on 4 March 2001
This is guitarist John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra's debut recording, and although there are some rough edges to a few of the pieces, this is a quality album of early '70s jazz-rock fusion (with the emphasis more on rock than jazz). The line-up of the band is impressive, with McLaughlin on guitars, Jerry Goodman on violin, Billy Cobham on drums, Rick Laird on bass and Jan Hammer on keyboards. The addition of Goodman gives the band a very different (and much copied) texture, and his solos are highly impressive. McLaughlin is in-your-face as usual, and this follows directly on from his work with Miles Davis.
The first track (Meeting of the Spirits) is probably the best track on the album (though maybe You Know, You Know pushes it very close indeed), with it's quick-fire guitar and violin lines, and the virtuosic drumming of Cobham, who is excellent all through the performance. The piece is in three, and that's what really gives it a very different feel to most of the rock that you hear (the repetetive riff is very catchy). You Know, You Know contains another repetetive figure, but this time the atmosphere is far more relaxed, and the long silences at the beginning are inspired. Jan Hammer brings a more avante-garde spirit to the band with some very individual and quirky solos (he really likes using that pitch bender). The only thing that doesn't work is A Lotus on Irish Streams. McLaughlin's twanging on acoustic guitar and the meandering tune just don't fit with the spirit of the album.
This is the definitive recording of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and well worth getting hold of , if you're a Hendrix fan or keen on the rockier side of fusion.
on 27 May 2009
I'm in my mid-50s now, yet this album is still the most extraordinary piece of music I have ever heard. It also changed my life when I first heard it - under the bed covers listening to John Peel on my pocket trannie in 1973; and I remember how enthused John was with the album (before it became hip to loath jazz fusion). I'd never ever heard music like it before, and I haven't since, either. I profoundly disagree with the other two reviewers about 'Lotus on Irish Streams' - McLaughlin's, Goodman's and Hammer's playing on this dream-of-a-track is quite breathtaking, and for me their soaring spiritual synergy sums up what the original Orchestra was all about. As the book on the Orchestra says, this truly was 'the greatest band that ever was'. At less than a fiver, this is unbelievable value - and if you're wondering what all the fuss is about via-a-vis John McLaughlin's legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra, this has to be the definitive place to start.
Over thirty years ago I gave someone Home's The Alchemist (Whose What?) in exchange for this album. It was the best trade I ever did. A long time later I discovered In a Silent Way, Miles Davis's seminal fusion album featuring John McLaughlin on guitar, but for a long time, The Mahavishnu Orchestra was fusion.
The opening track, Meeting of the Spirits, sets a breakneck pace. It's like an updated Ride of the Valkyries, same loping 3/4 time signature, at the beginning. It then lays back a little, and then gets right back into it. Billy Cobham's drums drive the pace, and McLaughlin and violinist Jerry Goodman fire out musical bullets. Should anyone ever remake Apocalypse Now, Colonel Kilgore's Air Cav could easily (albeit anachronistically) ride into action to the sounds of Mahavishnu in place of Wagner.
Alternatively, you could do a pretty martial waltz to it!
A couple more perfect fusion storms are followed by the pastoral calm of A Lotus on Irish Streams, in which Jan Hammer's fluttering piano complements perfectly the gentle violin and acoustic guitar. Hammer would later go on to add the theme tune icing to the Miami Vice style cake.
On vinyl that was the closing track of side one.
Side two heralded more stormy weather and some weird fusion time signatures begin, making the rhythm more edgy - and more challenging if all you came to do was dance. This was made at a time when King Crimson's Bob Fripp was boasting of his use of 12/13 time or some such, and McLaughlin joined in the party. But don't ask me what the time signature is. I can't count that fast.
Again Cobham drives the pace, with crackling drum and sizzling hi hat, but the power of Rick Laird's bass underpins the enterprise when the drums fly off the edge of the disc, as they often do. There are some staggering changes in pace. The band is a fine-tuned, fuel-injected motor and the slightest touch on the gas pedal sends it careening down the road. One second you're laying back, taking in the vibe, the next you've turned a corner and in the fast lane experiencing a nose-bleed inducing g-force.
Dance of Maya at one point falls into a syncopated blues figure, catapults into a driving guitar-led melee, then just as easily falls into a 3/4 phase interrupted every few bars by a slow roll on drums.
The final track, Awakening, is like the rousing of a tiger, and it's mad! Before it's done it's growled, screamed and roared, and totally eviscerated the alarm clock.
Awakening? If this stuff doesn't do to it to you, you're long dead.
on 18 April 2002
Meeting of the Spirits and You Know You Know are magical and the only track that drags is 'Lotus' which is incongruous to the whole. The drumming is breathtaking with changes in time signatures which seem impossible. The guitar, violin and electric piano complement each other perfectly. I saw the band when they played at the Crystal Palace Bowl in London circa 1971 and it changed my life. Fusion has a reputation for being pompous and pretentious but this record is neither - just a group of virtuoso musicians making a great sound and creating a mystical atmosphere - even for an agnostic!
This epic and groundbreaking 1971 debut album from The Mahavishnu Orchestra is certainly not for those whose musical tastes extend no further than 4/4-time sing-along melodies or the unimaginative and formulaic mediocrity which passes for popular music in the 21st century. `The Inner Mounting Flame' is a rarely (maybe never?) equalled exercise in musical virtuosity bursting with energy, power, tight rhythms and complex time-signatures, which invades both heart and mind with something approaching euphoria. One reviewer here claims "When I saw the Mahavishnu Orchestra live, I couldn't speak for an hour" and, if you've never heard this before, then the first time you do you're likely to have a similar reaction.
