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Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds Of Fire CD (album) cover


Mahavishnu Orchestra


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.33 | 1272 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars One really has to wonder just how much planning went into this album--did these guys just roughly sketch out the basic format of the songs and then let it rip? I imagine that is the case, which makes some of the things you hear on Birds of Fire absolutely jaw-dropping. Although these songs mostly feature catchy tunes, the true magnificence lies in the interplay--Mahavishnu Orchestra really did push each other beyond their already formidable individual capabilities. If there is one quintessential fusion album, it is probably Birds of Fire.

Ironically, that is also why I don't view this album as a masterpiece. Some of the songs (Hope, Resolution, Celestial Terrestrial Commuters) are relatively simple music ideas that are to be carried solely by the technical prowess of the players. It is a tribute to the skill and fusion of these guys that these songs are still memorable, but they also really prevent Birds of Fire from having an overall cohesion, diversity, and progression that I am looking for in a masterpiece album.

Birds of Fire, Miles Beyond, Thousand Island Park, One Word. These are the highlights for me, and each is an incredible piece in its own right; however, they also sample such diverse styles that it's remarkable to find them all on one album. If the rest of this album was this high in quality, Birds of Fire would be a hands-down masterpiece in my book. Birds of Fire represents Mahavishnu Orchestra at its most chaotic, energetic, and creative, full of unique violin/guitar interplay and explosive drumming by Cobham, all to an irregular time signature. Miles Beyond completely changes gears, with a groovy, playful rhythm that reminds somewhat of Cobham's work on Spectrum. Thousand Island Park moves in yet another direction, being a structureless, impressionistic, yet beautiful portrait of music. Then we eventually reach the highlight--One Word. One of the absolute high points in all of fusion, the boys really take their time in developing one of the coolest grooves you will ever hear, leading to some awesome synth/violin/guitar dueling. The rhythm section absolutely simmers with coolness on this track--I personally can't get enough of this song and probably never will.

All in all, Birds of Fire contains some incredible playing and represents the epitome of fusion. I will stop just short of calling it a masterpiece, because simply cutting things loose and playing as opposed to creating a complete and cohesive album are two different things. One thing is certain: By any standard, you need this in your collection.

Flucktrot | 4/5 |


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