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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA

Jazz Rock/Fusion • Multi-National


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Mahavishnu Orchestra biography
Formed in New York City, USA in 1971 - Disbanded in 1976 - Reformed from 1984-1987

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:
- Shakti With John McLaughlin
- Al di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucía
- Jan HAMMER
- Jerry GOODMAN

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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA discography


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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.27 | 983 ratings
The Inner Mounting Flame
1971
4.32 | 1304 ratings
Birds Of Fire
1973
3.64 | 270 ratings
Apocalypse
1974
3.89 | 295 ratings
Visions Of The Emerald Beyond
1975
2.53 | 111 ratings
Inner Worlds
1976
2.33 | 58 ratings
Mahavishnu
1984
2.46 | 53 ratings
John McLaughlin & Mahavishnu: Adventures In Radioland
1986
4.18 | 201 ratings
The Lost Trident Sessions
1999

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

3.70 | 167 ratings
Between Nothingness & Eternity
1973

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

3.62 | 17 ratings
Live At Montreux 74/84
2007

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

3.53 | 12 ratings
The Best Of The Mahavishnu Orchestra
1991
4.54 | 23 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
 Inner Worlds by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.53 | 111 ratings

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Inner Worlds
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars The MO album with the worst cover ever however, the music on it is far from bad. The album starts very promising with an intensive "All in the family" featuring busy drumming on percussions and drums + guitar/keyboard heavy snowfall. In comparison to earlier MO works, keyboard is more prominent and you can hear Hammond, too. An excellent track. "Miles out" is remotely related to Miles work of early 70's with raw energy and hypnotic bass. Maybe McLaughlin wanted to get back to the roots with newly sound. "In my life" is a friendly sung track with acoustic guitar. Another track worth mentioning is "The way of pilgrim" that has great synth solo a la prog rock and tasty more laid back guitar soloing. A trip to funk is called "Planetary citizen", guitar playing is less interesting, though. The longer title track is as furious as previous MO tracks but using guitar synth hurts the feeling of a natural fusion. The pros are progressive epicness and good development. A good album to close the 70's MO output but not essential.
 Visions Of The Emerald Beyond by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.89 | 295 ratings

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Visions Of The Emerald Beyond
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars This output has more streamlined and down to earth sound compared to "Apocalypse", which I find a good thing. In addition, acoustic reflective moments start to prevail over dexterity and frenzy rhythms. Violin by Ponty is very expressive able to create a myriad of moods from Asian to European/America territory. Guitar is held more in the background than ever before. The first track shows an approachable approach to music by combining female vocals and quite straightforward violin with drums. "Eternity's Breath Part 2" has the guitar soloing pulled off, still with quite rocking rawness. I also like drumming that is varied. Towards the end of the song, you'll notice the same motive as in Part 1. "Lila's Dance" has great violin/guitar interplay; later it shifts to a blues jam. Funk exploring happens in "Can't Stand Your Funk", good but not contributing to fusion. "Cosmic strut" is loyal to its name and presents an energetic track however not in the same vein as we saw before, traces of disco/funk make the song quite laid back. "Be happy" is the most dynamic number on the album with violin/guitar and drums excelling with speed, precise execution. "Earth ship" is a mellow relaxing track. "On The Way Home To Earth" has a guitar or Moog expressive solo and wild drumming reminiscent of Billy Cobham before building a scorching guitar melody that finely concludes this good effort.
 Apocalypse by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.64 | 270 ratings

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Apocalypse
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars Apocalypse is the third album of MO, with quite a different line-up that many have already described in other reviews. The largest noticeable change is the orchestra inclusion to create a symphonic, sometimes overblown sound. Titles of songs are somewhat pompous as are maybe ambitions. I find violin and bass playing better than on the previous two albums but sadly, keyboards and drumming is not comparable to the first line-up.

