Originally Posted by noodles
Yeah, I'm a huge Mahavishnu fan.
The first two MO albums, Inner Mounting Flame
and Birds of Fire
are absolutely essential. They're really a thing unto themselves.
After that, my recommendations might deviate a bit from some other folks here. The Lost Trident Sessions
is OK, but the core material from that album is performed with a lot more fire and virtuosity on the live album Between Nothingness and Eternity
, which the band chose to release at the time instead of the studio versions. The sound on BNAE is very raw, but the music is amazing. McLaughlin goes into a total Coltrane zone on that album, playing shit that makes you think his guitar is about to explode. There was a lot of tension within the band by that point, and it seemed to result in fiery performances.
Even with all that, the MO album I listen to more than any other is Visions of the Emerald Beyond
, from the second version of the band.
Despite the reputation of the classic MO lineup, the second version of MO was actually an upgrade in several areas. Jean-Luc Ponty is a much better violinist than Jerry Goodman and provided a better foil for McLaughlin. Narada Michael Walden could go toe-to-toe with Cobham in terms of chops, but also play a smoother funk when called for.
The only questionable change was on keyboards. Gayle Moran played keys on Apocalypse
, but she mostly stayed in the background and was hired to provide female vocals. She was replaced by Stu Goldberg, who toured for Visions
and played on the final Inner Worlds
album. Goldberg is good, but he didn't get to show that much in MO. He did more stuff a few years later in McLaughlin's One Truth Band.
The main problem with the second version of MO is that the music was much more heavily composed and arranged, providing fewer sections for exciting solos. Apocalypse
is flawed by the inability to properly incorporate an orchestra, but Visions
is pure brilliance. Inner Worlds
is strange--too many vocals and no violinist. McLaughlin overdubbed dueling solos on his 360 Systems synth guitar, which is OK but not great. He was already performing acoustic Indo-Fusion with Shakti by that point, and that's where his attention obviously was. The first Shakti album, Shakti Featuring John McLaughlin
, probably contains the most over-the-top playing that McLaughlin ever did. If you can get into the acoustic stuff, I highly recommend it.
MO was really a live band, but other than the one official live album, you mostly have to look to bootlegs, of which there are many quality ones on offer. There was a professionally recorded show in Cleveland in 1972 that was slated for release about a decade ago--it's been properly remixed and everything but got lost in the shuffle when the record industry started 'downsizing'.
My recommendation: Check out the website :: JazzFusion.TV - official website ::
They've collected hundreds of great fusion boots that you can stream for free and/or download, with dozens of Mahavishnu shows, including the aforementioned Cleveland show. You'll be amazed at how good MO was live.
I'll post more on some of my other fusion favorites if anyone's interested.