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Definitively captures a man and his work during an underexplored era
on 21 March 2014
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.