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"...Now And Zen..." - Beyond Nothingness And Eternity and Visions Of The Emerald Beyond by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA (2014 Remasters)
on 8 September 2014
Back in the day I can remember being fascinated by the Eastern mysticism of Mediation Guru SRI CHINMOY whose name began to appear with almost Godlike reverence on Santana, Robert Flack and Mahavishnu Orchestra albums around about 1972 and 1973 (with his followers having a penchant for dressing in heavenly white). Rock-Jazz-Fusion had been gaining ground on CTI, Atlantic, Douglas and Columbia/CBS since 1970 and instrumental in this was England's fusion guitar sensation JOHN McLAUGHLIN and his band THE MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA (Maha the Creator - Vishnu the Preserver).
Beat Goes On put out these albums in the Eighties, Sony's own Legacy CD reissues then turned up in 1991 and there's been others since. Well along comes BGO again to whet your appetite once more with a brand new 2014 remaster by ANDREW THOMPSON - and stompingly good it is too. Here's the Devadip inner oneness direct from the fountain of babbling knobosity...
UK released September 2014 - "Between Nothing & Eternity/Visions Of The Emerald Beyond" by THE MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1161 (Barcode 5017261211613) gives us two straightforward albums remastered onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:
Disc 1 (42:07 minutes):
1. Trilogy: The Sunlit Path, La Mere De La Mer, Tomorrow’s Story Not The Same
2. Sister Andrea [Side 2]
Tracks 1 to 3 are their 3rd album "Between Nothing & Eternity" - released December 1973 in the USA on Columbia Records KC 32766 and January 1974 in the UK on CBS Records S 69046 (42:07 minutes). The LP was recorded 'live' in August 1973 in New York's Central Park and featured JOHN McLAUGHLIN on Lead Guitar, JAN HAMMER on Piano and Moog, JERRY GOODMAN on Violin, RICK LAIRD on Bass with BILLY COBHAM on Drums. It rose to Number 43 on the American album charts.
Disc 2 (40:17 minutes):
1. Eternity’s Breath Part 1
2. Eternity’s Breath Part 2
3. Lila’s Dance
4. Can’t Stand Your Funk
7. Cosmic Strut
8. If I Could See
9. Be Happy
10. Earth Ship
13. On The Way Home To earth
Tracks 1 to 13 are their 5th album "Visions Of The Emerald Beyond" - released January 1975 in the USA on Columbia PC 33411 and CBS Records 69108 in the UK. It made Number 68 in the US Albums chart. Many more musicians supplemented the band - namely JEAN-LUC PONTY- who brought his electric violin to the proceedings. All songs on Disc 1 and 2 written by JOHN McLAUGHLIN except “Cosmic Strut” by NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN
There's a classy card wrap/slipcase on the outside and equally superb liner notes by noted Jazz writer CHARLES WARING (Mojo, Record Collector) in the substantial 20-page booklet. ANDREW THOMPSON did the new 2014 Remasters and they’re typically clear and full of presence – the dense instrumental passages now breathing anew...
Taking its name from the last lines in a 1972 Sri Chinmoy poem called "My Flute" - the live "Between Nothingness & Eternity" LP was amazingly consistent despite the crazy the length of the three tracks (one taking up a whole side). The opener "Trilogy" (The Sunlit Path/La Mere De La Mere/Tomorrow's Story Not The Same) has beautiful guitar passages - a melodic trippy opening seguing into Fusion and back again. "Sister Andrea" is the same while the sidelong "Dream" sees McLaughlin trade licks and keys with Hammer in a wonderfully musical dance of virtuoso playing. Even now its impressive stuff and given the venue - so well recorded by Engineer TIM GEELAN.
By the time they reached album number five "Visions Of The Emerald Beyond" in mid 1975 - JEAN-LUC PONTY (ex Zappa's Mothers) brought his distinctive electric violin playing to the cosmic stew. The opening duo of Parts 1 and 2 of "Eternal Breath" are amazing Jazz Rock with Keyboardist GAYLE MORAN and Violinist CAROL SHRIVE adding suitably wailing backing vocals. You're also hit once again with the gorgeous production values - the swirling guitar treatments of "Lila's Dance" and the Jeff Beck "Blow By Blow" choppy rhythms in "Can't Stand Your Funk". Thompson is to be praised for a really fantastic sounding remaster. It all gets a bit hippy-dip with the vocal on "If I Could See" but comes back strong with the mellow keyboard and flute vibe of "Earth Ship". Again Jeff Beck's nasty Rock Funk is in evidence on the stabbing rhythms of "Cosmic Strut" - the only non John McLaughlin song on the album - penned by the then 22-year old drummer Michael Walden (soon to become funk's Narada on Atlantic Records).
It's been decades since I played these albums and while you could do without the metaphysical waffling - the playing is still striking, innovative and at times downright extraordinary. A superb little reissue and recommended...