Tuesday, October 27, 2009


In 1971, guitarist John McLaughlin released the Mahavishnu Orchestra's first album,
INNER MOUNTING FLAME. It is both the prototype and the penultimate example of what rock-jazz fusion music is, and should be.
Featuring future superstars Billy Cobham on drums and Jan Hammer on Keyboards, they were joined by masterful bassist Rick Laird and violinist Jerry Goodman. It was one of those raw energy bands, the Led Zeppelin (if you will) of all the bands that could be grouped into the rock-fusion genre of the late 1960's and 1970's.
The original lineup released another album called Birds of Fire, and it too is as rocking as it is innovative and soulful. These guys were burning with creation and making new types of music and were all virtuoso level players at the top of their games. Plus they had that hungry, youthful drive for going for it.
38 years later, it still ranks as one of my favorite albums. It's a great album for a road trip, when an uninterrupted trip through a nice rural area really makes the music serve as the ultimate soundtrack of your life for that moment. There are such a diversity of feelings and emotions that come through this vocal-less album that it is nearly a spiritual experience.
McLaughlin is well know for his spirituality and it certainly comes through in his playing. Laird is such a great bass player who is just right there where he needs to be at all times, never too much and never too little. Jan Hammer is a masterful keyboard virtuoso and composer whose pedigree should be well known to the readers of this blog...they are impeccable and impressive.
Cobham, of course, is on fire and does amazing things on the drumkit. You can literally feel the sweat coming off of Cobham when he is in a double bass drumming frenzy or an extended break. Likewise, he is always capable of being soft and melodic at the most opportune times. The only performance of Cobham's that equals this one, IMHO, is that on Cobham's Spectrum album, featuring Tommy Bolin on guitar.
It's sometimes hard to imagine a violin or fiddle raging on with these masterful musicians, playing loud electric and mic'd up instruments at LOUD stage volume, but Jerry Goodman not only pulls it off but helps to create a new genre. Jean-Luc Ponty had done the same with Zappa and later filled Goodman's shoes in later versions of the Mahavishnu.
There's one other album featuring these original players that was released several years ago called THE LOST TRIDENT SESSIONS. It too, is excellent and was long awaited by fans of the band.
It's not too late for the members of Mahavishnu to have a reunion tour with the original members. They are all still alive. Maybe one day they can put their egos aside and do something for the fans that made it all possible for them to be successful. It would be a momentous occasion. Although Laird now has a successful career as a photographer, he apparently is also giving bass lessons as well as authoring several intermediate and advanced bass instruction books.
I've seen Cobham in clinics on several occasions, and he is just awesome. And remains awesome. I can't imagine with all of the different types of music that McLaughlin and Hammer have played in the past nearly 40 years wouldn't make their playing exponentially better after all this time. Goodman apparently was playing as well
At least do like one major gig and release it on DVD, dudes.

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