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crying in your beer
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I stambled over them by accident a while ago, now finally i got the album "birds of fire" here...holy mother, what have I missed until now! Picked the package up from the post office this morning and just listened to this one song i already knew on my way to work - cant wait to get home to enjoy the rest of the record!

 

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Big
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Yeah, hearing that album really opened up the whole can of fusion worms for me. The first three MO albums (Inner Mounting Flame, BoF, and the Lost Trident Sessions) are all totally essential. After that, well, they still put out great albums, but they're quite different. The next thing you should look for is Horacee Arnold - "Tales of the Exonerated Flea." It's a lost fusion classic, with Jan Hammer on keys and John Abercrombie on guitar, among other greats. You'll dig it.
 

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I am Groot
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<--- Waiting for Chris (jacksonplayer) to find this thread.
 

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My dad had this old vinyl with no name on it that I absolutely loved. I thought it was some Zappa ensemble thing. Talking with Hungus over IM, he sent me a youtube link to a MO performance, and I was pretty much floored, because it was exactly what was on that mystery album I discovered in my dad's collection nearly 20 years ago.

:yesway:
 

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Dr. Mrs. The Monarch
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Yep, awesome band! I've recommended The Inner Mounting Flame to so many people, it's just amazing. They were a pretty big influence on Cynic as well, who do a decent cover of Meeting of the Spirits.

Billy Cobham, the drummer from Mahavishnu is absolutely incredible, you guys might want to check out his solo album Spectrum, it's very good.

 

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<--- Waiting for Chris (jacksonplayer) to find this thread.
:lol: 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 and Visions, 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.
 

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^Please do!!!
Ok, well you asked for it. :lol:

I mostly stick with '70s fusion, though there is a lot of good recent stuff that I could talk about, too.

Classic fusion covers a lot of ground, so I'll probably divide things into the different phases that American fusion went through in the '70s:

--Avant-garde/cross-over
--Jazz-rock
--Jazz-funk
--Soul jazz
--Pop jazz

First off is the avant-garde phase that started with Miles Davis's In A Silent Way in 1969 and lasted through about 1972-73. Basically, fusion started because around 1967-68 Miles Davis started hanging around with modernist orchestral guys and married a young woman named Betty Mabry, who was a real 'scene maker' in NYC and turned Miles onto Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. The result was two ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL albums: In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Almost all of the people who led the great fusion bands of the '70s played on one or both of these albums.

Silent Way is very eerie and sparse, showing a lot of modernist tendencies. It still features the core of the great acoustic Miles Davis Quintet from the '60s, but expanded with two or three electric pianists going simultaneously, and John McLaughlin in his first major recording--made on literally his first day in New York after arriving from England. I love this album, but it might be tough sledding for folks looking for crazy shredding etc.

I've been listening to Bitches Brew for 20 years now, and I still hear new stuff in its weird sonic stew. It's a much denser, layered affair than Silent Way, with a cast of thousands all seemingly playing at the same time. Some of it is probably a bit dated now, but it's one of the most important albums in jazz history. Again, it has a very modernist, avant-garde orientation, with very few 'out front' solos, and a loose organization. You can still hear some ties to jazz as it had been, compared to where Miles would go in the '70s.

Miles went off in different directions with his electric music after these two albums, but several alumni of these sessions carried on the same basic style--especially the three keyboardists.

--Chick Corea started Return to Forever, which was a lighter, cooler, shimmering thing in its first incarnation with Stanley Clarke on acoustic bass, Joe Farrell on sax, and Flora Purim and Airto Moreira providing a Brazilian sound on percussion, drums and vocals. While it was more accessible than what Miles was doing, RTF Mk. I still had that eerie coolness to it. The two albums Return to Forever and Light As A Feather are favorites of mine, but they are probably not the best place to start into fusion, since they are heavily indebted to Brazilian music and don't really "rock."

--Herbie Hancock did a trio of albums with his Mwandishi band from 1971-73 that have more of a tribal groove than Bitches Brew, but work the same general abstract territory. I love all three albums and highly recommend them all if you have an open mind: Mwandishi, Crossings, and Sextant.

--Joe Zawinul started Weather Report with Wayne Shorter after they both left Miles's band, and the first two albums, Weather Report and I Sing The Body Electric, are total mind-fucks. Part of the latter album was drawn from live recordings used on the Japanese-only release Live in Tokyo, which is my favorite album by this version, but also a bit hard to find. Also, Joe Zawinul's album Zawinul was recorded just before he started Weather Report and is a great album in the same general style.

I'm way into this style of jazz at the moment, and it's quite addictive if you can wrap your mind around it. It's all about textures and space.
 

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THUNDERBEEEEAR!
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could someone please lend me a small country's gdp so I can order some records? :lol:

I'm already into Weather Report and some of Corea's stuff, and I absolutely love what Herbie Hancock did with the headhunters. Got to check out Mwandishi.
just pop me a pm with what you think are the most essential first buy stuff could you?
 

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The second phase of fusion was the jazz-rock era, and that's probably the most interesting one for most of us who grew up with metal. This is also where most of the great guitar work resides.

The first major jazz-rock guitarist was Larry Coryell. He was the first guitarist who fully assimilated both Hendrix and the traditional jazz guys. His album Spaces from '69 is probably the first real jazz-rock album. Even though McLaughlin also plays on it, I find it to be extremely dated and prefer the funkier stuff that Coryell recorded later on with his band Eleventh House. There is a good 2-cd compilation of Larry's called Improvisations that covers both his solo work and Eleventh House. That's what I recommend getting. Most of Larry's original '70s albums are out of print now. :(

Jazz-rock really started in force with Mahavishnu Orchestra, but we've sort of already covered that.

Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke caught an early Mahavishnu club gig in NYC in '71 or so and decided that they really needed to change what they were doing with Return To Forever. They hired guitarist Bill Connors to replace the sax player and got Lenny White to play drums. Lenny was sort of the key, since he could play both jazz and rock styles very skillfully. The result was Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy, which sits along with the first two Mahavishnu albums as probably the best jazz-rock albums. Connors wasn't as technically skilled as his replacement Al DiMeola, but he played some searing stuff and was a little older and more confident than DiMeola was during his RTF stint (Al was about 19 when he joined RTF). The last RTF jazz-rock album from 1976, Romantic Warrior is where Al started coming into his own, and it's also essential. A couple of years ago, RTF released a two-disc compilation called The Anthology that includes all of Hymn and Romantic Warrior and the best of the other two RTF jazz-rock albums, fully remixed. This is what I recommend that people get.

RTF and Mahavishnu are interesting to compare, because Mahavishnu was louder and crazier but still retained the essential jazz elements of looseness and long-form soloing. RTF is more truly like rock, with more structure and tighter ensemble playing. Essentially, all of today's "Math Rock" is descended from RTF.

I also have to add some other stuff here. Billy Cobham and Jan Hammer got sick of dealing with John McLaughlin and his picky perfectionism, and after leaving MO they exploded out of the gates with Billy's album Spectrum, which is just an insane onslaught of high-energy jazz rock. They brought in Tommy Bolin to play guitar because he was 180 degrees different than McLaughlin--playing from the gut instead of the mind. Tommy played some amazing stuff on that album despite not being a chops guy.

Alphonse Mouzon was Cobham's main rival as the 'hot drummer' of the early '70s, and he did his own take on Spectrum, called Mind Transplant--he even hired Bolin to play guitar. Mind Transplant edges more into jazz-funk territory, but it's much heavier than most of that stuff. They're both essential.
 

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THUNDERBEEEEAR!
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had to put on Chameleon in honor of this thread:yesway:

Compiling my list of cd's to buy now. I have a lot of catching up to do I guess.
 

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Your bank account is going to get way lighter. :lol:

In the jazz-rock category, I also need to include the solo work of both Stanley Clarke and Al DiMeola. These are all awesome:

Al:

--Land of the Midnight Sun
--Elegant Gypsy
--Casino

Stanley:

--Stanley Clarke
--Journey to Love
--School Days
 

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Jazz-funk, broadly speaking, was probably the most successful form of fusion. Jazz and funk go together amazingly well, since they both favor looseness and avoidance of exact repetition. Jazz and rock was always a more difficult marriage. I promise no more essays. :lol: Here are my jazz-funk favorites:

Herbie Hancock:

--Head Hunters
--Thrust
--Man-Child
--Secrets

Weather Report:

--Sweetnighter
--Mysterious Traveler

George Duke:

--Faces In Reflection
--Feel
--The Aura Will Prevail

Alphonso Johnson:

--Moonshadows

Flora Purim:

--That's What She Said

Miles Davis (note, these are all some weird shit):

--On The Corner
--Agharta
--Pangaea

I'm know I'm leaving out tons of great albums in this category.
 

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Towards the end of the '70s, the pressures of the music industry and (I think) a desire by some artists to get a little more grounded led to the rise of "pop-jazz". This ultimately led to the crap that is smooth jazz, but for a short period there were some good albums that focused on the tighter structures of rock and pop but included jazz elements. Some had vocals, while some were a bit closer to 'real' jazz. These are all good albums, despite being a bit cheezoid in places:

Weather Report:

--Black Market
--Heavy Weather (essential)
--8:30

John McLaughlin:

--Electric Guitarist
--Electric Dreams

--Jaco Pastorius:

--Jaco Pastorius (essential)
--Word of Mouth

George Duke:

--Liberated Fantasies
--Reach For It

Chick Corea:

--My Spanish Heart
--Friends

Al DiMeola:

--Splendido Hotel
--Electric Rendevous

Larry Coryell/Alphonse Mouzon:

--Back Together Again

Flora Purim:

--Open Your Eyes You Can Fly

I'm leaving out stuff like the Yellowjackets and Spiro Gyra, because that's really where things started getting into smooth jazz. What happened is that fusion got so big that every pop singer in L.A. wanted a jazzy sound. Bands like the Yellowjackets were mostly a bunch of session guys who provided that sound on demand, but without the emotional involvement. It became backing music. Yawn.
 

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Big
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Chris, did you know there's actually a name for that spacey, funky fusion derived from the Mwandishi and Bitches Brew templates? It's called Kosmigroov, and I've been seriously hooked on this shit for a few years now. There's a great site dedicated to the genre here. Some of my favorites (which you haven't already listed):

Bennie Maupin : Jewel in the Lotus
Black Renaissance : Body, Mind, Spirit
Julian Priester : Love, Love
Eddie Henderson : Realization, Inside Out, Sunburst
Buster Williams : Pinnacle
Joe Chambers : New World

A great burner in the Mahavishnu vein is Mingo Lewis's "Flight Never Ending," and an excellent recent disc that I think you'd LOVE is Tom McCarthy's "Spark and Luminance" available here

I can totally blow anyone's CD budget with more suggestions as needed! :D
 
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