John McLaughlin / 4th Dimension: Official Pirate: The Best of the American Tour 2007 (2007)
Early into the tour, McLaughlin had settled on a consistent set list, with material dating as far back as the gospel-tinged "The Unknown Dissident," from Electric Dreams (Columbia, 1978) and as recent as the more energetic "Senor CS," from Industrial Zen (Verve, 2006). Potent versions are included, along with "Raju" and "5 Peace Band" from the Shakti catalog, both reinvented here with more expansive harmonies that were implied but never fully realized by McLaughlin's East-meets-West explorations.
While tunes like the balladic "Nostalgia," the thematically mind-blowing "Hijacked" and the episodic closer, "Mother Tongues" have been performed on other tours with other groups, the intensity and outstanding interplay between McLaughlin, keyboardist/percussionist Gary Husband, bassist Hadrien Feraud and drummer Mark Mondesir make them as good as any already available.
"Mother Tongues," a thirteen-minute tour de force for the entire group, may well be the definitive version. McLaughlin and Husband both get individual solos up front that push the limits of virtuosity, but it's when the group heads into a middle section of fiery trade-offs that things really ratchet up. With Husband switching to his quirky jungle kithighly tuned bass drum, snare and tom, along with two of the clangiest, industrial-sounding cymbals you'll ever hearthe power of two percussionists and the unmistakable fun they had working both off each other and in stunning synchronicity is something that doesn't need to be seen; it's clearly heard.
While the playing is largely fierce throughout, the group does know how to pace a set, with "Nostalgia" and the equally lyrical "Maharina"featuring a particularly lyrical piano solo from Husbandproviding brief respites. Still, even on the up-tempo tunes technical fortitude is never a substitute for focus, construction and attention to detail; it's simply a means to a very musical end. There may be plenty of high velocity playing, and at times Husband's synth is clearly more textural than thematic, but this is a group that burns in a way that manages to retain a surprising melodism.
Available only through Abstract Logix, the nearly eighty-minute Official Pirate captures some of the finest moments of McLaughlin on his first North American fusion tour in nearly a decade. On the strength of this release, hopefully another ten years won't have to pass before he returns.
Track Listing: Raju; Nostalgia; Hijacked; The Unknown Dissident; 5 Peace Band; Senor CS; Maharina; Mother Tongues.
Personnel: John McLaughlin: electric guitar; Gary Husband: keyboards, jungle kit; Hadrien Feraud: electric bass; Mark Mondesir: drums.
Record Label: Abstract Logix
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock