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Mahavishnu Orchestra - Apocalypse CD (album) cover


Mahavishnu Orchestra


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.64 | 271 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars With the first line-up of MO now gone, McLaughlin instantly went back to work, recreating a group, which had yet to reach its goals of mixing Stravinsky and jazz-rock. So recruiting Ponty and Gayle Moran in the forefront, and adding Narada Walden and Armstrong in rhythm section behind him, technically MO was no worse off. If Ponty and Armstrong were better than Goodman and Laird (this is debatable and certainly not flagrant), he was losing out on Hammer and Cobham being replaced with Moran and Walden (and anything but that obvious) but the group was still top notch, especially adding a small string section.

This fan once dismissed this album a tad because of the heavy string arrangements it contains, but with age, Apocalypse is probably becoming THE album that MO had set out to make right from the start: it is probably the one closest achieving the Stravinsky realm and not just because of the orchestra, but in its writing concept. A fairly long album (over the 50 minutes), Apocalypse is a bold and daring move, especially risking the "Orchestra and group" thing, missed by Deep purple and but almost transformed into a touchdown by Caravan and Procol Harum, here still more convincingly so, even if Sir George Martin botches up the job, much the way he's done it with Stackridge's Bowler Hat album. Indeed, if Sir George was indisputable in the 60's with the fab four, he was not quite up to par in the following decade: he's responsible for the cheesiest moments of this album.

After the slow-crescendoing Power Of Love, where strings of all kinds are echoing the same feeling than on Carlos and Alice's Illuminations album, the album plunges deeply (and darkly) with the impressive Vision Is A Naked Sword, where the Orchestra is magnifying the exploits of the group and Narada's drumming is wowing everyone. The 14 minutes of this track are simply awesome, changing perpetually, alternating group, orchestra and both fused passages and a solid Mc solo. The first side closes on the very slow and cheesy intro with strings accompanying Gayle Moran's very average singing, before the track finally jumps into shape halfway through, Gayle getting some help from Narada and apparently Armstrong as well in the middle section. But as quick as it came, the group disappears to leave the orchestra to close up cheesily.

Just two tracks on the flipside with Wings Of Karma starting on very Stravinskyan orchestra (Spring's Rite comes to mind) before Ponty leads the grouping a wild fusion of molten lava, the orchestra enhancing the group's depth of sound. The huge epic Hymn To Him is the centrepiece of the album and one of the main achievements of Mc's MO, all line-up considered. Indeed the Hymn is more an ode as to how to fuse classical jazz and rock music together and somehow it manages the feat in a way that very few others managed (if at all). There are moments when the over-powering strings are laying it a bit thick and a certain lack of finesse can be seen, but this is a very minor gripe.

Apocalypse was a bold move, one touchdown, but the conversion kick bouncing off the poles, but the point totals were enough for MO to have won the bet high-handedly. I'd say the album's best moments are when the orchestra is at the service of the group or when parts of the group help out the orchestra, but when the orchestra is left to do the majority of the music in a given moments, it sounds too awkward for this listener. Nevertheless an essential album that represent fusion at its best.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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