Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

1976 – Part 4.5: The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Inner Worlds

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.

Miles Out

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.

Gita

Written by John McLaughlin and it’s another song with vocals that doesn’t connect with me.

Morning Calls

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.

Planetary Citizen

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?

Lotus Feet

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.

Inner Worlds

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.

Standard
Music, My Stories

1976 – Part 4.2: David Bowie – Station To Station

I’m not the biggest Bowie fan, but his music got a second life in the late 90’s and onwards and I kept checking his albums out. I go in with an open mind with the hope to find something that I could use in my song writing.

Now, “Station to Station” is album number 10 for Bowie, released in 1976. It has been regarded as one of his most significant works, so it was on a list of album’s to check out for me.

The band for the album is stellar and on fire. Guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis all bring it, and guitarist Earl Slick contributes along with pianist Roy Bittan.

Bowie was too drugged out during this time and his memory of the album is vague. And with all the drugs artists do, they always find a way to create and the people around them, always find a way to get them to create. As their livelihoods depend on Bowie.

Station To Station

A 10 plus minute opening track which starts off with train noises created by the guitar. And somehow when it was released as a single, the song was creatively edited down to 3 minutes.

It’s typical of the era, blues rock and with arrangements that didn’t stick to a radio formula, because the artists ruled and the label execs didn’t really have a say, until they became more powerful than the artists in the 80’s because of MTV.

In keeping with the Blues Rock theme, Bowie was loaded up with cocaine and he kept asking Earl Slick to keep repeating a Chuck Berry lead over and over again.

Golden Years

This could have ended up on a Steely Dan album as it has this jazz rock fusion vibe.

Word On A Wing

It’s like a mid-tempo rock ballad, with a vocal delivery that reminds me of Joy Division.

TVC15

Bowie wrote this while he was filming “The Man Who Fell To Earth”. But it’s a skip for me.

Stay

I like the riff, it’s almost Santana like with a bit of Doobie Brothers thrown in and you should definitely press play to hear the bass groove.

But man, Bowie’s vocals are really not connecting with me at all on this album and in this song in particular, because musically, this song is gold.

Wild Is The Wind

Musically, the song is great. It’s like a rock ballad. Like all the previous songs, the vocals and melodies from Bowie just don’t connect with me on any level.

And while this album is held in high regard amongst Bowie’s fans, there isn’t enough there to make me a fan. Although there are a lot of lyrics to digest.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Music Is A Long Road – A Trip Down Memory Lane with Fates Warning, Tom Petty and Dream Theater

For any artists these days, be it Bon Jovi or Metallica or Dream Theater or Motley Crue or Imagine Dragons or Shinedown or Machine Head or any new band starting off right now, they all need to understand one thing. We are living in the generation of kids born from 1997 onwards. This generation wants to consume music. Their sense of community is all online. Anyone that says they don’t have a Spotify account is not living in the modern age. These kids weren’t alive when the Record Labels ruled the day, so they have no desire for yesterday, they are all about today and what lays beyond.

For any artist these days, their whole career is about relationships. If you want an audience to invest, you need to establish a relationship. You need to make the effort. The days of touring a city based on the record sales figures for that city are long gone. Ask Dream Theater or Iron Maiden how many albums they have sold in South America? Then ask them how many people came to their shows in those countries.

Mike Portnoy stated in the linear notes on the released bootleg recording of Dream Theater’s Santiago, Chile show from June 2005 that they didn’t know what to expect from South America due to the low number if records they had sole there. They even went to the show with a cut down stage set to save money. In the end, they played to their biggest headlining audience ever.

It’s all about roots. If an artist doesn’t have any, the audience is not interested. Experience moulds the artist, it influences them. Music is an end unto itself. When done right, the sound and the feel is enough. It doesn’t need the videos, the PR sell and all the pyro that comes with the rock n roll show.

Tom Petty sang that Love Is A Long Road. That is the aim of every artist. To foster the love of the audience into a sustainable career. To paraphrase Tom Petty, Music is A Long Road. The same way that a relationship with a partner has its ups and down, so does the relationship between artist and fan. The same effort that an artist puts into a loving relationship is basically the same effort they need to put in to their music career.

The music community has shifted to being a song centric community. We just dont know it yet. The album format that used to make the most money for the record labels is almost a dead format. However artists still go back and release a collection of songs as an album.

In order for the album format to work for you, you need to create an album that is playable throughout. You need to create an album that needs to be heard over and over again. You need to create an album that stands up years after its release.

Fates Warning released an unbelievable album called Disconnected in 2000. However talk to anyone these days and it is like the band never existed. It’s been years since I’ve heard Disconnected and to my amazement, it sounds as fresh and innovative today as it did 13 years ago. Jim Matheos is the pure definition of the progress is derivative statement. He has the ability to take good things from songs that came before and mould them into something great, unique and innovative.

In the Year 2000, progressive music was at opposite ends of the spectrum. You had the Dream Theater style of progressive music on one side and the Tool style of progressive music on the other side. In between you had a band like Porcupine Tree, merging Tool like aggression with Pink Floyd like atmospherics. The mainstream was ruled by Nu-Metal bands. The missing link was Fates Warning.

With Disconnected, Jim Matheos merged the Tool and Porcupine Tree progressive elements with the Dream Theater progressive elements and put them through the Fates Warning blender.

Disconnected is a fusion of all the best progressive elements at the time into a cohesive piece of work that can be listened to over and over again from start to finish. It is a tragedy that this album is so overlooked these days. In the same way that each lick and melody from Images and Words by Dream Theater sticks in my head, Disconnected from Fates Warning does the same.

I am looking forward to hearing “Darkness In A Different Light” when it comes out on September 27. Nine years is a long time between albums. Nine years in the music business is an eternity. So much has changed. Love is a long road. Music is a long road.

Standard