Birds Of Fire (Mahavishnu Orchestra, 1973)

Personnel: McLaughlin -- guitar, Jerry Goodman -- violin, Jan Hammer -- keyboards, Moog, Billy Cobham -- drums, Rick Laird -- electric bass

All compositions by John McLaughlin 

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Quite possibly the pinnacle of John McLaughlin's opus. If there is one recording by McLaughlin that you must have, this is it. Many factors have converged to create a fertile ground for this amazing gem. The Orchestra itself was at the time of recording this album at the absolute height of their creativity and the amount of positive energy that they were disseminating all over the world had reached the peak of the "white heat" intensity. Even if we put everything else aside, just listening to McLaughlin's guitar work on this album will leave us gaping in disbelief -- as one musician put it, every note that he plays here sounds like he's praying! Every bent string, every screaming note played by McLaughlin is a cry sent to the inconceivable spirit; every brunt of the deeply voiced, shimmering guitar chord is a prayer in earnest devotion to the spirit who, alone, can untie every knot and melt every sadness.

All ten compositions are nothing short of amazing. The barrage that opens up with the "Birds Of Fire" never really lets up; after the finishing screams of the last piece ("Resolution") fade away, we are left totally drained (emotionally and physically). The whole album plays like one incredibly coherent, amazingly dense and constantly changing melange of some undefinable, agonizingly aspiring mass of sounds.

Another highlight of this musical creation is Billy Cobham's drumming. It is totally fresh, unheard of, but at the same time strictly in function of the overall soundscape. He manages to literally keep the band hanging together even in the most critical and turbulent moments.

1. Birds Of Fire (5:41)

2. Miles Beyond (Miles Davis) (4:39) 3. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters (2:53) 4. Saphire Bullets Of Pure Love (0:22) 5. Thousand Island Park (3:19) 6. Hope (1:55) 7. One Word (9:54) 8. Sanctuary (5:01) 9. Open Country Joy (3:52) 10. Resolution (2:08) In conclusion, it is interesting to note the elusiveness of the musical concept proposed by John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra on this album. Nobody (including McLaughlin himself) has ever attempted to try and follow the directions laid out back in 1973. Seems like it's utterly impossible to come up with another "One Word". Personally, I find this rarity to be quite fascinating.

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