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4.6 out of 5 stars
To The One
Format: Audio CD|Change
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 May 2010
Just for a second, as Mark Mondesir's drums kick-start Discovery, I had an M-Base flashback. But pretty quickly it's McLaughlin's scalding electric guitar that takes the lead, not Steve Coleman's alto sax. And the groove pretty soon escapes any M-Base resemblance and settles down into a McLaughlin style, though by no means a rerun of the past, just a progression from it.

Aside from the man who for me has always personified fusion guitar and the drummer once described by Courtney Pine, in the liner notes for 1988's Destiny's Song, as "futuristic", we also have the multi-talented Gary Husband and bassist Etienne M'Bappe, who maintains a growling undertone for most of the set which gives much of it a rich sound texture.

Some of the guitaring has a whiff of the old Mahavishnu about it - fret-burning fusillades of notes - and that's what ultimately makes this such a worthwhile enterprise.

Of the two tracks featuring synth-guitar, Lost And Found is the stronger, mainly due to Husband, who provides backbone with some atmospheric piano and organ. The other, To The One, is a nice tune, but the tone of the synth-guitar here drives the piece in the direction of the cocktail lounge.

At only 40 minutes long, about the norm for one of your old style 12-inch pieces of circular vinyl 40 years ago when I first heard Mahavishnu Orchestra, this is quite a short collection.

Still, as the authors of my copy of the Penguin Guide to Jazz say in explaining the lack of timings shown on record reviews, it's the quality that counts.
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on 2 November 2010
So.............JMcL goes Zappa does he? Not a bad direction for him to go, I guess. At least it defines a framework for him to improvise, rather than JMcL's usual speedfreak guitar that shows his technique rather than his improvisational skills.

This album is back to jazzrock for the man, and enables this very good band to shine. Step forward Gary Husband who is quite superb on drums & keyboards (a new Jack DeJohnette?)on this session - I hope they tour extensively as I would like to hear this band develop over the next few years.

The tunes are uniformly good (especially the latter 3 tracks), and there are even flavours of prog rock & Pink Floyd in there somewhere. I listened to the album initially and was not that impressed as the songs all seemed quite similar and lacklustre - but stay with it as this album is a grower and is certainly one of JMcL's best over the last decade.

Sadly, there are 2 half stars deducted. Firstly, the mix is not quite right with the drums up way too high. This is very noticable when listening in the car - all you hear are hi-hats and no guitar. Secondly - I am not too sure about JMcL's guitar synths that he uses. The sounds border on Pat Metheny's stuff - and I, for one, am sick to death of the smug rubbish of his last 3 or 4 albums. (Orchestrion?? The Way Up??.... I rest my case m'lud) For me, this is not the jazzrock land that JMcL should be operating in.......

