The Mahavishnu Orchestra were a jazz fusion band formed in New York City in 1971, led by English guitarist John McLaughlin.
The group underwent several line-up changes throughout its history across two stints from 1971 to 1976 and 1984 to 1987.
The first line-up which consisted of musicians Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman, and Rick Laird, the band received its initial acclaim for its complex, intense music consisting of a blend of Indian classical music, jazz and psychedelic rock, and its dynamic live performances between 1971 and 1973.
After the original group dissolved, it reformed in 1974 with a new cast of musicians behind McLaughlin:
“Inner Worlds” came out in 1976. It’s the group’s sixth album release and it would be the last album by them for nearly ten years, when leader and guitarist John McLaughlin re-formed the group in 1984.
All in the Family
The song is written by John McLaughlin who also plays guitar and guitar synth. Stu Goldberg is on all things keys related.
Ralphe Armstrong is on bass and the star of the song is Narada Michael Walden on Drums, congas, bass marimba and shaker.
And the reason why Walden is the star is because the song opens with a drum solo before it moves into a fast jazz like beat. Its chaotic as all the instruments come in and somehow it all makes sense. Progressive rock is the best way to describe it.
There is this section between 3.25 and 3.45 in which McLaughlin and Goldberg play this fast unison lead line and I like it.
It’s written by John McLaughlin who plays all things guitar and a special instrument called the “360” systems frequency shifter. It’s actually not an instrument, but an effect. These days, it would be in a stomp box, but back then it was a pretty large unit.
You hear it in action in the Intro and throughout the song. Stu Goldberg is on the Mini-Moog and Steiner-Parker synthesizers, Ralphe Armstrong is on bass and Narada Michael Walden on drums.
I like the bass intro from Goldberg, it’s creepy like, and funky. McLaughlin plays a staccato like guitar riff, which is more funk and reggae like. When he activates the frequency shifter, it sounds chaotic but the drumming of Walden is super-fast, technical and on point. Somehow it makes sense.
In My Life
Written by John McLaughlin and Narada Michael Walden.
John McLaughlin is on 12-string acoustic guitar, Stu Goldberg is on backing vocals, Ralphe Armstrong is on bass and Narada Michael Walden is on the piano and drums, along with the lead vocals.
It’s a poor song and the lyrics are very childish, like seriously, they sing “thank you for the fish in the sea”. A skip for me.
Written by John McLaughlin and it’s another song with vocals that doesn’t connect with me.
A short one minute piece, written by John McLaughlin who plays guitar synthesizer and Narada Michael Walden who plays organ.
It sounds Oriental and Celtic like but it’s another skip for me.
The Way of the Pilgrim
Written by Narada Michael Walden and it’s got some intricate instrument sections, but this far in, these kind of passages are starting to sound same same.
River of My Heart
Written by Kanchan Cynthia Anderson and Narada Michael Walden.
There is no guitar on this, with Ralphe Armstrong on double bass and Narada Michael Walden on Piano, Lead Vocals and Percussion.
But it’s a skip for me.
Written by Ralphe Armstrong, this song could have been on a Stevie Wonder album. It’s got that blues, jazz funk fusion happening.
And are you ready to be a planetary citizen?
Written by John McLaughlin. I like this instrumental.
There is a guitar that plays arpeggios and a MiniMoog playing a lead break with percussion as the foundation.I
It sort of reminds me of “Albatross” from Fleetwood Mac, the Peter Green version of the band.
The title track. Part 1 is written by John McLaughlin and Part 2 by Stu Goldberg. But it’s a bit of mess and that Frequency shifter gadget is just noise to me, however it would have been cool to have that whooshing effect back in the day.
In the end, there are better Mahavishnu Orchestra albums, which we will get to as I work my way back through history.