John McLaughlin and Shakti: Natural Elements (1977)
Natural Elements includes some mind-altering playing. This is especially true of McLaughlin's guitar on "Face to Face". His solo is a career highlight: he quite literally tears apart the elements of every scale, seamlessly dipping in and out of flowing lines and time changes. The speed and clarity he achieves are not the product of a mortal man.
The funk representative is "Get Down and Sruti," which has a delightful kick propelled by L. Shankar’s violin. The use of the juice harp (mouth harp) throughout the album is a welcome addition which complements the band's sound. Natural Elements avoids the long drum conversations featured on the first two albums, which leaves percussionists Zakir Hussain and “Vikku” Vinayakaram with fewer moments in the sun.
In a rather bizarre way, the jazz-Indian Natural Elements is more accessible than many of McLaughlin’s Western jazz-rock recordings. The shorter tunes and infectious hooks may have been a last ditch effort to salvage the business side of things, but they worked out musically as well. Despite the beauty and fun of this album, it was obvious the music was running out of steam and it was time to move on. At this time, Shakti just didn’t have a lot left unsaid.
If you don't have the thirty bucks or so it will cost you to purchase this import, search for the less expensive compilation album from Moment Records, The Best of Shakti. It's a satisfying introduction to the group, featuring several pieces from each of the Shakti recordings.
Related link: John McLaughlin Reviews @ All About Jazz .
Track Listing: Mind Ecology; Face to Face; Come On Baby Dance With Me; The Daffodil and the Eagle; Happiness is Being Together; Bridge of Sighs; Get Down and Sruti; Peace of Mind
Personnel: John McLaughlin- guitar; L. Shankar- violin; Zakir Hussain- table; T.H. Vinayakaram- ghatam
Record Label: Sony-Legacy Music
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock