Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction to a formidable band..., 18 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Audio CD)
I have to admit, although I like my prog rock, I never really regarded myself as a Mahavishnu fan. I bought 'Inner mounting flame' some thirty years ago from a second-hand record shop in Bristol and enjoyed a couple of the more accessible tracks ('Dawn' and 'You know, you know') but didn't really bother with the rest of the album. I thought it was bit cold, technical and lacking in melody. However, somewhere at the back of my mind I always felt I never gave Mahavishnu a fair shake, so with an immeasurably better stereo system and our subsequent advance into the digital age, I thought I would give the band another try with this not-too-daunting limited box set from their classic 1971-73 line up. I'm really glad I made the effort.

Mahavishnu Orchestra's music is intense and demanding and is certainly an acquired taste. Their style is harsh, austere, angular, strident, bombastic and a bit bonkers. However, once your ears start to become attuned to the thunder and the fury you start to discern little ribbons of melody and clever rhythmic patterns running under the surface. Coherent tunes start to present themselves, albeit not in an obvious, orthodox fashion, and the whole piece slowly starts to come together. The three studio albums are formidable and compelling. The synergy and interplay between the musicians is spell-binding and the music has a visceral, exuberant quality. Your ear is constantly drawn to the stunning individual performances on offer...McGlaughlin's splenetic, freewheeling guitar, the torrent of noise from that insane violin, Hammer's moody, agile keyboard-work knitting everything together. Billy Cobham's drumming is stunning and worth the price of admission alone. It's not all bile and thunder, though. The light and shade in the performances, the quieter, reflective passages, the subtler, almost pretty interludes provide amazing contrast to the main barn-storming event. What a pity this line up only recorded three studio albums. I'm less convinced about the two live CDs. The recording is less pin-sharp and the performances are inevitably less concise and more drawn out and indulgent.

Just a quick word about the sound on these remasters. In a word, excellent. 'Birds of fire' and 'The lost Trident sessions' are mastered very slightly on the bright side, which I really like, given the denseness and complexity of the performances. 'Inner mounting flame' is slightly warmer with a bit less top-end, but the sound is still perfectly adequate.

All things considered, this is a great box set and at such a reasonable price my advice would be take a bit of a risk, be prepared to put in a bit of time and effort and you may well be rewarded.
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4.7 out of 5 stars (19 customer reviews)
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