Exposé Online banner

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

by Jon Davis, 1984-10-18:

Mahavishnu Cover art

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.)


by Jon Davis, 2003-12-01:

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.


Filed under: Reissues , Issue 28 , 2002 releases, 1984 releases

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

More info

Latest news

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more

2019-03-03
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

My Sleeping Karma - My Sleeping Karma – My Sleeping Karma are four guys living in the middle of Germany hard at work crafting and playing minimal retro-psychedelic music that can easily stand up to Harmonia’s Krautrock masterpieces...  (2008) » Read more

Gong - 2032 – In 2032, or so the legend goes, Planet Gong finally makes contact with Earth. And I guess that you can consider 2032 to be the fourth part of the Radio Gnome trilogy. This new release is the first...  (2010) » Read more

Arc and Sender - Arc and Sender – Arc and Sender is a noisy little trio from Maryland that spans the genres of indie/alternative rock with experimental lo-fi grunge. This means the trio can hammer away for hours on brutal chords,...  (2006) » Read more

David Thomas & Ronnie Gunn - The Giants Dance – I guess at some point anyone even remotely connected with Genesis will come out of the woodwork to market their offerings. Case in point. David Thomas and Ronnie Gunn were two musicians who apparently...  (1997) » Read more

Metaphor - Starfooted – Genesis-derivative bands don't get a fair shake in the prog world and maybe they shouldn't. Look at the 80s careers of Fish-era Marillion, IQ, Discipline, or Iluvaar. There are few wiser...  (2000) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues