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John McLaughlin - Johnny McLaughlin - Electric Guitarist CD (album) cover

JOHNNY MCLAUGHLIN - ELECTRIC GUITARIST

John McLaughlin

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.35 | 49 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album doesn't get a lot of love here, perhaps because it's just collection of instrumental jazz-rock pieces with no central Mahavishnu-esque theme, perhaps too many guests on board but for a bass fiend like myself, getting to admire talents like Fermando Saunders, Alphonso Johnson, the great Jack Bruce, super show-off Stanley Clarke and the magical Neil Jason (who has played with EVERYONE) is quite the thrill. Now the drummers aren't too shabby either what with Tony Williams, Michael Walden, Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette and Tony Smith bashing away merrily on the drum kit. The keyboardists are quite ordinary (LOL): Chick Corea, Tom Coster, Patrice Rushen and the highly underrated Stu Goldberg. Yes, laughter is permitted, just throw in Carlos Santana, David Sanborn and jerry Goodman. Are these all uninspired session men earning their keep and playing along at minimum speed? No. A big resounding NO! Many have criticized this release as having no direction and no soul, which already is odd for the jazz-rock scene that thrives on jamming and technical prowess. The main clue to better understand what is going on here should be immediate: this is not a Mahavishnu Orchestra or a John McLaughlin album but a 'JOHNNY McLaughlin" release! It seems to be a rather important inkling into what was intended, since he had never called himself Johnny before or after! Let us try to analyze this effort on its own merits and not according to past or future positions.

The sheer quality of the cast is enough to make one want to let go of any and all apprehensions and enjoy the ride. Boost the speakers to LOUD, I say. " New York on my Mind" is a deliberately restrained and suave piece that glides smoothly along , perhaps close to MO in many ways due to the presence of Goodman and Cobham no doubt (who both shine here BTW), suitably 'Hammer'-ed by Stu Goldberg's stupendously liquid Moog synth solo and driven along by Fernando's sexy bass asylum. 'Johnny' screeches swiftly, showing his legendary dexterity in the finest light. Really great track.

That Devadip Carlos Santana and Mahavishnu Johnny Mclaughlin had a long and distinguished "Friendship " that went beyond being pals and musicians and that would include devout spirituality, is well documented in the annals of rock history, so this piece should come as no surprise or disappointment. It's a typical Santana exhibition, soaring, screaming and diving like only he can, ably assisted by Johnny on rhythm guitar as well as a large contingent of the Santana band, 1979 vintage in Tom Coster and Armando Peraza. Throw in the stunning Narada Michael Walden on the boom-boom kit with Neil Jason carving on bass, and you get the idea. I also hear a tinge of Jan Akkerman in the guitar motifs, a common attribute back in those days.

The "Every Tear from Every Eye" has some identifiable riffs that are by now iconic, stuttering wildly like only 'Johnny' can, Sanborn's sax supplying the opaque serenity and some deadly Taurus pedal work from Alphonso, who will present a lovely bass solo later as well. Slow-burning jazz improv as Rushen's seductively feminine piano shuffle along. Poignant, heartfelt, there is no dry eye in the house, listening to this smoker.

Keyboardist Chick Corea takes over on the bright and adventurous "Do You Hear the Voices that You Left Behind?", ably assisted by busy boys , Clarke and deJohnette, thus giving 'Johnny' ample room to flick his blisteringly fast pick over the strings and get the blood boiling, which he does liberally throughout the piece. The rhythm section really cooks diligently, a phenomenal display that may appear to some as classic jazz. Clarke takes out his acoustic bass to great effect and puts down a mean run. Corea adds a rapid Mini-Moog solo that sizzles.

Stealing the show however is another question-marked title, the Jack Bruce-dominated "Are You the One? Are You the One?", a colossal romp of the finest vintage, expertly fueled by the ever-propulsive Tony Williams and finished off by the omnipresence of 'Johnny''s imperial wah-wah guitar display. The trio is just plain nasty, all three musical giants pushing the boundaries of their immense talent. Bruce takes the long road, showing off some incredible moves, driving his bass manically, barely unhinged and devout to the cause. Nearly 5 minutes of genius. From trio we go to duo, as 'Johnny' and Billy combine for some devilish sonic theatrics, eschewing any need for added support, the two being noisy enough, thank you! What 'Johnny' does to his electric guitar is clearly inhuman, verging on outright sadism. Smear on some sheer and unchallengeable insanity. No wonder Johnny was often compared to Jimi! And from duo to solo, a tender "My Foolish Heart" lullaby, featuring sweet sounds from 'Johnny' and qualifying as an ethereal wave goodbye.

I don't know but I really liked it, a totally unpretentious menu that sparkles, shimmers and glitters nicely as 'Johnny' comes marching home to becoming John again.

4 Power-driven minstrels

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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