Exposé Online banner

Mahavishnu Orchestra — Mahavishnu
(Wounded Bird WOU 5190, 1984/2002, CD)

by Jon Davis, 2003-12-01:

Mahavishnu Cover art

I don’t think anyone would argue against the idea that the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s peak was long past by the time John McLaughlin put this version of the band together. McLaughlin probably regarded this as a somewhat different band anyway, as evidenced by the fact that it was originally released just as Mahavishnu (for this reissue, the “Orchestra” is added). Billy Cobham is the only other Orchestra member present, and the role of melodic foil to the guitar and keys, previously filled by violin, is taken over by Bill Evans on saxes and flute. Listeners expecting the manic edge-of-the-seat energy that made the original band’s first few albums so remarkable will be disappointed; while this is no snooze-fest, the whole thing is more polished and mannered, due in large part to McLaughlin’s avoidance of the guitar. Yes, one of the great guitarists of all time recorded an album on which he plays mostly keyboards and “digital guitar” rather than his main axe. Maybe he was just tired of it and wanted to try something different, though he does rip out exactly one excellent solo on the third track. The results are somewhat mixed, for though there are some great moments, on the whole it’s a little too polite to rank with the best MO. Jonas Hellborg is uniformly good on bass, and Mitchell Forman fills the keyboard role admirably. All of which leaves this album as a curiosity in McLaughlin’s career, far from worthless, but not one of the greats.


by Jon Davis, 1984-10-18:

In the late 60s, guitarist John McLaughlin burst onto the jazz scene, playing with Miles Davis and Tony Williams at the very beginnings of jazz-rock fusion. When he formed his own group, Mahavishnu Orchestra, he took the jazz world by storm with an electrifying blend of jazz, rock, Indian, and European Classical music. The Orchestra disbanded several years ago, as McLaughlin experimented with all-acoustic music and solo albums. Now the band is back with a shortened name and a streamlined sound. Gone are the elaborate orchestrations and large group of musicians. McLaughlin's guitar playing is astounding, with both lightning licks and lyrical melodies. His use of the new guitar synthesizer is never inappropriate; he alters his sound to fit the mood of the piece. Billy Cobham, the other remaining original member, is the driving force behind the music. His drumming is better than ever, reflecting the assimilation of all the world's percussive styles by a mind with an incredible rhythmic sense. The reformation of Mahavishnu is one of the best things to happen in jazz this year.

(This review originally appeared in Daily Evergreen, the student newspaper at Washington State University.)


Filed under: Reissues , 2002 releases, 1984 releases

Related artist(s): Zakir Hussein, Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham

More info

Latest news

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more

2019-01-02
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more

2018-12-23
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more

2018-11-16
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more

2018-11-02
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Steve Roach - Immersion: Three – The third in his Immersion series, this one is expanded out to three discs, housed in a beautiful DVD sized eight-panel package with artwork that describes the music as well as the music describes the...  (2009) » Read more

David Bedford - The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – I never had the pleasure to hear this album when it was still only available on LP. The transfer to CD is fine, the noise is not disturbing this time. The subject of the album is the famous poem from...  (2004) » Read more

Landberk - Dream Dance – Landberk's second CD-EP breaks no new territory, nor develops on their practically patented style, yet again delivers the goods. While I find that their music isn't as translatable live (both...  (1996) » Read more

Garden Wall - The Seduction of Madness – One might ask how Garden Wall could possibly top their previous album, Path of Dreams from 1994. This writer was initially skeptical about that possibility, but after a few listens to this latest...  (1996) » Read more

Goma - 14 Abril – Goma was a five piece in the grand Spanish tradition, mixing a hard rock sound with elements of folk, in many ways similar to bands like Triana and Bloque, but Goma came several years earlier, and...  (1996) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues