Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Numerous jazz/rock-fusion giants roamed & conquered the earth in the first half of the ’70s, none with more immense power than the mighty Mahavishnu Orchestra. Right from the start they generated a distinct sound that blew away rock fans, jazz fans, fellow musicians and even music critics. Their 1971 debut The Inner Mounting Flame sounds like nothing that came before or after, with the exception of the two albums (one live and one studio recording) the original lineup released before going their separate ways.
For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.
From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 3:
During my high school years, fusion became my gateway into the seemingly impenetrable world of jazz with its rock instrumentation and improvisational music, and the fusion artist that made the biggest impact on me was The Mahavishnu Orchestra. The brainchild of former Miles Davis and Tony Williams Lifetime guitar master John McLaughlin, the original incarnation of the group (keyboard whiz and future Miami Vice composer Jan Hammer, violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird and drum god Billy Cobham) lasted only three albums but their impact was tremendous. The first Mahavishnu album I heard was 1973’s Birds Of Fire, which remains my favorite, but their debut from 2 years earlier is equally impressive. Here was a musical collective that was capable of soft, subtle passages like those found in “Dawn” and “You Know, You Know” as well as mind-blowing ferocity on epics like “Meeting Of The Spirits” and “Vital Transformation.” Throughout it all, McLaughlin makes a case for being one of the greatest guitarists of all time (in any genre), and the others have ample opportunity to strut their stuff, yet it’s not merely a chops-fest. The melodies stick with you as much as the performances. Fusion has often been derided by jazz purists, so this music is more suited to open-minded listeners who believe that music should have no limitations.
Are you a fusion fan? If so, what are your thoughts on Mahavishnu Orchestra? Do you prefer their debut over subsequent albums? Who are some of your other favorite fusion artists?