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Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds Of Fire CD (album) cover


Mahavishnu Orchestra


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.33 | 1273 ratings

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4 stars If you thought that Mahavishnu Orchestral did their best on their debut album Inner Mounting Flame then please reconsider this opinion by experiencing Birds Of Fire. This album takes the same basic formula and improves almost every aspect of it!

John McLaughlin and the band begin this record with the excellent title-track that sets the tone and quality bar for all the compositions to come. This performance shows the perfect difference between why I enjoy McLaughlin's style while being somewhat negative about other jazz guitarists like Al Di Meola and Allan Holdsworth. John McLaughlin-penned compositions have a sense of progression which means that his guitar play doesn't feel like meaningless jamming around the same basic theme but instead like a composition where his intricate play fills in the void that is left by other members. It's true that even McLaughlin can fall victim of the useless jamming syndrome, which seems to be impossible to avoid if you're in this line of work, but those moments aren't as common and are far between.

Now that we've got this discussion out of the way, let's breeze through the rest of the album. Miles Beyond is a nice tribute to the master even though this composition does come off sounding a bit out of place with the rest of the tracks due to its unique build-up approach to composition structuring. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters, on the other hand, is where the band returns to the familiar landscapes of the opening title-track which is also probably why I find this composition both highly appealing and disappointingly short. After a brief sound experiment of Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love the music on Thousand Island Park returns to the low key realm of A Lotus On Irish Streams, from , with excellent melodies and great interplay between the instruments.

Hope is another disappointedly short number that offers a highly enjoyable build-up which then fades out only to be replaced by a 10 minute extensive jam track called One Word. The description of this long improv gives an impression that I should find it very tedious but instead it turns out to be quite an intricate prolonged jam. It's true that the prominent bass and drum sections might get slightly tiresome especially during the drum-solo, still it's a privilege to hear a solo spot by Billy Cobham and the surprising restrain of John McLaughlin only shows that less can definitely be more. Sanctuary cools the experience down after the intensive jam by indulging us in the atmospheric realm of meditation music.

The final six minutes of the album turn out to be quite an unexpected change of direction with Open Country Joy sounding at times almost like a country music performance with Jerry Goodman's violin only adding to this misconception. I always get the feeling that this 4 minute composition is played out as conceptual piece where we're literally taken on a trip exploring the open country site, where the sudden bursts of energy represent the spontaneous reaction that we might have to this whole experience. If anything, this track always manages to make me chuckle. Resolution is quite a different story featuring a very strict and almost melancholic sound that might give the impression of an intensional swan song from the first Mahavishnu Orchestral lineup. If this description doesn't convince you, then think of it more as a grand conclusion to the experience that is Birds Of Fire!

***** star songs: Birds Of Fire (5:42) Celestial Terrestrial Commuters (2:53) Thousand Island Park (3:19)

**** star songs: Miles Beyond (4:38) Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love (0:22) Hope (1:56) One Word (9:54) Sanctuary (5:01) Open Country Joy (3:42) Resolution (2:08)

Rune2000 | 4/5 |


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