All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.
1984's Mahavishnu was supposed to mark the return of drummer Billy Cobham to John McLaughlin's side, in an attempt to recreate the spirit of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra. Although business disagreements led to the reunion ending badly behind the scenes, the record did manage to display some of the historic interplay these musicians had shared in the past.
The album does suffer from a lack of focus that should be blamed on McLaughlin's new guitar synthesizer, which he uses way too often. Many times the listener is not even aware McLaughlin is playing because his damn synthesizer didn't sound like a guitar at all! It can be quite maddening, really. John was in the forefront of the technology at the time, and so his indulgence should be forgiven. He would eventually employ synthesizer patches to good effect on his acoustic Trio recordings several years later.
Mahavishnu consisted of ex-Miles' sax man Bill Evans, outrageous bassist Jonas Helborg, brilliant keyboardist Mitchell Forman and an ever-developing drummer Danny Gottlieb, replacing Cobham on tour. This band would not realize its full potential until its next album, Adventures In Radioland.
Since McLaughlin’s unprocessed electric guitar is rarely heard here, the highlights of Mahavishnu can be found in its compositions. "Clarendon Hills", a tune authored by Evans, is a full-out sonic attack and stands among the best compositions McLaughlin has ever recorded. Katia LaBeque, McLaughlin’s ex and a wonderful pianist, once again effectively adds her talents on the Indian piece "When Blue Turns Gold," which brings the album to a droning close. Recently rescued from the fusion scrap heap by Wounded Bird Records, Mahavishnu even features a talking camera. Remember, “Too Dark. Use Flash.”
Track Listing: Radio-Activity; Nostalgia; Nightriders; East Side West Side; Clarendon
Hills; Jazz; The Unbeliever; Pacific Express; When Blue Turns Gold
Personnel: John McLaughlin- Synclavier II, Digital Guitar, Les Paul Special (all too
briefly!); Billy Cobham- drums; Jonas Hellborg- bass; Bill Evans- sax;
Mitchell Forman- keyboards; Danny Gottlieb- percussion; Katia LaBeque-
keyboards; and others.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.