingly paced perfectly and offers a wide range of textures and motifs to paint a colorful representation of jazz-fusion magnanimity.

Situated somewhere between absorptive harmonic convergence and atonal angularities, BIRDS OF FIRE has enough to draw anyone in and offers a series of contrasts decorated by extremely seasoned veterans of various musical genres with an amazing display of control by all five members which has rightfully placed this album as one of the great jazz-fusion masterpieces of the ages. The free spirit of the early 70s found an album of such complexity to reach the Billboard #15 position and made MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA one of the most critically acclaimed jazz-related acts to emerge from this era but it was this very sudden ascent to the top that proved to be too much for these shy musicians not accustomed to the glitz and glamor of fame.

Despite reaching the top of their game in a short time, the five members soon found that personal differences and incessant touring was too much. This would be the last album by this first lineup and it would take a couple more decades for all those extra recordings that were supposed to be the third album to be released in 1999 as the long-awaited "Lost Trident Sessions." While phase one of the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA only existed for a short three years, it is uncanny how brilliant these first two albums remain all these decades after their initial release. The sheer magnificence of the myriad genres thrown into the blender without sacrificing that emotive connection is nothing less than a miracle. This has been one of my all time favorite albums for a long time now and after revisiting it lately, i can happily say that it seems likely that it will remain that way for as long as this carbon-based life form is around.

 Between Nothingness & Eternity  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Live, 1973
3.72 | 176 ratings

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Between Nothingness & Eternity
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars By 1973, Mahavishnu Orchestra was seeing quite a bit of turbulence. Their previous album "Birds of Fire" had seen some success and the band seemed to be on their way up. The follow up album (their third) was planned to another studio album, however, tensions in the band led to the scrapping of that album, and it was decided to release "Between Nothingness & Eternity", a live album which featured songs from the scrapped studio album. Jan Hammer (keyboardist) and Jerry Goodman (violinist) had said in an interview that they didn't like the way John McLaughlin was managing the band. Failed recording session resulted in band members not talking to each other. The band was exhausted from their extensive touring. Things had reached a boiling point in this first line-up of the band.

With all of this turbulence going on, it is hard to believe that the band could still sound so cohesive on this album that took the place of the planned studio album. What we ended up with was a 3 track album that includes the 3-part suite "Trilogy", an excellent showcase of just how talented the band was which features amazing solos from Goodman, Hammer and McLaughlin which becomes a wonderful fusion piece; "Sister Andrea", a more avant style of improvisation where the band proves they could still work well together; and the side-long "Dream" which is a progressive, instrumental delight. Everything about this album is five-star material, however, the sound quality is not up to that standard and ends up knocking this excellent performance down a star. However, this is still a worth-while album for progressive lovers to have anyway.

Unfortunately, this would also be the last album this line-up would put out. There was an unsuccessful attempt to bring the band back together, but it didn't work out, the band dissolved, and McLaughlin came back in 1974 with a brand-new line-up. At last, McLaughlin was able to recruit his first choice in violinists, Jean-Luc Ponty, who couldn't join the band originally because of some immigration issues. The band also increased in membership at this point, for their fourth album which would also include the London Symphony Orchestra.

The scrapped studio album featuring the first line-up would end up being released 30 years later (1999) and would be titled "The Lost Trident Sessions" which would feature the three tracks on this "Between Nothingness...." in their studio form along with the other three tracks intended for that album. McLaughlin felt that the lost studio album was much better than the live album that got released. However, this live album is quite amazing and still sounds excellent to this day, except for the less than perfect sound quality. Still, it is an excellent addition to your collection and is an album that I think most progressive fusion lovers would enjoy immensely.

 Inner Worlds by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.56 | 112 ratings

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Inner Worlds
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars The MO album with the worst cover ever however, the music on it is far from bad. The album starts very promising with an intensive "All in the family" featuring busy drumming on percussions and drums + guitar/keyboard heavy snowfall. In comparison to earlier MO works, keyboard is more prominent and you can hear Hammond, too. An excellent track. "Miles out" is remotely related to Miles work of early 70's with raw energy and hypnotic bass. Maybe McLaughlin wanted to get back to the roots with newly sound. "In my life" is a friendly sung track with acoustic guitar. Another track worth mentioning is "The way of pilgrim" that has great synth solo a la prog rock and tasty more laid back guitar soloing. A trip to funk is called "Planetary citizen", guitar playing is less interesting, though. The longer title track is as furious as previous MO tracks but using guitar synth hurts the feeling of a natural fusion. The pros are progressive epicness and good development. A good album to close the 70's MO output but not essential.
Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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