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CD/LP/Track Review

Mahavishnu: Mahavishnu (1984)

By Published: November 19, 2002
Mahavishnu: Mahavishnu 1984's Mahavishnu was supposed to mark the return of drummer Billy Cobham to John McLaughlin's side, in an attempt to recreate the spirit of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra. Although business disagreements led to the reunion ending badly behind the scenes, the record did manage to display some of the historic interplay these musicians had shared in the past.

The album does suffer from a lack of focus that should be blamed on McLaughlin's new guitar synthesizer, which he uses way too often. Many times the listener is not even aware McLaughlin is playing because his damn synthesizer didn't sound like a guitar at all! It can be quite maddening, really. John was in the forefront of the technology at the time, and so his indulgence should be forgiven. He would eventually employ synthesizer patches to good effect on his acoustic Trio recordings several years later.

Mahavishnu consisted of ex-Miles' sax man Bill Evans, outrageous bassist Jonas Helborg, brilliant keyboardist Mitchell Forman and an ever-developing drummer Danny Gottlieb, replacing Cobham on tour. This band would not realize its full potential until its next album, Adventures In Radioland.

Since McLaughlin’s unprocessed electric guitar is rarely heard here, the highlights of Mahavishnu can be found in its compositions. "Clarendon Hills", a tune authored by Evans, is a full-out sonic attack and stands among the best compositions McLaughlin has ever recorded. Katia LaBeque, McLaughlin’s ex and a wonderful pianist, once again effectively adds her talents on the Indian piece "When Blue Turns Gold," which brings the album to a droning close. Recently rescued from the fusion scrap heap by Wounded Bird Records, Mahavishnu even features a talking camera. Remember, “Too Dark. Use Flash.”

Related link: John McLaughlin Reviews @ All About Jazz .


Track Listing: Radio-Activity; Nostalgia; Nightriders; East Side West Side; Clarendon Hills; Jazz; The Unbeliever; Pacific Express; When Blue Turns Gold

Personnel: John McLaughlin- Synclavier II, Digital Guitar, Les Paul Special (all too briefly!); Billy Cobham- drums; Jonas Hellborg- bass; Bill Evans- sax; Mitchell Forman- keyboards; Danny Gottlieb- percussion; Katia LaBeque- keyboards; and others.

Record Label: Wounded Bird Records

Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock



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