Mahavishnu Orchestra – Mahavishnu (1984)

FrontCover1Mahavishnu 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.[2] 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)

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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.

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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.)

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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



More from The Mahavishnu Orchestra:

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds Of Fire (1973)

FrontCover1.jpgBirds of Fire is the second studio album by American jazz fusion band the Mahavishnu Orchestra. It was released on January 3, 1973 by Columbia Records and is the last studio album released by the original band line-up before it dissolved.

As with the group’s previous album, The Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire consists solely of compositions by John McLaughlin. These include the track “Miles Beyond (Miles Davis)”, which McLaughlin dedicated to his friend and former bandleader.

In addition to the standard 2-channel stereo album there was also a 4-channel quadraphonic version released during the 1970s. This appeared on LP in the SQ matrix format.

A remastered version of the album was released on CD in 2000 by Sony Music Entertainment. It features a new set of liner notes by JazzTimes critic Bill Milkowski, as well as photographs of the band. In 2015 the album was re-issued on Super Audio CD by Audio Fidelity containing both the stereo and quad mixes.

The back cover of the album features the poem “Revelation” by Sri Chinmoy. (by wikipedia)

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Emboldened by the popularity of Inner Mounting Flame among rock audiences, the first Mahavishnu Orchestra set out to further define and refine its blistering jazz-rock direction in its second — and, no thanks to internal feuding, last — studio album. Although it has much of the screaming rock energy and sometimes exaggerated competitive frenzy of its predecessor, Birds of Fire is audibly more varied in texture, even more tightly organized, and thankfully more musical in content. A remarkable example of precisely choreographed, high-speed solo trading — with John McLaughlin, Jerry Goodman, and Jan Hammer all of one mind, supported by Billy Cobham’s machine-gun drumming and Rick Laird’s dancing bass — can be heard on the aptly named “One Word,” and the title track is a defining moment of the group’s nearly atonal fury.

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The band also takes time out for a brief bit of spaced-out electronic burbling and static called “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love.” Yet the most enticing pieces of music on the record are the gorgeous, almost pastoral opening and closing sections to “Open Country Joy,” a relaxed, jocular bit of communal jamming that they ought to have pursued further. This album actually became a major crossover hit, rising to number 15 on the pop album charts, and it remains the key item in the first Mahavishnu Orchestra’s slim discography. (by Richard S. Ginell)

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Billy Cobham (drums, percussion)
Jerry Goodman (violin)
Jan Hammer (keyboards, synthesizer)
Rick Laird (bass)
John McLaughlin (guitar)

01. Birds Of Fire 5.49
02. Miles Beyond (dedicated to Miles Davis) 4.45
03. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters 2.55
04. Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love 0.24
05. Thousand Island Park 3.23
06. Hope 1.56
07. One Word 9.55
08. Sanctuary 5.04
09. Open Country Joy 3.55
10. Resolution 2.10

Music composed by John McLaughlin



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And here´s a very intersting album … with music from The Mahavishnu Orchestra … arranged for a string quartet … the Radio String Quartett from Austria (click on the pic):


The Mahavishnu Orchestra – The Inner Mounting Flame (1971)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Inner Mounting Flame is the debut studio album by multinational jazz-rock fusion band Mahavishnu Orchestra, released in August 1971 by Columbia Records. After their formation, the group performed several debut gigs before they entered the studio to record their first album featuring all original material written by guitarist John McLaughlin.

This is the album that made John McLaughlin a semi-household name, a furious, high-energy, yet rigorously conceived meeting of virtuosos that, for all intents and purposes, defined the fusion of jazz and rock a year after Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew breakthrough. It also inadvertently led to the derogatory connotation of the word fusion, for it paved the way for an army of imitators, many of whose excesses and commercial panderings devalued the entire movement. Though much was made of the influence of jazz-influenced improvisation in the Mahavishnu band, it is the rock element that predominates, stemming directly from the electronic innovations of Jimi Hendrix. The improvisations, particularly McLaughlin’s post-Hendrix machine-gun assaults on double-necked electric guitar and Jerry Goodman’s flights on electric violin, owe more to the freakouts that had been circulating in progressive rock circles than to jazz, based as they often are on ostinatos on one chord.


These still sound genuinely thrilling today, as McLaughlin and Goodman battle Jan Hammer’s keyboards, Rick Laird’s bass, and especially Billy Cobham’s hard-charging drums, whose jazz-trained technique pushed the envelope for all rock drummers. What doesn’t date so well are the composed medium- and high-velocity unison passages that are played in such tight lockstep that they can’t breathe. There is also time out for quieter, reflective numbers that are drenched in studied spirituality (“A Lotus on Irish Streams”) or irony (“You Know You Know”); McLaughlin was to do better in that department with less-driven colleagues elsewhere in his career. Aimed with absolute precision at young rock fans, this record was wildly popular in its day, and it may have been the cause of more blown-out home amplifiers than any other record this side of Deep Purple. (by Richard S. Ginell)

What a line-up !


Billy Cobham (drums, percussion)
Jerry Goodman (violin)
Jan Hammer (keyboards)
Rick Laird (bass)
John McLaughlin (guitar)

01. Meeting Of The Spirits 6:52
02. Dawn 5.15
03. The Noonward Race 6.29
04. A Lotus On Irish Streams 5.41
05. Vital Transformation 6.16
06. The Dance Of Maya 7.17
07. You Know You Know 5.07
08. Awakening 3.28

Music composed by John McLaughlin




Mahavishnu Orchestra – Wien (1975)

MahavishnuOrchestraFrontCover1Jean-Luc Ponty was gone. His squealing violin substituted by newcomer Stu Goldberg’s equally electrifying synthesizer. The entire horn and string section was also axed. The third lineup of the Mahavishnu Orchestra was now a quartet. But as a review in noted of the album they recorded, this was “power-packed music”.

They open with A Love Supreme, with McLaughlin alive and playing like a dervish. The chant of “a love supreme” gets buried in this version. The tempo only comes to a crawl by the third tune, Sanctuary, another one that lets McLaughlin’s guitar shine. There are ample examples of Stu Goldberg’s keyboard skills on the next two lengthy instrumentals. Together with drummer Narada, both players keep the band sounding funky.

This show has McLaughlin run the band through its paces with much of the material from what’s regarded as their best album, Birds Of Fire. The Birds album was one of the more successful meldings of jazz and rock with much prominence given to the guitar as both a jazz and rock instrument. While Chicago and BS&T offered jazz-rock with more than a touch of pop, it was left to Miles Davis and McLaughlin to push the boundaries further into jazz territory.

Yet despite so much instrumental skill on display, punks were already lying in wait for the ambush to return the music to its three-minute single status. Jazz rock never recovered.

Recorded live in Austria, August 29, 1975. Very good soundboard stereo.
This came to us a long time ago and our notes list this as a soundboard recording. Could be FM sourced.

Ralphe Armstrong (bass, vocals)
Stu Goldberg (keyboards, synthesizer)
John McLaughlin (guitar, vocals)
Narada Michael Walden (drums)

01. A Love Supreme (Coltrane) 11.57
02. Faith/Open Country Joy (McLaughlin) 18.18
03. Sanctuary (McLaughlin) 4.10
04. One Word/All In The Family (McLaughlin) 19.40
05. Hope/Be Happy (McLaughlin) 10.26