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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitively captures a man and his work during an underexplored era
Colin Harper's books are never short on detail, but more importantly, deliver a writer's masterclass in what to do with that detail. Comprehensively covering a period of McLaughlin's career that has been overlooked for the most part (1942-1975), Colin also manages to capture the sights and sounds of an era in excellent prose.

The book is literally bursting with...
Published 8 months ago by David Mullan

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1 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Warning only covers up to end of Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Book ends in 1975. What about the next 40 years ? Very poor.Don`t waste your money on this book dissapointing.
Published 8 months ago by owen widdows


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitively captures a man and his work during an underexplored era, 21 Mar 2014
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Colin Harper's books are never short on detail, but more importantly, deliver a writer's masterclass in what to do with that detail. Comprehensively covering a period of McLaughlin's career that has been overlooked for the most part (1942-1975), Colin also manages to capture the sights and sounds of an era in excellent prose.

The book is literally bursting with familiar names one does not usually associate with John McLaughlin. Even in terms of the period that "everybody knows", you can find new nuggets of information. However, it is the capture of the British music scene of the 1960s that truly surprises. The book covers McLaughlin's involvements with Georgie Fame, Brian Auger, Duffy Power, Graham Bond, Jimmy Page, Danny Thompson, Jack Bruce, Ronnie Scott, Eric Clapton, Herbie Goins, Ray Ellington, Alexis Korner, Carlos Santana, the Mahavishnu Orchestras, his time with Miles Davis and even the likes of his session work with the likes of Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach. It's all there, with scene-setting, additional notes for the curious, pulling stories long-buried in countless music magazines and newspapers, as well as first hand from many of those who were there.

McLaughlin himself did not wish to participate with the making of the book in any way, but gave Harper his blessing. Does the book suffer for the lack of McLaughlin's direct input? Not in any obvious sense. Perhaps some additional details might have been clarified, of an extra anecdote or two would be present. But it is hard to imagine that Colin Harper has missed much.

To put it briefly, this is a broad subject (the British music scene, with jazz in particular) given a clarity of focus through an interesting lens (the career of John McLaughlin) in an entirely readable, enjoyable style. The book is a must for anyone with an interest in McLaughlin's career or British jazz of the 1960s.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Success is not all you wish for..., 7 April 2014
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D. Riggs (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bathed in Lightning: John Mclaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Paperback)
Success is not all you wish for and it lends a bitter-sweet overtone to this exhaustively researched biography. It was interesting seeing McLaughlin through the eyes of his contemporaries and observing his drive to find his own voice. The author has made a very wise decision to document his rise in this time frame, as it deals with one of the most interesting periods of English music from one of the most neglected points of view.
I certainly learnt a lot about the London session scene and the struggle that many jazz musicians had in this era. Read in combination with Jack Bruce's biography and that of Jon Hiseman gives a fascinating insight into the difficulties of trying to pursue your creative impulses. The interesting conclusion is that you cannot escape the demons that pursue you unless you are prepared to face up to them without recourse to drugs or spirituality. The dangers of pursuing you musical vision at the expense of understanding the human frailties of the people you work or live with is a common theme in the music industry. The sad fact is that when you dedicate yourself to mastering your art it becomes an all consuming passion and there are many things that get sacrificed along the way. The rigorous hours of practise and performance are not always conducive to relationships, personal or professional. McLaughlin found that not everyone shared his goals or his sense of self-discipline.
I do find it quite inspiring that McLaughlin has over the last decade been producing some of the most exciting and creative music of his career. Certainly the One Truth band is at least as intense as the first Mahavishnu Orchestra - well at least in my humble opinion. What this book shows is this musicians constant desire to drive forward and not look back. Which is one reason that he would not take part in the research process for "Bathed in Lightning" whilst giving the project his blessing.
I get the impression of a very complicated and driven personality who's life has been given over to the search for personal and musical perfection.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, 4 April 2014
This review is from: Bathed in Lightning: John Mclaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Paperback)
Not a fan of JM's music but I've read things by Colin Harper before and found him to be an excellent writer.so I thought I'd give this a go.
I thoroughly enjoyed it especially the parts about his work with Jet Harris and Duffy Power.
Mr Harper has seriously researched this book and it shows.It's very comprehensive but not overpowering.
I even listened to an MO album after to investigate more,not for me it must be said but I definitely enjoyed the book and would read more things written by Colin Harper.
If you are a JM fan I'd imagine you'd love this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long Overdue Book On One Of Britains Greatest Musicians, 21 May 2014
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This review is from: Bathed in Lightning: John Mclaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Paperback)
Having discovered John MacLaughlin and his music at the same point in my life as the author (at 14 years old) albeit two years later, I was naturally very interested to read this book when I learnt of its existence. I could not put it down once I started it and was left a bit empty when I finished it. Colin Harper's well researched history of the London/British music scene is awash with atmosphere anecdotes and fisheye lens perspectives. There are plenty of `fancy that' facts that make for an informative read that are tempered by tantalizing uncertainties lost in the mists of time; questions such as who really played as session men on some of the era's most famous music. The general opinion from JH's fellow musicians is that technically he left all others behind and that he was always a bit of a loner. To reach the highest levels that he attained, he made some huge sacrifices and made selfish decisions. This, together with being hardwired to look only ahead and not to get slowed down by nostalgic preoccupations, made collaborating with Colin Harper a non- starter. The book is none the worse, and, as Harper says himself, made him work harder on getting the correct story onto paper.
I could continue but suffice to say buy this book and enjoy the ride. JM has been off the radar for most people and it was time to bring him under the spotlight where he belongs. The website that accompanies Bathed In Lightening is an entity in itself with hours of reading, watching and listening to discover. I read the book with a pencil in hand to underline all the names that I will now take months to explore, now I have to go back trawl through my notes. Like the music of JM, this book provokes the desire to dig deeper into the lives and music of a most fertile period of musical creativity.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Swamped In Information, 21 Aug 2014
This review is from: Bathed in Lightning: John Mclaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Paperback)
Its no easy read, full of more detail than you may really want to know about the previously unknown/sketchy career of McLaughlin from 1958 until he arrived in the US in February 1969 to work with Tony Williams and Miles Davis.

But it does give quite a picture of the blues, rock, pop, jazz & studio scene that existed in London during these times. Who'd believe that for some years McLaughlin was content to do studio work (mainly playing chords on an acoustic guitar) for regular money while he continued to work at getting his guitar playing together?

In New York McLaughlin came under the influence of Sri Chinmoy who named him "Mahavishnu" and encouraged him to use the name for his yet to be formed band. Despite it's success, the original band dissolved over issues over copyright and using material other than that mostly composed by McLaughlin. McLaughlin claimed years after the Mahavishnu Orchestra (v1) folded that he was never paid any money for recording the albums, although others were. But in the biography it mentions that much of McLaughlin's money went into aiding the work of Sri Chinmoy. Presumably that must have come from royalties & concert appearances, because he doesn't appear to have been well to do when he arrived in the US.

Mahavishnu Orchestra (v2 & 3) was far less successful, perhaps because it was "all" McLaughlin rather than 5 minds putting the material together; it never managed to recapture the absolute peaks of the Original Mahavishnu Orchestra on record or in concert.

By 1976, McLaughlin's wife Eve (his 3rd if my memory on this point is right) had left him and the mysticism of Sri Chinmoy for another guitar player. McLaughlin became disillusioned with Chinmoy and abandoned using Mahavishnu as his name and then disbanded what was left of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

He then took on Shakti as his main band playing acoustic guitar for the next 2 or 3 years. He returned to the electric guitar around about 1979-80.

To me, the latter part of the book seems much clearer and more focused than the first 350 pages or so, which seem to get lost in a lot of detail paralleling McLaughlin's career, but not necessarily including him.

This unauthorised biography is certainly a book that provides a lot of information to mull over, but its not one I'd reread in a hurry.

