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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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Birds of FireBirds of Fire
Sbme Special Mkts. 2000
Audio CD$1.94
$1.61 (used)
Visions of the Emerald BeyondVisions of the Emerald Beyond
SBME Special Markets 2008
Audio CD$2.39
$2.38 (used)
Between Nothingness & EternityBetween Nothingness & Eternity
Sbme Special Mkts. 2008
Audio CD$1.90
$1.89 (used)
ApocalypseApocalypse
Sbme Special Mkts. 2008
Audio CD$2.53
$2.78 (used)
Original Album ClassicsOriginal Album Classics
Import
Columbia/Legacy Europe 2007
Audio CD$13.56
$14.60 (used)
Lost Trident SessionsLost Trident Sessions
Sbme Special Mkts. 1999
Audio CD$4.15
$2.98 (used)
Whiskey A-Go-Go 27 March 1972Whiskey A-Go-Go 27 March 1972
Klondike Records 2014
Audio CD$11.11
$14.71 (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)

4.26 | 683 ratings
The Inner Mounting Flame
1971
4.35 | 944 ratings
Birds Of Fire
1973
3.61 | 192 ratings
Apocalypse
1974
3.84 | 197 ratings
Visions Of The Emerald Beyond
1975
2.42 | 76 ratings
Inner Worlds
1976
2.24 | 39 ratings
Mahavishnu
1984
2.40 | 36 ratings
Adventures In Radioland
1986
4.16 | 139 ratings
The Lost Trident Sessions
1999

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

3.67 | 118 ratings
Between Nothingness & Eternity
1973

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

3.57 | 13 ratings
Live At Montreux 74/84
2007

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

3.56 | 10 ratings
The Best Of The Mahavishnu Orchestra
1991
4.50 | 14 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
3.61 | 192 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 | 139 ratings

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The Lost Trident Sessions
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

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
4.35 | 944 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
4.35 | 944 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

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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 The Inner Mounting Flame  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.26 | 683 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
3.84 | 197 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
4.35 | 944 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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 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.35 | 944 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Argonaught

3 stars As I am growing older and mellower, I have less and less love for "noisy", and especially for neurotic music. You don't have to have to streak around with foaming mouth to be eloquent; and you don't have to mount a brutal sonic assault to express your musical ideas.

I'd like to say something positive about Mahavishnu Orchestra in general and the Birds of Fire specifically, but it's become way too irritating and unbearable to listen to! I'll just leave 3-star review to recognize the Mahavishnu Orchestra's, apparently, positive influence on a number of great musicians that came into prominence, following the footsteps of this band.

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 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.35 | 944 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by AEProgman

5 stars How do you follow such a whopper of a debut album? By doing one a tad better.

I think the first two albums of Mahavishnu were responsible for more blowing out more speakers in home stereos than anything previously. Between Mahvishnu and Return to Forever, the improvisional fusion era that Miles began is in high gear. The Mahavishnu sound is distinct with the unique sound of of electric violin and guitar especially when playing in sync. This album seems to showcase the rest of the band more than the first.

Now for a quick take on the tracks.

Birds of Fire - A fast and furious opening that is one of the strongest pieces of the album. It really shows Cobham's drumming expertise.

Miles Beyond - Giving a nod to Miles's influence. It has a bluesy feel with nice chord structure tone by John with a slice of blistering fretwork in the end.

Celestial Terrestrial Commuters - Funky with some psychedlic keyboards by Jan Hammer.

Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love - This 24 seconds of noodling filler.

Thousand Island Park - Has more of traditional Jazz sound but electric with a Spanish flavor

Hope - A mild (not soft) winding up the scale of sorts, nice mix.

One Word - Here is where they feed off of one another in that true improvisional style. You can hear what makes John such a great guitarist other than his fast fret work, he perfectly fits those little memorable chord riffs in a supporting role, when he is not taking the lead, to complete the sound of the band. This also showcases Billy Cobham, which I believe (not 100% sure) this is the first time a double bass drum is being used in a solo effort.

Sanctuary - A haunting tune of Jerry Goodman's violin, along with guitar and keyboards in a typical Jazz scaling arrangement.

Open Country Joy - A nice melodic song where it gives you the feeling of riding in the country, but then they break into a furious bantering session off of one another (soon to become the staple of most Jazz fusion). Then you are suddenly back on the country road again. Great trip!

Resolution - A guitar chord style sound that seems to be driving to find a climatic crescendo that never quite finds it but keeps searching upward for it.

