204

John McLaughlin and Shakti: A Handful of Beauty

Walter Kolosky By

Sign in to view read count
John McLaughlin should have given this album a different name. Jazz-rock fans of the day (early 1977) did not want to be seen purchasing an album with such a title. It didn't help any to have a picture of John McLaughlin on the cover dressed and smiling as if he were a guru himself. Let’s face facts, even at this time: McLaughlin’s fans came from a rock background. In hindsight the Indo-jazz-fusion Shakti recordings are considered highlights in McLaughlin’s career, but they did cost him most of his early fan base.

In stark contrast to its album cover indicating joy and peace and all the related elements that were stretched beyond endurance in the 1970's, Handful of Beauty was in reality a dark and somber creation. Despite the opening cut, a free-spirited and wildly fun "La Danse Du Bonheur", this album features mostly dense compositions that provoke deep re-appraisals of one's own life. The musical highlight is "India". The tune seems to investigate the underside of the Eastern World and finds McLaughlin ominously bending and twisting notes while Shankar's violin dwells in the lower registers.

Of the three original Shakti albums, Handful of Beauty features the best playing from McLaughlin. Somber does not mean boring. The two master Indian percussionists Zakir Hussain and T. S. Vinayakaram provide the rhythm and much of the dynamic. The incomparable L. Shankar helps provide the mood. (It is too bad he and McLaughlin no longer seem to be friends in real life.)

As was later to be the case on the group's Natural Elements, one of the highlights of the two Shakti studio recorded efforts is the high quality of sound engineering. This album should be played relatively loud, late at night, lights-off, while you sip from a cup of tea. Best to be in a reflective mood.

Listening to the tour that supported this recording was a different matter entirely. The same tunes that had led to introspection suddenly led to emotional release. The band was hot and an absolute joy to see, both visually and sonically.

Related link: John McLaughlin Reviews @ All About Jazz


Track Listing: La Danse Du Bonheur; Lady L; India; Kriti; Isis; Two Sisters

Personnel: John McLaughlin- guitar; L. Shankar- violin; Zakir Hussain- table; T.H. Vinayakram- Ghatam

Title: A Handful of Beauty | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Columbia Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Estonian Suite: Live In Tallinn CD/LP/Track Review Estonian Suite: Live In Tallinn
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: November 18, 2017
Read The Princess CD/LP/Track Review The Princess
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Queen City Blues CD/LP/Track Review Queen City Blues
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Latin Lover CD/LP/Track Review Latin Lover
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Reclamation CD/LP/Track Review Reclamation
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Provenance CD/LP/Track Review Provenance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 17, 2017
Read "Heaven On Their Minds" CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read "Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian Microjam!" CD/LP/Track Review Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian Microjam!
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Two Roads" CD/LP/Track Review Two Roads
by Jim Olin
Published: May 12, 2017
Read "Trio Stonk: Live At Smalls" CD/LP/Track Review Trio Stonk: Live At Smalls
by David A. Orthmann
Published: November 4, 2017
Read "Post Bop Gypsies" CD/LP/Track Review Post Bop Gypsies
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 30, 2017
Read "Cluster Swerve" CD/LP/Track Review Cluster Swerve
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 6, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.

Please support out sponsor