"Power of love" is a mellow reflective acoustic guitar/violin piece that announces revolutionary change in MO sound. "Vision of a naked sword" sounds like composed for first two albums, quite reminiscent of those years however we have orchestra instead of violin performing the wall of sound. I prefer more earthy sections without orchestral elements with the violin, drumming and guitar. Playing is less intensive, clearer and less overwhelming although more than most other fusion bands could handle ;)

"Smile of the beyond" could have certain Return to Forever resemblance with the leading melody and female vocal, and it finally gets moving in the second half with speedy rhythm.

The last epic - "Hymn to Him" has modern classical music/soundtrack feeling in some parts but also ferocious violin/guitar/drum parts. I like quite well audible bass playing on this track and Rhodes improvisation.

This experimental and ambitious album is worth listening to.

 Between Nothingness & Eternity  by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Live, 1973
3.70 | 167 ratings

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Between Nothingness & Eternity
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars The only official live album by Mahavishnu Orchestra has a very ambitious name, lengthy tracks and star-filled line-up so one would have highest expectations of the album. What comes out is a jam masterpiece full of great and sometimes overblown playing that lacks structure and coherence. The audio quality is not good enough to enjoy all single tones of instruments, especially violin, keyboards and bass guitar. Quite understably, Cobham and McLaughlin are mostly visible, followed by Hammer as he has one number - 2nd track. In the first track, there is a furious rock'n'roll section with notable violin soloing, then come guitar and Moog as duett. The dexterity and speed of playing is phenomenal and not easily matched on other fusion records.

"Sister Andrea" has Fender all around but guitar easily beats it with intensity. "Dream" is overly long and difficult to be focused to from the beginning till its end.

This album has an important documentational band character but it is not an excellent or essential live fusion album.

 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.32 | 1304 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sgtpepper

5 stars Another 5-star masterpiece by Mahavishnu Orchestra quite similar to the predecessor although slightly more refined and with more quieter moments. The gong start sounds promising and bursts into a similar opening "Birds of fire" as on the previous album. Compositionally, it is a bit better than the previous opening. Violin, guitar and drums are most prominent and play a nice melody, Cobham keeps himself busy all the time. "Miles Beyond" starts somewhat simply with Hammer's leading motive on Fender Rhodes, then acoustic guitar noodling reminds of Asian landscape. Cobham's drums are so powerful even when he is restrained, with floor toms and snare drum sound is unique to Cobham. We will stay with Cobham, because in the next track, "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters" he keeps us out of breath with the killing drum pattern, I guess in 5/4. The duel between the violin and guitar is equally astonishing and worth mentioning is Moog soloing, too. So much happening under 3 minutes! " Thousand Island Park" offers time to relax with acoustic sublime sounds. "Hope" has a typical cresciendo flow powered by violin/guitar. The highlight is the ten-minute 200km/h hurricane in "One word" announced by Cobham's snare drum's solo before the crazy fiery fusion rhythm starts the fire. The song has many facets and lengthy drum solo is one of them before reaching the peak in the end with all players playing animously loud and hard. A blistering piece! "Sanctuary" may have Asian influence in it, it is a quieter piece with soothing melody. "Open country Joe" is more consumable and accessible than other fast pieces but McLaughlin's soloing is not in any way slowlier, Hendrix escapades are hearable. On the other hand, there' s a country feeling with calm violin and Rhodes that act radio friendly. "Resolution" is wrongly placed on the album - it makes the listener expects something breathtaking and long, however it quite abruptly finished in just 2 minutes. A masterpiece of jazz fusion.

 The Inner Mounting Flame by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 983 ratings

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The Inner Mounting Flame
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sgtpepper

5 stars Mahavishnu Orchestra has a special place among fusion bands since mainly due to their sound by raw guitar, very dynamic drums and sound of violin. There are more accessible and friendly to rock fans than other TOP 2 bands -> Return to Forever and Weather Report. This album together with "Birds of Fire" is the undeniable treasure of Fusion music and set pace for many bands and things to come. It is a testimony of talent, raweness, youth energy combined with jazzy sophistication and lust to experiment.

The legendary first chord and coming violin before the outburst of guitar soloing is fantastic. You can hear that guitar is sometimes even far from typical jazzy and is fuzzed or quite rocking. Drums with substantial bass drum add to the dynamism. The guitar solo is fantastic. The later killer Fender Rhodes solo by Jan Hammer from Czechoslovakia is not to be missed. It's Cobham's drums that later impress with many fill-ins and rich sound. "Dawn" is quite progressive for its age, possibly inspired by Miles recent records, it's sublime and goes more into funky direction with solo violin. Later, the downward spiraling violin/drum tandem makes things go faster. "Noonward race" is indeed a race of guitar and drums, being the most ferocious song together with excellent "Awakening" and "Vital Transformation". Cobham first shows quite rock-oriented drumming for the first minute before pleasing us with his inventive fusion trademark that puts the last period into a fill-in, something nobody else did it to that extent, to my knowledge. This is even more evident on fast-paced "Vital Transformation". Although guitar playing is motivational, it's drums that I pay most attention to in this track.

Acoustic capabilities of the band with traditional jazz instruments are presented on " Lotus On Irish Streams" with delicated acoustic guitar and laid-back piano. It's a very improvisational peace but has lots of positive vibe.

"The Dance Of Maya" has a dark guitar chord that would not be lost on a post-rock record, however it later shifts into a great bluesy jam with violin and guitar dominating. Rock'n'roll piano also joins in. "You Know, You Know" is perhaps the weakest track, with a simple motive and easy listening improvisation, though good for a lounge atmosphere.

"Awakening" is a crazy tour-de-fource to awake listeners from the previous number. All 5 band members set the stage on fire. Guitar playing is intense and its ferocity will throw you far from the earth ;) Cobham plays a rock solo before the bands comes to an end.

 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.32 | 1304 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Trevere

4 stars Fire is the ultimate symbol of human dominance. When early primitive humans discovered fire, they planted the first seed for humans to dominate the planet. With fire, they had a weapon, a smoldering, dangerous weapon. They had something to give them warmth. Without fire, the space race would be impossible, nearly all weapons would never work, and cooking becomes a much more devious task. To some, fire might be the creator of everything evil--animal cruelty, war, technological rivalry. Despite all this, fire also represents intensity and energy. For this reason, I suspect, The Mahavishnu Orchestra's two album titles contain references to fire. They considered themselves a band full of intensity and energy, which is a fairly accurate description of the band.

In the early 70s, jazz fusion was entering its prime. Miles Davis' landmark album Bitches Brew singlehandedly created the genre, with members that would continue in the jazz fusion genre, including John McLaughlin. After Bitches Brew, McLaughlin formed The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Although only releasing two albums (and later The Lost Trident Sessions), The Mahavishnu Orchestra became one of the most well-known fusion bands along with bands like Weather Report. Bands like Aerosmith and The Eagles opened for Mahavishnu. Why did this band catch on so fast" They, to the mainstream, were a completely original band unlike anything they had ever heard before. The distorted rock guitar of McLaughlin accompanied with the prog keyboards of Hammer and the violin of Goodman definitely created a unique sound even in the jazz world. The jazz world accepted Mahavishnu well for their virtuosity unique sound and feel, but the rock guitar drew many jazz fans away. The rhythm section of Rick Laird and Billy Cobham drove through all the complex time signatures thrown their way. Due to this seemingly new sound to the mainstream, Bird of Fire had an 11 week stay on the Billboard Album Chart and peaked at 15.