It would be easy to merge this and the first album as one, but I will give this one the edge as it helped defined the next phase of Fusion that Miles started. It gets a 5.

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 The Inner Mounting Flame  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.26 | 683 ratings

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The Inner Mounting Flame
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Here is a fine example of what really defines the term progressive! By 1969, the musical world was still blues-rock based, short poppy tunes aimed at the dance floor or the airwaves and generally comprised guitar, bass, drums and organ with a strong focus on vocals. With the advent of new technology (synthesizers) and the introduction of old school instruments (violin, sax) played by serious and young music students who were attracted by the counterculture (yes, sex, drugs and rock 'n roll), the sonic universe leapt mightily forward, progressing towards new unattained horizons. This is where the term 'progressive rock' came from (sorry, had to state it!).

With a gifted and original guitarist such as Englishman John MacLaughlin , a masterful genius of technique and tone, a muscular drummer in Billy Cobham from Panama , keyboard whiz and Czech refugee Jan Hammer , master American violinist Jerry Goodman and bassist Rick Laird from Dublin, Eire , this Mahavishnu Orchestra simply devastated that nascent scene with sheer bombastic virtuosity and uncommon flair. They remain arguably one of the pioneering bands of the new rock movement, blurring the line between Rock, Jazz, Pop and creating what is now universally known as 'fusion'. Not surprising that Carlos Santana would unite with MacLaughlin, as the Chicano fretmeister would soon espouse the teachings of guru Sri Chinmoy and search for the 'Emerald Beyond'!

This monumental recording was the first installment of a series of colossal Mahavishnu Orchestra recordings (Birds of Fire and Visions of the Emerald Beyond are of course legendary) and sounds as devastating in 2012 as it did in 1971 when it took the world by storm. I remember the shock and awe of its appearance on turntables and the blizzard effect it had on young impressionable music fans. One word = disbelief!

No time is wasted on pretty intros, 'Meeting of the Spirits' has that same wondrous feel that permeated Santana's Caravanserai, slithering carpets of synths and polyrhythmic drum jubilation that lay the foundation for John to flutter over his electric guitar, the violin in tow. Hammer's e-piano revels in the mid-section showing clearly that he is no electronics-only wizard, as he is shamelessly playing tag with Goodman's screeching instrument. The precious fragility of 'Dawn' is there to behold, a dreamy and elegant instrumental lament that conjures images of an awakening sun, soon to be bold. At the time, no one outside of Hendrix played such a dizzying style of e-guitar, blessed with demonic speed and insane diversity that pioneered more than a few future maestros. Precious loveliness.

'Noonward Race' is just like the title implies a speed freak jam with frantic and exalted soloing from Goodman, Hammer and the Mac himself. All of course delivered at Indy 500 velocity and Swiss timing precision. Cobham is a whirling drum dervish, using his Gatling gun technique to devastating effect, as he did throughout his MO career.

'A Lotus on Irish Streams' is a serene Chinmoy (pun) reprieve, gently bucolic, pastoral and aromatic. Mac prefers using his acoustic talents with the violin coasting its slithering beauty amid the pooling piano rivulets. Meditative and ponderous.

Things get scorching and sweaty again with the forceful 'Vital Transformation', where loopy pyrotechnics are propelled monstrously by skillful drumming and careening guitars, all at quasi-supersonic speeds. The musical definition of delirium if I ever heard one! I could only imagine the shock when listeners first hooked up with this vortex of bewilderment!

'The Dance of the Maya' releases an electrified slinky riff that suggests both historical doom and dense vegetation, furious guitar clanging entwined with agonizing violin that suddenly erupts into a bluesy e-piano led funk. Cobham bashes away in an unusual sweaty manner, cymbals ablaze whilst John's guitar races wildly within a lightning blitzed furrow that addresses both the past and the future brilliantly. Relentless, obsessive and utterly manic.

My fave 'You Know, You Know' is obscurely remote and suave, groovy e-piano, shuffling drums and a repetitive bass figure set the tone for a slow-developing MacLaughlin scratch that veers on the sublime, a sensational and original moody jam that thrills in its lack of blistering notes.

The teetering between tame and wild continues with a preposterously boisterous finale that will wake you up by its sheer maximum velocity and artistic dexterity. The musicians demonstrate true jazz tendencies, each creating their own sonic bubble and when called upon, stellar on-a-dime interplay. John unleashes a blazing solo that defies logic in time and space and Cobham turbocharges ahead like some percussive locomotive.

Scary stuff that will develop into two future masterpieces.

4 clandestine flares

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