204

John McLaughlin and Shakti: A Handful of Beauty

Walter Kolosky By

Sign in to view read count
John McLaughlin and Shakti: A Handful of Beauty 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

Year Released: 1977 | Record Label: Columbia Records | Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock


Shop

More Articles

Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Ante Lucem for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet" CD/LP/Track Review Ante Lucem for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 3, 2016
Read "Stephan Crump's Rhombal" CD/LP/Track Review Stephan Crump's Rhombal
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 15, 2016
Read "Still Happy" CD/LP/Track Review Still Happy
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: July 11, 2016
Read "Very Early" CD/LP/Track Review Very Early
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 23, 2016
Read "El Viaje" CD/LP/Track Review El Viaje
by James Nadal
Published: September 14, 2016
Read "Breathe" CD/LP/Track Review Breathe
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 25, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!