And for the completionist, there are bonus chapters you can download as eBooks, even though you have bought the book in paper form.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look at the 1960's, 2 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Bathed in Lightning: John Mclaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Paperback)
This isn't just just a book about McLaughlin but also an examination of the British blues and jazz scene in the 1960's.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Johnny Mac, 15 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Bathed in Lightning: John Mclaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Paperback)
This is a very good book and does justice to its subject matter - one of the iconic figures
in modern guitar playing, however you view it. I particularly enjoyed the chapters covering the 60's, charting McLaughlin's
movements that led to his essential move to the States.

Well done Mr Harper! Volume 2 please.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Go Johnny, Go!!, 21 Oct 2014
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A great read for an important period in John McLaughlin's musical career. It made me want to listen to the music again which is always a good sign.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable reading for all John McLaughlin nuts, 16 April 2014
This review is from: Bathed in Lightning: John Mclaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Paperback)
My copy arrived yesterday, and sometimes one only has to see, handle and dip into a book to know how good it is (I dipped into the Mahavishu Orch. I chapter, '71-73) - this is an unquestionable 5-star treat for both McLaughlin fans and also for sociologists of popular music more generally. Colin Harper is an excellent writer - one can only marvel at the monumental amount of research that must go into writing a book of this breadth and depth. It's also not sycophantically uncritical of John - which a book written by an admirer can so easily lapse into. I was delighted to read recently that John (at age 72) had just gone to the Palestinian territories to do a charity gig for music therapy for war-traumatised Palestinians (see [...]); good on you, John - still urgently questing for the good and the true.
Richard House, Winchester
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tomorrow's story not the same, 14 Nov 2014
By 
Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bathed in Lightning: John Mclaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Paperback)
In spite of being a long-standing fan of guitarist John McLaughlin, I had only a hazy idea of what he'd been doing before the day he flew to America for the first time on February 16, 1969. It's better known that he'd made the trip at the invitation of drummer Tony Williams, who wanted him to play in a trio with organist Larry Young, and that Tony took John to visit his boss Miles Davis the next day. In the course of their conversation, Davis asked him to come along to the recording session for (what turned out to be his ground-breaking) In A Silent Way album. From that point on, it seems, McLaughlin was set on a musical journey of dazzling variety and virtuosity: playing on Davis's Bitches Brew and A Tribute To Jack Johnson albums, forming bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti, creating guitar concertos such as Thieves And Poets, playing with Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia in The Guitar Trio, and creating electrifying music with a variety of bands, including The Free Spirits, The Heart Of Things and The Fourth Dimension. He's still going strong at the age of 72; the last-named is his current group, whom I'll be seeing at the London Jazz Festival next week.

This book does an invaluable job by filling in the gaps in this story, and shows that - whilst he appears to have 'risen without trace' - his appearance in the spotlight was the result of an immense amount of hard work and dues-paying on the London club circuit and session scene over a period of about ten years. In addition, it follows his career closely through his creation of the immensely powerful and pioneering Mahavishnu Orchestra, its fragmentation and re-formation in subsequent line-ups, and comes to a close when he's on the brink of dissolving it completely in order to form a completely different band. This was Shakti, which played acoustic Indian classical music, as opposed to the electric fusion of rock and jazz which was the stock in trade of the Mahavishnu Orchestra).

I greatly enjoyed this book. It's a hefty volume of nearly 500 pages (moreover, supplementary material has been hived off into an ebook), crammed with detail and anecdote which paints a vivid picture of how quickly the London music business was changing in the 1960's, and McLaughlin's adventures in the midst of it, along with colleagues such as Georgie Fame, Jimmy Page, Ronnie Scott, Brian Auger, Danny Thompson and Big Jim Sullivan. This is a period which is rapidly receding over the horizon, and many of its denizens - most recently, Jack Bruce - have passed on, so establishing its history is a significant task which the author has accomplished skillfully. Other strands in the story include McLaughlin's spirituality, and there is a lot of new information here about McLaughlin's relationship with Sri Chinmoy, who was his guru for a few years. Finally, the author has unearthed some personal details about this enigmatic man (including his marriages) who appears to have given his life over to his music. What he's been able to create and share with us is of the utmost importance, but the glimpses of the personal sacrifices and efforts he's had to make along the way make that appear still more valuable.
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