The Mahavishnu Orchestra: The Lost Trident Sessions
I need not go into the extended history of how the original tapes were misplaced, forgotten, and now unearthed for this long overdue CD release. What seemed to happen was simply a busy band with internal struggles made a session tape and opted to release a live version instead. Some songs never made it to that live release. Now we have more songs, better sound quality, and a glimpse into a band’s past nearly 26 years after the fact.
I must forewarn readers that I am a devoted jazz rock fusion fan and an avid proponent for a rebirth and revitalization of the genre. The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s music is 98% responsible for my adoration of such a maligned and misunderstood sub-genre of music. Hearing John McLaughlin’s guitar volcanics and his leading others in his band to heights of unparalleled improvisation forever changed how I approached my own guitar playing and just plain rewired my neural net beyond recovery. Herein follows some bias.
Between Nothingness & Eternity had its many wondeful moments but I always felt the live recording left much to be desired in many places throughout the concert. Quiet moments were lost in noise and crowd buzz. Loud attacks and dynamic changeups in the band’s supersonic delivery seemed oversaturated and of course instrument separation was deplorably nigh unto music mush. Only at certain times when the sound/recording engineer(s) seemed to know what was going on and get the dials and knobs right did things seem acceptable. Only one magical moment is superior on BN&E ’s live recording. And that is John McLaughlin’s super-nova, lead break on Hammer’s “Sister Andrea”. Lost Trident Sessions ’ version of this song has a much, much better synth solo by Hammer even though McLaughlin’s LTS lead is less appealing. Overall, I find LTS far superior to BN&E.
As a bonus on this release is bassist Rick Laird’s eerie “Stepping Tones” progression and violinist Jerry Goodman’s mournful “I Wonder”. McLaughlin seems to obligingly riff, patiently pentatonic on “I Wonder”, and does almost invisble backing guitar structures on “Stepping Tones” whereas when these two songs made it to the Nemperor label’s Like Children release featuring Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Goodman subsequently handled all guitars too and pulled off nearly an exact copy of all McLaughlin’s lackluster LTS guitar efforts. It is seems evident his heart wasn’t into Laird or Goodman’s pieces or perhaps he had been “written out” of the songs’ limelight moments. I can’t say for sure.
Lastly we gain a listen to the never-heard-before, 5:53 “John’s Song”. It is a sombre, ominously mutating, fusion excursion. Wandering initially in a free form fusion intro, it builds into a jazz rockin explosion of Billy Cobham’s drums, Hammer’s synth textures and manic unison leads with McLaughlin blasting the outskirts of infinity. To top off the climax of this song Jerry Goodman erupts in some the finer fusion fiddling I have ever heard. It reminded of a mini-version of “One Word” from Birds of Fire. Great cut!
If this song and the rest of The Lost Trident Sessions indicates where The Mahavishnu Orchestra was possibly heading in their long-past future musical growth then indeed it is a tragic thing that the individual band members could no longer function together as friends or associates. Who can say what other majesties they held in store? All such things now passed we can but all the more deeply cherish this rare glimpse into the final days of The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Cool liner notes and pictures included, this release is strongly recommended. Throw out that “bootleg” tape!