The truth be told, Where Fortune Smiles was not originally released under the leadership of John McLaughlin. Its reissue on CD with McLaughlin as leader seems to exist for marketing purposes only. The reissue notes indicate a 1971 recording date, but my memories of its original release on PYE Records suggest that it was recorded a year earlier. (However, memories can fade.) The other members of the quintetbassist Dave Holland, saxophonist John Surman (also on Extrapolation ), vibraphonist Karl Berger, and drummer Stu Martineach contribute equally to this outing.
The compositions, all by McLaughlin and Surman, have strong head arrangements that are not directly quoted in the free improvisations that follow. Fortune does not even hint at rock or fusion. Do not expect any of the usual clear themes, call and response playing, or unison lines. These differences, which may confound many McLaughlin fans, are also its greatest strengths.
Free jazz is what this release is all about. For listeners who don't normally immerse themselves in this sort of thing, it's a record that can be enjoyed only about once a year. But it remains a must-listen. Whoa! Listen...is that a quote which will later turn into "One Word" from Birds Of Fire ? Listen to McLaughlin's far-out guitar. Listen to Holland's resonating bass. Listen to Surman as he reveals things to come. Listen for a historical perspective on music which McLaughlin would later deliver.