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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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Inner Mounting FlameInner Mounting Flame
Sbme Special Mkts. 1998
Audio CD$2.86
$2.50 (used)
Birds of FireBirds of Fire
Sbme Special Mkts. 2000
Audio CD$2.11
$1.99 (used)
Whiskey A-Go-Go 27 March 1972Whiskey A-Go-Go 27 March 1972
Klondike Records 2014
Audio CD$19.98
$27.68 (used)
Electric Instrumentation InevitablyElectric Instrumentation Inevitably
Double CD · Import
Audio CD$19.99
Between Nothingness & EternityBetween Nothingness & Eternity
Sbme Special Mkts. 2008
Audio CD$2.43
$3.74 (used)
Visions of the Emerald BeyondVisions of the Emerald Beyond
SBME Special Markets 2008
Audio CD$2.96
$0.74 (used)
Winging The Infinite 1972Winging The Infinite 1972
Double CD · Import
Audio CD$19.99
ApocalypseApocalypse
Sbme Special Mkts. 2008
Audio CD$2.43
$0.99 (used)
Between Eternity & Nothingness 1972Between Eternity & Nothingness 1972
Double CD · Import
Audio CD$19.99
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Birds of Fire [Remaster] by Mahavishnu Orchestra (CD, Aug-2000, Columbia/Legacy) US $5.77 Buy It Now 4 days
Visions of the Emerald Beyond by Mahavishnu Orchestra (CD, Jan-1991, Legacy) US $5.77 Buy It Now 4 days
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PSUDOKU Space Grind LP Mahavishnu Orchestra meets Discordance Axis prog-grind US $13.98 Buy It Now 4 days
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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)

4.27 | 622 ratings
The Inner Mounting Flame
1971
4.36 | 872 ratings
Birds Of Fire
1973
3.58 | 176 ratings
Apocalypse
1974
3.86 | 186 ratings
Visions Of The Emerald Beyond
1975
2.39 | 71 ratings
Inner Worlds
1976
2.24 | 38 ratings
Mahavishnu
1984
2.41 | 35 ratings
Adventures In Radioland
1986
4.19 | 126 ratings
The Lost Trident Sessions
1999

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

3.66 | 115 ratings
Between Nothingness & Eternity
1973

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

3.56 | 12 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
4.11 | 20 ratings
Original Album Classics
2007

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.36 | 872 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
4.36 | 872 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
4.27 | 622 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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 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.36 | 872 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
4.36 | 872 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
4.36 | 872 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
4.27 | 622 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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 Adventures In Radioland by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1986
2.41 | 35 ratings

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Adventures In Radioland
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Vobiscum

2 stars The first album I heard them was the "Birds of Fire", then "The Inner Mounting Flame". Very good indeed, I thought, but then I heard this album... "Adventures In Radioland". What happened? I do not know. Ten songs and the cover photo of an expert guitarist "John McLaughlin". It was then that I realized, it was not necessarily an album by "Mahavishnu" but kind of a partnership ... because taking the aforementioned guitarist, all other members have changed. "Jonas Hellborg" is a competent musician, solo career and partnerships considerable quality. I do not have much to say other musicians, but by what I heard the keyboard and saxophone played down the grief of this work. I find hard to highlight some music when the album in general proved to be bad for me. With all due respect the figure of a "McLaughlin", but it seems that he is a guest artist than necessarily the person who exposed his name on the album cover. The instrument that stands out most in the whole album for me is the saxophone, or "Bill Evans", then according to the perspective, The album can best be improved or not, but how dare mention "Mahavishnu" ... was much lower than expected. "The Wait" tracks and" Half Man, Half Cookie" has a walk through the square, dull. Highlighted some positive? Some lesson? Good musicians do not always mean a good album ... and what was to be called adventure became a regret, disappointment...

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 Between Nothingness & Eternity  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Live, 1973
3.66 | 115 ratings

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Between Nothingness & Eternity
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Mahavishnu Orchestra - Between Nothingness & Eternity (live) (1973)

A live album of the classic MO line-up, McLaughlin, Hammer, Goodman, Laird and Cobham. The material played comes from the later released lost trident sessions and was unheard of at time of at the time of this vinyl release.

This album has 10% composition and 90% improvisations with all musicians willing to show how well evolved our hands are when it comes to high speed, precise movements. The rhythmic section of the brilliant Cobham on drums and Laird on bass is often the main attraction, but some solo's of McLaughlin are quite bizarre & impressive and I like the chords played on the Fender Rhodes by Hammer. Sometimes the metal crimson abstract style comes to mind, but most of the time the band looses itself in noodlings.

I myself don't like violin solo's and I've yet to see a live performance of a violin player in a rock band that I do like. The combination of violin and guitar solo at once is also quite astonishing in it's dysfunctional and chaotic effect. Now I can't enjoy both.

The recording sound is acceptable for it's time, but I must say McLaughlin has a pretty nice heavy distorted rock guitar sound. His techniques are both likable for it's speed and sheer energy, but the sensibility is lacking in everything he does.

Conclusion. A nice live set from Mahavishnu Orchestra, but I would not call it essential. There's little melodic playing here but a lot of strong improvised solo's (if you like it fast that is). Three stars. Recommended to fans of the band and people who like to listen to technical jam- sessions.

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 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.36 | 872 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Negoba
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Absolutely Essential - A World in an Album

I acquired BIRDS OF FIRE late in my tour of the great rock guitarists, actually a few years after I'd left my shred phase behind. I'd submerged myself in blues and jazz, and actually began my slow descent into prog. I was at a college used record store and there I saw this legendary album. I figured I needed it just to shore up my guitar nerd cred, so I picked it up actually having no idea what I was getting. I remember listening in my car on the way home and just thinking "What is this???" McLaughlin's picking certainly was fast as quicksand, but the music was simply way over my head even then. I don't think I even listened to the album all the way through in one sitting at that stage of life. My brain just couldn't get it. And I tried, many times.

Over the last five years, immersing myself in prog, my musical palette has grown a bit. Listening to alot of music in odd time signatures and plenty of counterpoint has allowed me to finally appreciate (though not fully understand) what's going on here. Dozens of listens haven't hurt anything either. I now count BIRDS OF FIRE as one of the highest examples of jazz fusion and classic progressive rock in general.

The long "One Word" is the most typical track, the one that will seem most familiar to listeners of other fusion bands. The groove is frolicking and open, and there are extended solo / jam sections. The central lines that the band returns to, however, are pure insanity. Fast, odd time, with dissonant intervals, the composed sections push against the limits of organized complexity. Though I enjoy the solos on this track very much, this is the least impressive track of the record for me.

The reason for this is that the rest of the record flips the ratio of composition to jam. Shared or intertwining lines dominate the best and most challenging tracks including the colossal title track and "Celestial Commuters." The theme lines on these tracks are just beyond my imagination. How anyone came up with these melodies (if you can call them that) is just so far outside my theoretical understanding...

There are several wide open, beautifully serene acoustic tinged pieces that are absolutely essential to the flow of the record. I believe it was "Sanctuary" that finally turned the light on for me for this band. John McLaughlin's mastery of acoustic guitar is also in evidence, and his voice on the instrument is so definingly his own. (In my opinion far above chief rival Al DiMeola.)

Bottom Line: This is what's behind the last curtain. This is the grand prize of fusion.

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