Fresh from his adventurous excursion into jazz fusion with Miles Davis, culminating in the seminal and mould-breaking `Bitches Brew' in 1970, John McLaughlin formed this outstanding quintet with Billy Cobham on drums, Jan Hammer on keyboards, Rick Laird on bass and Jerry Goodman - the only member not hitherto steeped in jazz but he doesn't just keep up, he excels beyond expectations - on violin.
The album's 8 different pieces showcase a breadth of imagination and style rare in music of any genre, but `The Ork' (as they were occasionally called in the 1970s), with their unique blend of jazz fusion and tight rock shot through with Indian raga rhythms and irregular time-signatures, were virtually their own genre all by themselves. The primary reason for this outstanding `otherness' was the jaw-dropping virtuosity of the musicians: I have been playing guitar for 40 years now, and still don't understand how any human being can move his fingers as fast as McLaughlin does, because in comparison he makes almost all other guitarists look like they are playing in slow-mo. Billy Cobham almost exceeds McLaughlin in the fast-and-frenzied play-speed contest, as (with Laird supporting) he belts out 7/8, 9/8, 10/8 and even more exotic rhythms with effortless precision, around which Hammer, Goodman and the speed king himself weave beguiling, clever - at times even witty - patterns of sound. As if this weren't enough, there are frequent mid-piece key changes to keep you, dear listener, on your toes. They make it sound easy, but any musicians here will know that creating music like this is beyond all but the most capable and genius-inspired.
It's not all fast and furious. `A Lotus on Irish Streams' showcases a softer, acoustic side; a virtuoso interplay of acoustic guitar and violin flavoured with piano cadences. `The Dance of Maya' with its insistent, slow and punchy 9/8 rhythm will have you up and dancing and, at the same time, trying to keep up with the `skips' of the time-signature.
With lesser musicians all this might have risked a descent into self-indulgence, but with these guys it doesn't. The music is ever-mindful to hold the listener's interest, to nurture and transport him on a magical journey which he will be eager to travel again and again. It's clever, sharp, inspired, bursting with energy, and sounds like nothing else you ever heard.
If you like very good rock music, jazz/fusion, are a serious (even a classical) musician or just appreciate the very best music from virtuoso performers and you have never heard this, then you're in for a rich delight indeed. Go treat yourself. You'll never, ever regret getting to know and love this music.
The follow-up album `Birds of Fire' is very much in the same vein and almost as good - maybe as good as a 19/20 to TIMF's 20/20; and the 1973 open-air live recording `Between Nothingness and Eternity' is also worth checking out.
For me this is one of the great records, regardless of genre. John Mclaughlin impressed Miles Davis and demonstrated his prowess on Bitches Brew and never looked back. I just love the powerhouse ensemble interaction of all the msuicians on this record and find it one of life's energising experiences.
John has long had a spiritual focus to his life and work and it shows here. I just appreciate it for the music. Apart from John's guitar I always get blown away by Billy Cobham's incredible drumming. The control of the time changes are truly awe inspiring.
An absolute classic.
on 5 October 2007
It seems strange writing a review now after all these years.
I remember buying it on vinyl.
To be honest, at first I didn't know what to make of it. At the time I was pretty conventional in my tastes - Classic Prog, Beatles, Dooble Brothers etc etc.
The first listen didn't go well. Had I bought a 'turkey'?
Then I played again - and again. Sure enough, it started to sink. So - this was Jazz fusion?
The first play sound incoherent and messy. This was because, I wasn't giving it my full attention.
The sheer skill and proficiency of the musicians - who were these guys.
It was so powerful and breath-taking in its intensity.
The playing was pin sharp, performed to perfection - an electric guitar, an electric bass, an electric violin, an electric piano/synthesizer and stunning non-electric drums. Well, the actual drumming was electric.
Now - nearly 40 years later; John McLaughlin, Rick Laird, Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman are SO familiar to me.
40 years later the album - CD, (the vinyl has long gone!) still holds me in thrall.
A master piece - "Inner Mountain Flame" still entertains and still impresses me.
CLASSIC Jazz Fusion. CLASSIC music!!
on 10 April 2013
Got a quality album mate?
If not, get this, it's JAZZTOCKTASTIC. Wonder what would happen if the Mav's turned up to audition at Britain's got Talent?
What would Cowell make of this? I dunno, but his face would melt.
BUY! IN THE NAME OF VISHNU, BUY IT, NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
on 22 September 2007
I've always enjoyed listening to Jazz, and probably became interested in John McLaughlin through Miles Davis' work. I bought "Birds of Fire" and was immediately hooked, amazed by both the mystic slant of this type of jazz fusion and the amazing tight production.
I recently aquired Inner Mounting Flame and was just blown away by this album; it is far more adventurous than Birds of Fire and in many ways more enjoyable for it. Its a showcase for the talents of all four members and all the tracks are just incredible to listen to; check out the opening to the final track Awakening and you will see what I mean.
A worthy addition to any collection, whatever your tastes.
on 6 April 2008
I recently purchased this CD and it sounds just as groundbreaking now as it must have done in 1972. I much prefer this album to 'Birds of Fire' even though there are no synthesizers on it. I think it sounds more focused and intense. You can hear how this album influenced mid 70s progressive rock while inspiring a new generation of British Jazz rock bands.