(All Album Reviews by Chuck AzEee!)
An album of extreme influence, from the opening song, "Meeting Of The Spirits" you could tell this album was going to be special. Mahavishnu Orchestra's The Inner Mounting Flame, expanded of Miles Davis' vision of jazz's new direction, with unprofound and unlimited potential.
A band of five virtuosos, (although only John and drummer Billy Cobham were known about at the time) this lineup of Mahavishnu Orchestra, was a lineup so powerful, that it was only best by Miles Davis Bitches Brew lineup which John and Billy were part of.
The Inner Mounting Flame, an album of trailblazing power, was a crossover hit, not only influencing the jazz-rock scene, but influencing progressive rockers and helping further establishing what would be called "heavy metal".
Although this powerful lineup, would go on to record two more albums together (which are also considered classics of the genre as well) the seeds of discontent were being reaped as for five musicians of this magnitude could not possibly stay together, and strive as a cohesive unit, allow each other to have their share and be happy.
Miles Davis, Return To Forever, Weather Report, Spectrum, Tony Williams' Lifetime, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters were great bands, but this version of Mahavishnu Orchestra as far it came to sheer power was and still to this day, was unmatched.
The Inner Mounting Flame is one of definitive statements of the Jazz-rock Fusion era, and should be in every serious minded musical collection.
(All Album Reviews by Burgess Penguin)
There are just some experiences you NEVER forget, and for me, at age 15 was hearing this groundbreaking disc by The Mahavishnu Orchestra! My initial impressions were of complete awe, even a bit of terror, wonderment, curiosity and a determination to get my brain around this frighteningly intense yet very spiritual and lofty music. Years later, it STILL stirs many of those same feelings for me.
One of the most striking things aside from the music itself (a very natural, unforced vet fierce melding of Coltrane, Hendrix, blues and Indian ragas) was John McLaughlin's choice of musicians. Jerry Goodman was the only member of MO Mk I that had no previous jazz experience, yet was able to integrate his classical, folk and rock sensibilities into the mix very beautifully! Jan Hammer bought to the table an incredibly varied and colorful piano style and even turned in some SMOKING organ and Rhodes (a shame he didn't play more organ, he sounded GREAT on it!). Drummer Billy Cobham had just the right balance of sheer technique and soul (having logged in time with Miles Davis and James Brown among others). Bassist Rick Laird provided a solid bedrock for the others to build on, yet if you listened closely, he played very melodically in an understated way. Five VERY headstrong musical personalities like this coming together made for some exciting musical fireworks AND for some serious personal tensions (which would blow the band apart a couple years later), but in that brief time, revolutionized music!
1. “Meeting Of The Spirits” - Beginning with a powerful introduction of mysterious chords and swirling sounds, the band calls us to higher loftier realms, with McLaughlin playing EVERY NOTE as if his life depended on it. Great opener with mesmerizing power and ferocity!
2. “Dawn” - Starting off low key with Hammer chiming away on his Rhodes, the band lets forth a gently soaring melody that gradually builds intensity to some fiery interchanges between Goodman and McLaughlin before winding back down.
3. “Noonward Race” - Full throttle for John as he leads the band through a funky raga-ish wild ride, interesting solo from Jerry Goodman and one just marvels at how they play this fast and STILL land on the right spot!
4. “A Lotus On Irish Streams” - The romantic/classical side of McLaughlin Goodman and Hammer comes out with this dense yet very beautiful piece, conjuring up vivid images of rural Ireland and Britain.
5. “Vital Transformation” - Billy Cobham leads the charge at an insane tempo as McLaughlin and Goodman come in with a raga-ish figure that builds to frightening intensity and just as you think it's going to blow up, the whole band screeches to a near halt and delivers a rousing melodic chorus before picking up steam again. McLaughlin's solo here is not only notable for its intensity but also tons of melody takes place at frightening speeds. I LOVE the edge of the seat flavor of this piece!
6. “The Dance Of Maya - The blues holds sway here, as McLaughlin's deliberate and ominous arpegiated figures give way to an equally ominous melody from Goodman's violin, and then the band gets down to DA BLOOZ for a bit before coming back to that ominous main theme and blowing the roof off the joint with a rousing ending. Call this blues from another dimension!
7. “You Know, You Know” - In a quieter more introspective vein, McLaughlin paints the scene with a minor key blues-inflected figure as his bandmates weave in and out interjecting a key moments. An understated masterpiece of building something very complex off a relatively simple figure. This would sound great in some parts of a detective flick!
8. “Awakening” - With all the subtlety of an air-raid-siren going off next to your bedroom window, the whole band unleashes a ferocious raga-like fusillade at a frighteningly fast tempo and then Jerry Goodman lets forth a soaring yet fierce melodic Middle Eastern-inflected solo on his violin. The band miraculously comes back at full throttle and then Hammer gets his turn, the tempo slows down a bit as he unleashes brilliant ideas which are gradually mutated and twisted beyond recognition with a ring-modulator on his Rhodes, and without warning, that raga figure roars back, and this time McLaughlin takes it out (and I mean OUT!!!) into space with his ferocious yet melodious solo and thenm somehow manages to bring the band back in as it lands on its feet with ungodly precision!
At first, all I could say was HOLY (...), HOW DID THEY DO THAT?
Years later, that feeling STILL happens when I pull this disc out.
Want mind-blowing? Listen here!