Oh - the Zappa comparison? Well if you like this, then then try FZ's triple album magnum opus "Shut Up & Play Yer Guitar". Lunatic guitar solos from the much-missed legend. Come back Frank, we need you.
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on 11 May 2010
This is Mclaughlin's 6th release in his current electric mode (including 5 Peace Band, the live official bootleg and the DVD)and quite possibly his best. The compositions are simple and it is easy to understand why Mclaughlin cites Coltrane in his liner notes. He still plays the most amazing guitar! He has his own language and has matured to the point where he sounds freer and more relaxed than ever at high tempos; while that ferocious acceleration into his lines is not so evident as it once was, he still sounds totally motivated to play and has undoubtedly been stoked - to say the least - by his younger band members. He's playing like mad right from the start, and the band sounds right, goes where he wants and pushes him too - by the end of track 3 Mclaughlin is into frenzied take-no-prisoners shredding...absolutely vintage! This is a short(40 mins)album, but very high quality indeed - a lovely atmosphere to it with great compositions and great playing. Well worth getting.
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on 15 April 2017
A fantastic fusion of great compositions and fabulous playing. Go buy it and enjoy.
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on 1 June 2010
To my ears this is the best cd mclaughlin has done for a long while,my only complaint is that it is too short.mclaughlins playing sounds like his earlier sound,and there are echoes of earlier themes from mahavishnu and electric guitarist era.the other musicians are amazing too especially the drums and bass.definitely recommended.
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on 29 January 2017
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on 1 May 2010
this is the first album i have ever bought from john,never really been in to him,i cannot recommend this Cd highly enough it is just awesome on every level his guitar playing,Gary husbands keyboard playing,the drumming and bass playing all just gel so well,this Cd has really affected me, not since the yellowjackets debut has an album come along that i have real problems listening too it just blows me away, i have been a fusion fan for over thirty years with hundreds of albums, this could be the best.JUST BUY IT.
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on 28 May 2010
I'm blown away by this album. As a big fan of JM early mahavishnu and shakti stuff I was begining to wonder if JM could ignite that creative flame for me again and all I can say is he's done it Big time.
Don't hesitate just buy and enjoy. Peace.
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on 11 February 2015
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 May 2010
Another fine album from Johnny McLaughlin. Never one to stand still, this latest has neither the extended compositional ambitions of Industrial Zen, nor is it a generous showcase for a burgeoning host of new musical talents as was Floating Point. No, this is stripped back to as mean and lean a quartet format as you can get. We could call it a jazz quartet, but as the years go by I grow less and less comfortable with the lazy application of the jazz epithet. What John and a band like this are doing in the 21st Century is electric improvisatory music that draws from and synthesises just about every musical tradition of the preceding two millennia. To call it jazz is to ghettoise an art form that is one of the most sophisticated and vigorous threads of creative expression going on in our new century. The pieces on this disc are really just idiomatic McLaughlin-esque fragments, barely qualifying as compositions as such, with the emphasis being on ensemble playing of transcendental tautness and precision. The album comprises six short tracks, each cycling a theme over varying instrumental combinations, with unflaggingly inventive soloing from everyone involved. But though each of the musicians is an outstandingly talented individual of world class, there is absolutely no doubt that there is one among them playing notes, riffs and phrases that just wouldn't occur to the mind of any other earthling. Six short tracks adding up to barely forty minutes, but the musical intensity of what goes on in that time makes any linear calculation redundant.

So what makes John so good? Is it the phenomenal degree of left-right hand coordination, which is probably the finest of any of the great improvising guitarists? Every note is individually plucked, with legato being used only rarely as an effect. Why does he do this? I can't know for sure but my guess is that he learnt early on that over-reliance on legato can create the impression of blurring speed, and there are armies of such guitarists out there, but it also ends up with the hands running away with the music so that the hands control you rather than you them. When every note is individually picked then every note is the result of a deliberate decision made in the player's brain. It also necessitates a far more disciplined practice regime to perfect and maintain that coordination if it is to be taken up into the balalaika like speed domains at which John can operate when he's really flying. But this technical fluency is just a foundation that ensures that his hands are a completely transparent medium for the transmission of the musical ideas generated by his entirely unique musical imagination. It's the notes he chooses to play that really make John such a World art treasure. When John improvises there is more to what he is doing than just embellishing a tune along harmonic lines. He has a way of making the stream of notes pivot and twist so as to imply intricate cross-rhythms and contrapuntal voicings. That he then manages to multiplex all these separate streams of information back into a single stream of blazing notes, in real-time, makes him a truly phenomenal human being. Then there is the harmonic content of those blazing notes. At the core there is the pentatonic skeleton that leaves no doubt that John is first and foremost a rock guitarist. But that skeleton is then fleshed out with passing notes and inflections that draw upon a deep mastery of scales from across the world. Not just the modalities of Western musical history, but also the strange and pungent vernaculars and dialects of the East, including above all the Karnatic and Hindustani idioms of his beloved India. All this has allowed John to create a language that is entirely personal to him, and that is so idiosyncratic that, even when he is playing relatively slowly, there are times when I still can't quite figure out what notes he is playing, and I have quite a good ear. Simply put - John is the Man!!!
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