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Live at Montreux 1984 & 1974 by Mahavishnu Orchestra

These discs present two disparate incarnations of guitar god John McLaughlin’s post-Billy Cobham (drums), Jan Hammer (keys), Rick Laird (bass) and Jerry Goodman (violin) Mahavishnu Orchestra. No doubt, the original lineup is was what set the jazz world on fire back in 1970 with the advent of "Inner Mounting Flame." Otherwise, the first disc captures the flashy jazz-fusion makeup of the band, abetted by saxophonist Bill Evans intense soloing efforts. No doubt, he generates quite a bit of steam during this lengthy 1984 live set.

The ensemble gels within groove-based works often developed with harmonious melodies and the now patented super-speed unison lines. Naturally, McLaughlin soars into the stratosphere via spine-tingling single note flurries, executed at the speed of light. During this timeframe the guitarist conveyed a looser stage gait, perhaps due to his straying from spiritual leader Sri Chimnoy’s cultish brouhaha. On the flip side, McLaughlin’s infatuation with the period technology is evidenced by his extended use of a Synclavier II unit that is rigged to his electric guitar. At times, the darkly-hued synth flute sounds he conjures up wear a bit thin, especially for the long-haul.

Highlights include an astounding and irrefutably, precision-oriented e-bass solo by Jonas Hellborg, who literally spanks his strings into submission. Then drummer Danny Gottlieb gets some time to stretch his wares, witnessed by his meticulously choreographed drums-percussion solo.

The second disc shows a peaceable McLaughlin sporting a cropped hairdo, performing on his double-neck ax. In 1974, pioneering electric violinist Jean Luc-Ponty served as the leader’s foil. But the third stream type strings-horns brand of jazz-fusion rears its ugly-head within various movements. And while drummer Michael Walden unleashes a lot of polyrhythmic banging, keyboardist Gayle Moran’s textural lines helped parlay a bottom-up foundation leading to soaring solo spots by the front-line. Yet at the end of the day, this instance of the band is mired in superfluous compositional developments. Matters do heat up, but the strings-drenched jazz fusion vibe amounted to little more than some ornamental sugar-coating. Overall, it’s a nice peak into a musical time capsule. But the 1984 version of this Orchestra’s legacy reins supreme within the scope of these 2 DVDs. Running Time: 234 minutes

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mahavishnu Orchestra
  • CD Title: Live at Montreux 1984 & 1974
  • Genre: Jazz DVD / Video
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Eagle Eye Media
  • Rating: Three Stars
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