Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (Mahavishnu Orchestra Mark II, 1974)

Personnel: McLaughlin -- guitar, vocals, Jean-Luc Ponty -- violin, Ralphe Armstrong -- electric bass, vocals, Narada Michael Walden -- drums, percussion, vocals, clavinet, Gayle Moran -- vocals, keyboards, Steve Kindler -- violin, Phillip Hirschi - cello, Bob Knapp -- flute, trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals, Carol Shive -- violin, vocals, Russell Tubbs -- alto sax, soprano sax

All compositions by John McLaughlin except Cosmic Strut by Narada Michael Walden
Recorded in December 1974

If you would like to send in your comments or to contribute your material to these pages, please send your mail to:  Alex Bunard. I will try and post your contribution within seven days from the time I receive your mail 

This is the most controversial Mahavishnu Orchestra album. John McLaughlin himself told me that he thinks this album is not only the best Mahavishnu album, it is his best album ever. Some other listeners (myself included) feel that "Visions..." is too incoherent to be a serious contender for the title of the best Mahavishnu album (I reserve that title for Birds Of Fire).

Truth be told, it really is difficult to deny the extraordinary qualities that fill almost every composition on this recording. Starting with McLaughlin's guitar playing -- on this album, it truly has that 'larger than life' quality that most of his fans crave. On almost all songs, the guitar sound has that extra bite which makes it appear simply irresistible (a 'bite' that is sorely missing from John's recent recordings).

The overall concept of the album is ambitious, very ambitious. It attempts to bridge styles and concepts that are so disparate, no one's ever even thought of connecting them. And, believe it or not, the mixture occasionally works!

This album also boasts some breakthrough arrangements, especially with regards to the string quartet. Many subsequent fusion recordings will be made that will be totally engrossed in this aspect of "Visions..." (c.f. Chick Corea's onslaught of string and brass arrangements on many of his albums throughout the seventies. Chick's arrangements sound almost embarrassingly similar to those that embellish "Visions...; the best examples would be Chick's "Leprechaun" and "My Spanish Heart", however, "Musicmagic" and "Secret Agent" also come to mind).

1. Eternity's Breath Part 1 (3:10)
    Eternity's Breath Part 2 (4:48)

Oh Lord, Supreme, Supreme,
Let me fulfill Thy will!
Let me fulfill Thy will!
2. Lila's Dance (5:34) 3. Can't Stand Your Funk (2:09) 4. Pastoral (3:41) 5. Faith (3:58) 6. Cosmic Strut (Walden, 3:28) 7. If I Could See (1:18) 8. Be Happy (3:31) 9. Earth Ship (3:42) 10. Pegasus (1:18) 11. Opus (0:15) 12. On The Way To Home Earth (4:34) Thus ends the one of the most ambitious projects ever attempted by McLaughlin. As I've already indicated at the beginning of this review, the results are a mixed bag, ranging from some of the most brilliant and inspired playing to some of the most uneventful compositions (like "Earth Ship"). This album also showcases an odd mix of esthetic approaches to making music. It has its ample share of trademark McLaughlin thrashing, that's been his staple ingredient since the days of Lifetime. But it also sports some surprisingly conventional, even conservative musical moments, that stand out like a sore thumb (for instance, "If I Could See", parts of "Eternity's Breath", "Pastoral", etc.) While almost everyone agrees that McLaughlin had managed to invent a completely new form of music with his work in Mahavishnu Orchestra, on this album he had started abandoning his style and getting closer to the mainstream definition of musical beauty.

All original material in these web pages copyright © Alex Bunard.