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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hyper-jazz from Galactic Central, 9 Jun 2010
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Promise (Audio CD)
Having formed a deep and unusually immediate bond with John's latest, To the One, I am now avidly re-spinning those bits of his back catalogue I possess, and beginning the process of gathering some more. I say more immediate because it has been my experience that it can take years, indeed quite literally decades, for me to comprehend John's always visionary-edge releases for the awesome masterpieces that they invariably turn out to be. As a result I have lately come to the conclusion that, post-mahavishnu, John has never really released a bad or inconsequential album. Some may be more difficult to grok than others, but that is in all probability an indication that those albums are all the deeper, and that the payoff will be all the larger when the moment of magic insight finally arrives.

So, The Promise? A new acquisition. Can't believe I'm the first to review it. As often with John there is a production concept. In this case it seems that we have an album of collaborations with some of the other musical luminaries it has been his good fortune to work with in the course of his illustrious career.

First track is Django, with John and Jeff Beck. Two more opposite approaches to mastery of the electric fretboard, or even temperament, could hardly be found, and yet the respect, friendship and inspiration between these guys go back to the late sixties. On this gorgeous track Jeff's at his most soaringly lyrical and sentimental, making his guitar speak in uncanny voices, as only he can do. When John's turn comes it is with that strange, angular chromaticism that is made all the more exotic by contrast. I never want this track to finish, and it still hurts when it does.

Track two is an intricate ditty called Thelonius Melodius, with the interplay now being between John and organist Joey DeFrancesco. Sounding very Ornette Coleman to me, which I think is what they call post-bop. DeFrancesco turns up again on track four, No Return, but this time as a seriously cool trumpeter. You'd swear they'd dug Miles up and put a new battery in him for this one. Track five, El Ciego, is a very satisfying reunion of the classic guitar trio with Paco and Al, brimming with all the Mediterranean sunshine we would expect.

Track six, Jazz Jungle, is probably the centre of gravity of the album, being huge and endowed with large momentum. An extended fusion piece with a great composition. For this John's opposing protagonist is the late and hugely great Michael Brecker. I have grown so used to hearing Brecker blowing away in so many different contexts in all the years since I first heard him with Coryell when I was 16. Yet, this is perhaps the first time I have really, really listened to him, and I realise now that, if I was a saxophone player instead of a guitarist then Brecker would probably be the guy I worshipped. As Joni says, you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

Track seven, The Wish, is a beautiful return to Shakti country, in which John bounces off the fiery sitar of Nishat Khan. From a soloing point of view this is probably one of the album highlights. Track ten, Shin Jin Rui is another large scale fusion scrum akin to Jazz Jungle, but this time with David Sanborn's sax as the key guest. Cooler than Jungle but cooking very nicely. The final track is the very beautiful standard, The Peacocks, a masterly arrangement for two acoustic guitars and bass.

A handful of briefer tracks add further spice and variety to the joyously eclectic journey. Track three, Amy and Joseph, is a very tender and lyrical acoustic guitar against sunset washes of string synth. Track eight, English Jam, with Mr Sting on bass, is as eccentric as the title would suggest. John has his amp on extreme settings for this one and sounds like Pluto's answer to Hendrix. Hugely abrasive but nicely exhilarating. Track nine, Tokyo Decadence, is a cooky excursion into the kind of hip-hop-esque electronica that is explored a little more thoroughly on the later Industrial Zen album.

Stellar line-ups of stellar musicians. Masterly compositions and marvellous arrangements bristling with outstanding solos, not least of which from the man himself. This album is a milestone in hyper-jazz, and another massive step on the way of the transcendent space-being we know as John McLaughlin.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb album but a word of warning, 14 July 2013
M. Cuffe (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Promise (MP3 Download)
This is not so much a review of the CD as it is one of the best from JM and highly recommended, but it's more a warning about Amazon's latest policy of making the MP3 download automatically available as soon as you complete the purchase. On the face of it it is great, you can listen to the music several days before the CD turns up in the post, but......

I downloaded the MP3 on the day I purchased the CD, then a few days later I had a notification of 'failed to deliver' and a refund. On investigation it turned out that the package had been damaged in transit and retuned, having never darkened my letter box. Well that's understandable and no problem yes? NO! A day later Amazon placed an order for the MP3 download my behalf without my knowledge or consent, what is going on!! It appears the policy is that if you return a CD having previously downloaded the MP3 you will be charged for the MP3 download, again understandable, but I'd never had the CD in my hot sweaty hands.

After a discussion with a guy from the MP3 download team he refnded the cost of the MP3 download as a 'one off' in my 'special' case. He also agreed that this situation was not acceptible and would look into making a change.

So a word of warning until Amozon gets it's act together (but don't hold your breath), don't download the MP3 until you have the CD in your hands, otherwise you might be charged without yor knowledge.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many hats...., 6 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Promise (Audio CD)
A smorgasbord of pretty much every musical style McLaughlin's been involved in over the last 30(?) years; all original material I believe and much but not all of it of high quality. The real surprise for me was the two minute 'English Jam' with, how did that come about?!! A few more jars if you've gott'em mister...
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The Promise
The Promise by John McLaughlin (Audio CD - 2004)
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