Mahavishnu Orchestra was an American jazz fusion band formed in New York City in 1971, by the English guitarist John McLaughlin. The band underwent several line-up changes throughout its history across two stints from 1971 to 1976 and 1984 to 1987. With its first line-up consisting of musicians Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman and Rick Laird, the band received its initial acclaims for its complex, intense music consisting of a blend of Indian classical music, jazz and psychedelic rock, and their dynamic live performances between 1971 and 1973.
Mahavishnu is an album by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, released in 1984 by Warner Bros. Records. During the 1980s, John McLaughlin reformed the Mahavishnu Orchestra for release of the two albums Mahavishnu and Adventures in Radioland. This band’s overall sound was radically different from the original Mahavishnu Orchestra, in particular because of McLaughlin’s extensive use of the Synclavier synthesiser system. This album features original Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham. (by wikipedia)
1984’s Mahavishnu was supposed to mark the return of drummer Billy Cobham to John McLaughlin’s side. Although the reunion ended badly behind the scenes, the record did manage to display some of the historic interplay these musician’s had shared in the past. The album does suffer from a lack of focus which could be blamed on McLaughlin’s new guitar synthesizer, which he tended to use too much. Many times the listener is not aware John is even playing because the damn synth didn’t sound like a guitar at all ! But again, John was in the forefront of the technology at the time and his indulging can be forgiven. He would eventually find his voices on his acoustic-synth trio outings.
Mahavishnu consisted of Miles’ sax man Bill Evans, outrageous bassist Jonas Helborg, brilliant keyboardest Mitchel Forman and an ever-developing Danny Gottlieb, replacing Cobham on tour, on drums. This band would not realize its full potential until Adventures In Radioland.
Still, Mahavishnu offers “Clarendon Hills”, a tune penned by Evans, which is a full-out sonic attack which is among the best compositions McLaughlin has ever recorded. Katia LaBeque, ex-girlfriend of John McLaughlin and wonderful pianist, once again adds her talents and very effectively so on the Indian piece “When Blue Turns Gold” which brings the album to a droning close. For those of you able to obtain this record, remember… “Too dark. Use flash”. (Walter Kolosky)
This album somehow seems to have offended the gods, in as much as it garnered fairly poor reviews and often seems to be omitted from the discographies of both John McLaughlin AND the Mahavishnu Orchestra. My personal view is that the disdain is undeserved.
Whilst the keyboard and guitar sounds make it very much of its time, the solid rhythm section of Billy Cobham and Jonas Hellborg mostly keep it driving along, and there are some beautiful moments along the way.
Personal favourite tracks are: the opener, “Radio-Activity”, which combines typically liquid lines from McLaughlin and saxophonist Bill Evans with some fiery work from Cobham on double bass drum; the second track, “Nostalgia”, which is a moody and contemplative ballad; and the penultimate track, “Pacific Express”, which sees McLaughlin in his usual rapid-fire mode.
All in all, it’s an album I return to every year or two, and I’m always reminded how much I like it! (by Patrick Moore)
Billy Cobham (drums, percussion)
Bill Evans (saxophone, flute)
Mitchel Forman – Fender Rhodes, Yamaha DX7, Yamaha “Blow Torch” Piano on “Clarendon Hills”
Jonas Hellborg (bass)
John McLaughlin (guitar, synclavier II, digital guitar)
Hari Prasad Chaurasia -(flute on 09.)
Danny Gottlieb (percussion)
Zakir Hussain (tabla on 09.)
Katia Labeque (synthesizer, piano on 09.)
01. Radio-Activity 6.47
02. Nostalgia 5.56
03. Nightriders 3.45
04. East Side West Side 4.47
05. Clarendon Hills 6.04
06. Jazz 1.43
07. The Unbeliever 2.47
08. Pacific Express 6.23
09. When Blue Turns Gold 3.15
Music compsoed by John McLaughlin,
except 05, which was written by Bill Evans