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Guest Appearances: John McLaughlin as a Sideman

By Published: July 8, 2004
Shorter's Motto Grosso Feio is a much different matter. Recorded one year after Super Nova , it clearly displays a John McLaughlin with a musical direction and a strong personality. This recording was "lost in the vaults" for several years before it was discovered and released. This session was an acoustic affair.It was much more relaxed and full of free-formed melodies and sub-melodies. Find this CD and purchase it. Shorter again is the leader, but by no means is this an album that features him exclusively. All musicians are in fine form. Once again, Chick Corea is employed in the percussionist vein. Dave Holland lends a hand or two on bass and guitar and Ron Carter cellos out some very fine lines. The drummer for the occasion was a 19 year-old female wunderkind, Michelin Prell. Of her future years, we know not. (Strong rumor has it that Michelin Prell was a pseudonym for Tony Williams because of a contractual issue. 2002 Update: It appears there was indeed a Michelin Prell. But even that is just a rumor!)

At about this same time, McLaughlin was making appearances on two albums from the great Bassist Miroslav Vitous. McLaughlin's contributions to Mountain in the Clouds , also known as Infinite Search , are very noteworthy. This album also featured the saxophonist Joe Henderson. I highly suggest any serious listener obtain this album. It is full of exciting early fusion work. Vitousí album Purple is a rare find, but not a very good album.

A guitar compatriot over the years, Larry Coryell released a groundbreaking record in 1969 called Spaces. Spaces is a must for any serious listener and to this day features Larry's best-playing. Larry and John provide the hottest acoustic guitar duet of the time with Rene's Theme". Coryell has said this is the best John McLaughlin ever sounded on record. A self-serving comment for sure, but if Larry says so, it is probably because McLaughlin brought out the best in Coryell's own playing. From the opening cut Spaces is an electric smorgasbord of snapping guitar strings. The entire album is blessed to also include Chick Corea, Miroslav Vitous and Billy Cobham who destroy all pre-conceived notions of what jazz or rock should be. Spaces is a five-star outing and is one of the most important early recordings in the musical evolution of John McLaughlin. McLaughlin also appears on Coryell's Planet End. It is quite possible the performances on this album didnít make the cut for the Spaces. This record is only for the John McLaughlin fan that must have everything.

In the early 1970's, the music and concert tour scene was much more diverse than it is today. Friendships were formed on the basis of concert tours that featured acts as disparate as the Allman Brothers, Aerosmith, Santana, Miles Davis, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Eric Clapton etc. Surely, it was in such an environment that John McLaughlin met and became friends with James Taylor. Otherwise, why such a collaboration as appears on James Taylor's One Man Dog ? The tune, music and WORDS by McLaughlin, is entitled "Someone" and although it doesn't deserve to be on James Taylor's Greatest Hits...is quite beautiful. In addition to his vocals, James plays guitar. News Flash! For those of you not aware of James Taylor's guitar playing. He is killing! McLaughlin rips for a chorus or two but sticks to the folk formula for this outing.

Pop singer Linda Ronstadt appeared on One Man Dog as well. She also appeared on another recording with McLaughlin, Carla Bley, and Paul Haines, Escalator Over The Hill. (Remember how I said the music community was more diverse back then?) Recorded over three years, 1968-1971, EOTH is a behemoth of a production starring hundreds. McLaughlin's mate Jack Bruce appears, as does the late Jazz great, Don Cherry. EOTH is very difficult to categorize. Rock-jazz in nature, it seeks to the higher limits of achievement and, for the most part, arrives there. It was lushly packaged and featured an extensive program complete with lyrics and pictures. Featuring 27 "tunes", the album effectively captures many fine performances and many non-descript ones. It is certainly an important record for McLaughlin as his playing dominates even when not heard. EOTH is an excellent recording to own if you are a McLaughlin fan and have several hours to kill listening to its entire production. McLaughlin's playing is fierce and betrays his upcoming guitar style to a great degree.


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