The album begins by mesmerizing the listener immediately. The title track and album opener starts with a gong crash, giving an epic feel about the album within 2 seconds. The gong crashes get louder and a guitar melody fades in. The electric guitar is somewhat fuzzy and picked with a tremolo style. Bass and violin add in creating a melody of their own. Finally, the drums enter making a seemingly simple rock beat but given the time signature, it isn't. John McLaughlin takes his first solo while the keyboard maintains his melody underneath and the bass continues the bassline created by him and the violin. As always, - McLaughlin's solo is extremely virtuosic. The solo is one of the most rock-esque on the album, often playing extremely fast and then holding a screaming high note on the fretboard. At 2:50, the song picks up steam with an extremely progressive feel, but the song ends up reverting back to the original riff and McLaughlin continues to solo. The entire song continues between these two feels and McLaughlin remains the feature throughout the song. The song fades out on the original riff.

The album continues on its high with a composition dedicated to McLaughlin's mentor, Miles Davis. The song is entitled Miles Beyond, and throws references to "Mademoiselle Mabry." That song itself was a reference to Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary." The song opens with keyboard going through a jazzy chord progression. A bassline and drums enter, creating an excellent groove. The first soloist on the song is Goodman, showing that a violin can fit with a jazzy song. The solo is short and everything drops out except for quiet plucked guitar and the same keyboard progression faintly heard in the background. The guitar plucking is extremely fast and up on the fretboard extremely high. During a variation on the riff, Cobham is given a drum feature, since he does not really play much of a given beat and fills the entire time. While Cobham fills, McLaughlin plays a solo above him, creating a sonic frenzy that only Mahavishnu can create. The song closes out on the groove and a drum crash.

The longest song on the album, One Word, gives each member of the band a feature. The song starts with a drum roll, which fades in slowly before stopping and entering into a beat based on the drum roll. A guitar, violin, and bass line enters along with the drums. While the rest of the instruments hold out a note, the keyboard will play a blisteringly fast run. Then the bass plays a driving bassline and faint keyboard lines can be heard along with extremely fast guitar lines. Everything gets louder and louder before reaching a tripletized climax. The song then enters a funky section which features Rick Laird. He solos all over the fretboard, maintaining a funky groove throughout. The solo is reminiscent of Jaco in his Weather Report days. This is his only real chance to stand out on the album without McLaughlin or anyone else trying to steal his thunder. He goes on for a minute or two before settling on a bass line and McLaughlin begins playing chords and the drums get more intense. The chord strumming pattern becomes more and more complex as the song creepingly gets louder. Finally, McLaughlin launches into a solo. He and Hammer trade off between solos. McLaughlin sounds like two instruments because he continually gets panned in different ears. The trading becomes more and more frantic and rapid throughout the song until they just start playing at the same time. All hell breaks loose, yet the rhythm section holds everything together until Cobham launches into a drum solo. He starts just playing the drum beat with some sparse tom-tom hits. Progressively, the solo drifts away from the drum beat and gets more and more complex. However, he still maintains a sense of time and feel within the solo which is free-form. The solo continues to about 8:20, where the rest of the band enters even though Cobham is still filling. Goodman comes in with his violin and joins the frenzy of McLaughlin and Hammer. The rhythm section continues to impress by holding all of this frenzy within the complex time signatures the song continues to throw up. The song ends by progressively getting louder and louder until a drum fill and then a held note.

Birds of Fire shows the apex of Mahavishnu's abilities in their short yet illustrious run in the jazz fusion world. The Mahavishnu Orchestra is criminally unheard of these days and serve as inspiration for those interested in rock and jazz.

 Birds Of Fire by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.32 | 1304 ratings

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Birds Of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I downloaded Birds of Fire a few years ago, and it was one of the first "fusion" albums I ever listened to closely. In fact, the only other fusion-related albums I owned all featured Bill Bruford: Moraz & Bruford, Earthworks, and the Bruford band. (Later, I found Miles Davis, including some of his work with John McLaughlin.)

Coming in to Birds of Fire, I knew of John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham. I knew Jan Hammer from his "Miami Vice Theme." And I knew the song "Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love" by heart (the They Might Be Giants song, that was - - named after the song on Birds of Fire, as I found out). Oh, and I recognized that Roger Dean must have done the cover.

As I began to listen, I began to form the opinion that this fusion album was like jazz, but with electric guitar, violin, and synthesizer replacing the stereotypical trumpet and saxophone. That was fine for a working theory, and it fit several of the songs on the first vinyl side, as well as "One World." But it was a poor fit for "Thousand Island Park," it failed to explain either of the last two songs on the album, "Open Country Joy" and "Resolution."

After the solid opening song, the Mahavishnu Orchestra really announces its presence with "Miles Beyond" and the incredible "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters." Things return to earth a bit for the next three songs (whose total time is less than that of "Miles Beyond:" "Sapphire Bullets," "Thousand Island," and "Hope." The jazzy "One Word," with its drum solo, is the centerpiece of the album, and harkens back to the sound of the beginning of the record. It's followed by the simmering "Sanctuary," which at five minutes in length is about twice as long as it has to be.

After its opening minute, the penultimate song, "Open Country Joy," threatens to become a mellower "Sanctuary." But its down-home fiddlin' gives way to some awesome jazz-rock. The song ends with a reprise of the opening passage. Finally, "Resolution" (couldn't they have come up with a more creative name?) is a fitting close to the album, even without the unnecessary, drawn-out finality I would've expected from this kind of album. It's more like a coda than a finale, I guess.

Everyone on Birds of Fire is a virtuoso. I'm convinced that even the guy who dusted the mixing desk each morning was one of the world's best at his job. The sound quality is very good overall, although in a few places, the soloing instrument (usually a synthesizer of the violin) is mixed up front and loud, which conflicts with the mixing style on most of the record. I recognize that this is a common practice in jazz, but on jazz records, the effect is achieved more so by having the supporting instruments play more quietly. Anyway, minor quibble.

The composition is also very good. If I had to cite a weakness, it would be that of the rhythm, dissonance, and melody which comprise a work of fusion like Birds of Fire, the melody seems to be in relatively short supply.

Birds of Fire is a very good album. I'd recommend it to any fan of progressive-rock music, even to those who aren't fans of jazz. Fans of instrumental rock will also probably find a lot to like here.

 The Inner Mounting Flame by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 983 ratings

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The Inner Mounting Flame
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars As the free love 60s ceded into the 70s, the party was seemingly over as the blues based rock'n'roll turned psychedelic art rock scene was reeling from the deaths of some of the greats of the era. The year 1970 saw the untimely deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix as well as the beloved Beatles calling it quits after a decade long reign after they continuously upped the ante by reinventing rock music. Once again, the very next year of 1971 saw the similar fate of Jim Morrison of the Doors meeting his untimely demise and it seemed that the boldest and brightest stars in the biz had been snuffed out or were calling it quits. The time was ripe for a new era in the evolution of the rock paradigm and British born John McLaughlin was up to the lofty task of assembling one of the most ambitious collaborative efforts in the contemporary fertile cross-pollination of the disparate worlds of jazz and rock. While carefully taking notes under the tutelage of the greats such as Tony Williams in Lifetime and Miles Davis on such classics such as "In A Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew," McLaughlin set out to find the perfect ensemble of extraordinary musicians to bring his musical visions into fruition.

The search was on and in the end McLaughlin cemented his dream lineup of a truly international cast of characters. The whole vision came together as a quintet that included a violinist, bassist, guitarist, keyboardist and an extraordinarily strong drummer. McLaughlin, of course, had the guitar parts covered (making his famous double necked guitar his signature feature) but when it came to a dazzling virtuosic percussionist, his first gaze was fixed on the inimitable Panama born Billy Cobham who worked with McLaughlin in various Miles Davis sessions. The next slot to fill was the role of violinist-in-chief. Originally slated for the great Jean Luc-Ponty, the idea was scrapped due to immigration issues which prevented him from coming to the US where the band was founded (Queens, NYC to be exact.) This led to some investigation work and after listening to some contemporary violin based artists, the final decision was to ask Jerry Goodman of The Flock who turned out to be the only USAmerican of the team. He accepted. Next up, the Czechoslovakian extraordinaire Jan Hammer was a suggestion of Miroslav Vitous (from Weather Report) for keyboardist that panned out and and the final slot of bassist was awarded to Irish Rick Laird who had been an acquaintance of McLaughlin back in England who fit the bill perfectly.

After a complete lineup of top notch talent, McLaughlin chose the name MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA after a name he attained with his studies with his spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy. Right from the getgo the band was a huge hit even at their very first appearance at the Greenwich nightclub "Gaslight At The Go-Go" and soon would release their debut album THE INNER MOUNTING FLAME which found instant popularity and even charted the Billboard charts. In no time at all, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA became a hugely successful popular live act performing a grueling schedule and receiving critical acclaim for their unique fusion of disparate musical styles. Their sound encompassed a heavy rock infused energy ushered in by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and other late 60s heavy rock acts with intricate complex jazz compositions infused with Western classical and Indian classical elements. The band was notable for engaging in frenetic virtuosic performances in perfect unison and the ability to effortlessly transfer into calm bucolic passages, funk dominated rhythms and even basic blues only in unorthodox 7/4 time signatures. This was a band where everyone was the highest caliber of their respective instruments and one of the few examples of a band where five virtuosos shined equally. A true supergroup before most were household names.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was revolutionary in the maturity of their sound. While the 60s were ratcheting up the complexity in the rock paradigm with such monumental albums as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by the Beatles and the birth of progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion, this group took all the maturing elements and crafted a fully ripened musical style that unlike many of their contemporaries married the youthful energetic flair of rock music without sacrificing the intricate compositional sophistication of jazz and Western classical music. The overtones of Eastern ethnic influences added yet one more layer of compositional genius to their overall approach and the gypsy folk aspects of Goodman's violin performances cemented this unique group as one of the most innovative of the ages. The band had achieved in retrospect the perfect marriage of the contemporary styles of music with each representation: jazz, rock, folk, classical and ethnic each receiving an equivalent heft in the mix with the musicians exuding lightning fast finger melting prowess accompanied by Cobham delivering some of the most intricately complex and comprehensive percussive attacks unmatched until the advent of the most extreme forms of metal music. In fact i would surmise that MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was just as essential in the development of metal music. Whereas Black Sabbath created the primeval darkness and distorted tritone features and Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin the compositional flair, it was this band that unleashed the full primal energetic fury that most music was lacking during the era.

As THE INNER MOUNTING FLAME begins with its very first moments, it is clear that this is a band unlike any others with members steeped in a multitude of influences and able to latch onto each other's irregularities and complex interchanges like a seasoned flock of birds in unison traversing the vastness of the atmosphere above. The appropriately titled opening track "Meeting Of The Spirits" displays the band in full unifying prowess as guitar, bass, keys, violin and drums all take turns in the spotlight and stepping out of the limelight at the appropriate moment for a satisfying melodic tradeoff steeped in complex time signature deviations like true jazz masters in a heavy rock infused context that without warning can cede to calm smooth jazz passages before erupting into pyroclastic volcanic eruptions of sound. The album is incredibly well paced as well as not to overwhelm and enervate the listener with its frenetic heaviness. The tracks "Dawn," "A Lotus On Irish Streams" and "Dance Of Maya" contain significant sections of calm bucolic contemplative although heavier sections wrest control away ultimately. The general methodology of track placement finds the heavy tracks followed by the slow and dreamy ones until the final track "Awakening" ups the intensity and creates not only one of the most insanely intense tracks on the album but perhaps of the entire early 70s with an insanely electric violin leading the pack that tracks off with drum rolls, keyboard outbreaks, adrenalized bass lines along with McLaughlin's signature guitar fret melting technical wizardry.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was one of the rare musical entities of the era that not only conjured up highly innovating and uncompromising compositions performed in the most unhinged and eclectic fashion but they also achieved rock star status with sold out venues, a record deal with Columbia Records and were loved by both the music loving public and critics alike. The convening of kindred spirits was the lightning bolt of creative energy that the music industry needed at the time and helped bring the progressive rock fusion scene to the forefront allowing other musicians to exercise new musical freedom tamped down by commercial interests. While the pressures of instant success and fame would take their toll on the five members in just a few short years, on their debut THE INNER MOUNTING FLAME, the band had already struck gold by culminating the various strains of rock, jazz and folk from the 60s while retaining the elements of funk and blues. Another aspect of the latter half of the 60s was the spiritual quest to seek out a guru with India becoming the destination of choice and McLaughlin's involvement with Sri Chinmoy inspired the ethnic influences which added yet another layer of sophistication in the mix. Personally i probably prefer the followup "Birds Of Fire" just a tad over this debut but there is no doubt that the debut by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA remains one of most amazing amalgamations of musical mastery in the entire rock / jazz fusion paradigm and is one of those rare albums i never tire of. A true masterpiece of all ages.

 The Inner Mounting Flame by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 983 ratings

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The Inner Mounting Flame
Mahavishnu Orchestra Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The primal flame to really fused jazz and rock?

4.5 stars

This is perhaps what a volcanic eruption may sound like...

First effort of one of the big 3 fusion bands of the 70's, with WEATHER REPORT and RETURN TO FOREVER, "The Inner Mounting Flame" can be considered as the first record to genuinely combine the raw fury of hard rock with free unconstrained jazz. Of course, funk, jazzy rock or jazz incorporating rock elements have already been heard since the end of the 60's, but I cannot think any other artist went so far in this fusion of genres before. Compared to pioneering records such as Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way" or Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats", "The Inner Mounting Flame" marks a clear evolution. This debut album is a pure magma, an acoustic and electric maelstrom sculpting heavy musical mantras inside mountains. Jazz, rock, blues and Indian ragas find themselves melted together to fuel an unique loud, rapid and mystical fire, with multiple uncommon time signatures and complex rhythms.

Like most line-ups from this time period, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's members are all virtuosi in their respective instrument and form a true dream-team: incredible guitarist John McLaughlin, who just spent 2 years at Miles Davis' school to record no less than pioneering albums, organist Jan Hammer, who will later compose Miami Vice theme, whirlwinding violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird and extraordinary drummer Billy Cobham. The fast and spiritual aspects of the music is logical when you know John McLaughlin was the only composer as well as a disciple of the Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. That's certainly where these stylistic choices come from.

The disc opens with the incandescent "Meeting Of The Spirits". Violin and drum explodes in a lava of burning guitars. Wow! After all this condensed fury, "Dawn" arrives as a welcomed spacey pause. A calm beautiful jazzy and bluesy kind of ballad. Then appears the raging "Noonward Race". This high-speed delirium jazzy hard-rock can stand for an overboosted jam. In contrast, "A Lotus On Irish Streams" is the perfect soundtrack to wander barefoot in peaceful hanging gardens. A bit mystical and dominated by Jan Hammer's relaxing keyboard textures, this track is a delicate and soothing passage.

Back to life with "Vital Transformation", maybe the hottest and grooviest composition of the album. Not really sounding like an ancient Center American ritual, "The Dance Of Maya" starts with a dark oppressive pattern. This first half tends to become a little repetitive though. Then it surprisingly mutates into a heavy blues-rock! The slow desert jam "You Know, You Know" is enjoyable, nonetheless not varied enough. The record finishes in fireworks with its wildest track, "Awakening". A thundering and breathtaking piece, fast-paced, with multiple breaks and corrosive moments. Guitar, bass, violin, keyboards, drums, each musician displays his virtuosity here!

As the debut opus of a legendary band, "The Inner Mounting Flame" was already, and still remains nowadays, a true sonic blast, stunning and innovative. Such an advanced mixture of hard rock with complex time signatures in the improvisational jazz mold was never heard at the dawn of the 70's.

Simply an essential listen for anyone interested in fusion music. Not the most accessible MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA offering, but undoubtedly their rawest!

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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