303

Mahavishnu Orchestra: Birds of Fire

Walter Kolosky By

Sign in to view read count
Mahavishnu Orchestra: Birds of Fire
In 1973, hard rock ruled the universe. But Birds of Fire , a pure instrumental jazz-rock album, managed to crack into the Billboard Top 20 Rock Charts. This was unheard of. And so was the music.

Birds of Fire advanced fusion into the modern age, a mere year after the band's The Inner Mounting Flame had given it its real birth. Rock and jazz fans from all over the world tuned into the Mahavishnu Orchestra and it seemed as if there was no end in sight. Jan Hammer now played the MOOG synthesizer, and the new voice it added to the band was elevating. Sure, by foregoing the roughness of the electric piano, some of the band's anarchy was gone. But in its place, the Mahavishnu Orchestra offered jazz-rock anthems. The band's tunes were carefully built, musical brick by musical brick. Fully fleshed-out themes filled the ears, and the rhythmic intensity was strangely comforting. This was despite the fact that at any second, the course of the music would change so drastically that you needed a seatbelt. This album was recorded LOUD. In a strange and wonderful way, the loudness of the music served as a shelter from all of the problems of the outside world. And believe me, there were plenty of troubling things going on at the time.

The most outstanding piece is "One Word." "ONE WORD" is THE WORD. On no other tune ever recorded by the Mahavishnu Orchestra does each member contribute so much. This was the first MO tune I ever heard, and I will never forget the chill that went up and down my spine when the band kicked in after Billy Cobham's quasi-martial drum solo.

"Birds of Fire," which opens up the album, is a fusion classic. John McLaughlin scares the hell out of his guitar with his melodic convulsions. If you ever want to frighten a musical neophyte, turn your stereo up really loud and play the cover tune - it's guaranteed to send him or her fleeing. "Resolution" and "Hope" ended side one and side two of the original LP, and this juxtaposition gave the record more meaning than the continuous play CD. You could take a much needed breath while you flipped the record.

The Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire set the standard for great fusion music in the 1970's. It is too bad commercial considerations eventually led many companies to "pimp" from their success. McLaughlin never did, and it cost him a lot of money.

Related link: John McLaughlin Reviews @ All About Jazz

Track Listing

Birds of Fire; Miles Beyond; Celestial Terrestrial Commuters; Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love; Thousand Island Park; Hope; One Word; Sanctuary; Open Country Joy; Resolution

Personnel

John McLaughlin- guitar; Jan Hammer-keyboards; Billy Cobham- drums; Jerry Goodman- violin; Rick Laird- bass

Album information

Title: Birds of Fire | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Columbia Records

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read How Can We Wake?
How Can We Wake?
Josephine Davies
Read Blue Has A Range
Blue Has A Range
Steve Cardenas
Read Then Now
Then Now
Rob Brown - Matthew Shipp
Read Human Dust Suite
Human Dust Suite
Miki Yamanaka
Read You're It!
You're It!
The Mike Melito/Dino Losito Quartet
Read TEST and Roy Campbell
TEST and Roy Campbell
TEST and Roy Campbell
Read 4K
4K
Modasaurus

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.