The Mahavishnu Orchestra: Birds of Fire

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No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

First off, I shall quote my earliest, “first impressions”, upon receiving this remastered re-release, as a special pre-release demo copy,

"WOW!, WOW! and WOW! Superb redo of this classic! This sounds as good as I had hoped it would. Grab it as soon as it is ready for release. Levels are way up, great separation of each instrument, no more muddy mix in the ‘squashed mid-range glut’. This sucker kicks! Mean rich, full bass, up-front drums, violin presence good, keys great, and guitar tracks perfectly awesome!! I was absolutely enthralled to hear Cobham so ‘right’ and ‘immediately huge’ on ‘One Word’. My head popped during the fiery unison outro! Get yer money ready fusionheads — this be a goody!!"

And have I changed my mind after several months more of listening to an actual official release version? Of course not. This album’s original LP release forever changed me – my listening tastes?, my guitar playing?, my views on jazz?, my rock-n-roll addiction? – oh baby, much more than those mere mortal items, Birds of Fire made me view life in a new way. Why? How? It’s a simple answer really.

John McLaughlin’s music went beyond mere music, beyond jazz, beyond rock – it housed a soul, it reached into spirit and the visions within all became new. Sure enough, McLaughlin knew jazz, rock, Eastern Indian music, and melded it all into a powerhouse of jams that blew most everyone away in the jazz and rock worlds. But The Mahavishnu Orchestra forged more than music – they delivered a religious experience. Things McLaughlin needed to say, were expressed through sound, words were spoken beyond hearing, echoes of a vital transformation filled each composition. Birds of Fire was one of my first experiences in hearing the “fire of the soul” coming through the medium of music. Of course I heard it in other music, here and there, in brief swooning movements but this album was non-stop explosions of energies that came from deep within all that the soul of man could experience. I heard bliss, frustration, anger, anticipation, elation, fury, ecstasy, euphoria, sorrow, joy, power, imagination, dreams, hope, stress, release, passion, and so much more. It’s all there – and if you cannot feel it when you listen – you have missed the rawest power of The Mahavishnu Orchestra and you therefore yet to really “feel the tingle” up your spine, the strange rush of winds down the “halls of your soul”.

Now back down to earth, back from my epiphany . . . In comparing the old BOF CD to new CD the volume levels are up a “+3” on my Denon 3-Head’s dB monitor level read-outs, noise is down a great deal, overall tones are warm, highs crisp, low-end okay and yeah, you get a ton of CD liner notes and pix, (heavy card stock vs. glossy ‘zine feel).

Need I say more? Not really. So, just go grab this new gig and give away or sell your old copy. Fusion at its very best happens at its best right here.

Track Listing: Birds of Fire, Miles Beyond, Celestial Terrestrial Commuters, Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love, Thousand Island Park, Hope, One Word, Sanctuary, Open Country Joy, Resolution

Personnel: John McLaughlin - All guitars, Jerry Goodman - Violin, Jan Hammer

Record Label: Columbia Records

Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock


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