Mahavishnu Orchestra
Visions of the Emerald Beyond


4.0
excellent

Review

by ProgJect USER (31 Reviews)
January 7th, 2011 | 44 replies


Release Date: 1975 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Upon repeated listening, Mahavishnu Orchestra reveals its magical beauty.

Hailed as the keystone band of the jazz-rock fusion movement, Mahavishnu Orchestra was arguably the most influential, and certainly one of the best jazz fusion group ever. In 1971, creative leader and front figure John McLaughlin formed the group that achieved considerable success from the start. Mahavishnu Orchestra was a very powerful group, having the sophisticated improvisations of electic free-jazz. John made a name for himself while working with the famous trumpeter Miles Davis during his early explorations into electric instrumentation, which were the very first steps into the jazz-rock realm in the late 60’s. Like Return to Forever and Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra had the intention of further exploring the jazz-rock hybrid Miles Davis had explored.

The band was an instant sensation. Combining the improvisational elements of jazz with the high volume electrified rock sound that had been pioneered by Jimi Hendrix, the archetypal jazz-rock by Mahavishnu Orchestra was complex music performed by musicians whose virtuosity thrilled audiences and critics alike. The band had a firm grip on dynamics and was equally adept at dense, aggressive flights of musical intensity as they were at creating moments of impassioned, spiritual contemplation.

As internal tensions came to a boil after three influential albums (The Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire and Between Nothingness and Eternity), the group disbanded at the end of 1973. McLaughlin quickly put together a new Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1974 that, despite the inclusion of electric violin virtuoso Jean-Luc Ponty, along with a host of excellent new supporting musicians, the band failed to catch on and broke up again by 1975, mainly due to McLaughlin’s growing interest in experimenting with different musical styles.

The two first versions of Mahavishnu Orchestra have not much in common in their compositional structures, but the chemistry within the band always remained at a white hot, as the band built and created a multi-expressive layer of colours and sounds in that intricate and complex method they were known for. Their first two quintessential albums feature a shred-fest of a very dazzling energetic and very powerful kind of free-jazz, wich was often played very fast and frantically by the five members alone, while in Visions of the Emerald Beyond, all those characteristics were clearly toned down. The album is more accessible, more refined and returns to more sober form of jazz-rock, consisting of shorter tracks.

The album was made to listen to it all in one shot, since many of the tunes are connected with others. It retains the same great spirit of their previous works, but does often fray into funk territory, which the band didn’t explore before. The scattered funk grooves freshen things up nicely, thanks to the versatility of both bassist Ralph Armstrong, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and the stunning drummer Michael Walden, whose playing contains the raw and explosive power of former drummer Billy Cobham.

The weakest spot, if there is one, is the keyboardist Gayle Moran. Her keys are used solely in the arrangements, and she is clearly outclassed by predecessor virtuoso Jan Hammer, who sounds very similar like Return to Forever mastermind Chick Corea. Hammer’s fiery and masterful keyboard duels with the band leader managed to set a standard that every subsequent jazz-rock fusion ensemble would strive to meet. McLaughlin’s guitar and Ponty’s violin are more predominant on here: they more or less share centre stage. Their interplay is at a tremendous high, juxtaposed against the solid and hypnotic dual rhythm of Walden and Armstrong. The ecstatic opener Eternity's Breath is a good example of that balanced harmony. McLaughlin’s blazing guitar work is often seen as pretentious and overblown, but in fact, his fluid technique and surcharged solo outings affirmed his standing as the dean of high decibel jazz-fusion. Overall, he’s the kind of guitarist who can add emotion and innovation to that highly technical, clinical style.

Mahavishnu Orchestra have been cited as a major influence on everyone from Frank Zappa to King Crimson (Fripp and McLaughlin were clearly kindred musical spirits) to Phish to The Mars Volta, and were in many ways one of the first electric jam bands, each member pushing the borders and creating this overwhelming intense music saturated in a complicit beauty. Visions of the Emerald Beyond shows this in prime form.



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user ratings (96)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
ProgJect
January 7th 2011


37 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ProgJect reaches its 15th review with another lovely piece of jazz fusion. To our loyal readers, thank you for staying with us and keep that prog comin'.

Nagrarok
January 7th 2011


8260 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Apparently members also liked Miles Davis.

liledman
January 7th 2011


3826 Comments


nice

cvlts
January 7th 2011


8968 Comments


so is this like Miles Davis?lol

Nagrarok
January 7th 2011


8260 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well, it is JAZZ fusion.

John made a name for himself while working with the famous trumpeter Miles Davis during his early explorations into electric instrumentation, which were the very first steps into the jazz-rock realm in the late 60’s.


greg84
Staff Reviewer
January 7th 2011


7422 Comments


Excellent job on the review! Long live the ProgJect! Pos'd.

Digging: Dope Body - Lifer

Jethro42
January 7th 2011


12492 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Nagrarock; Man! There's nothing more to add, really. What a good work you did on our 15th, cher collègue. I thank you a lot, cheers.
@Greg; Thanks a bunch, buddy. Man, do yourself a favor, and give that band a go. Start with their first two.

so is this like Miles Davis?lol

Album starts like this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4K1VxNg9Bc




Irving
Staff Reviewer
January 7th 2011


7313 Comments


Yay!! Jethroquarantedeux et Nagrarok are back!!

This was a perfectly detailed historical review. Thanks for making it; pos.

Cheers folks! =)

greg84
Staff Reviewer
January 7th 2011


7422 Comments


Yea. Eternity's Breath is a pretty spectacular double track. Just listened to it.

Jethro42
January 7th 2011


12492 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ProgJect te remercie, Irving. Your habitual constructive criticisms and comments are very welcome, my friend.
@Greg; I'm glad you love it. It's a real pleasure to make you discover some music. I owe you a lot at that, after all.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 7th 2011


10615 Comments


So this is the famous (or infamous) ProgJect I've been hearing about? I'm glad I stumbled upon this, it was awesome! Great job guys!

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

Zettel
January 7th 2011


599 Comments


Yes, it was a great review. If I had more time in my hands, I would listen to this.

Jethro42
January 7th 2011


12492 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Merci beaucoup X-Man! ProgJect goes his way. Petit train va loin héhéhé
Merci à toi également, Zettel, l'ami. Every music lovers have the time to listen to MO...IMO =P

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 7th 2011


6218 Comments


very well written and highly descriptive, in terms of music and history.

pos pos pos.

Keep up the good work and good luck with your applications for contributor status.

Jethro, did you apply, i know Nagrarok did.

Continuez a travailler en ce haut niveau et bon chance avec vos applications pour devenir contributeurs.



I see some of the Mahanishnu Orchestra records at my local record store at prices below 8 euros, i think i must invest asap

Digging: Seduced (AT) - The Proclamation

Jethro42
January 7th 2011


12492 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Keep up the good work and good luck with your applications for contributor status.
Jethro, did you apply, i know Nagrarok did.

Man, It's flattering, and I'd like to be that enthusiastic, but I have way to go before even thinking to applying. In the case of Nagrarok though, it's a long overdue, really.
Annnd ProgJect thank you for your kind words, dude.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 7th 2011


6218 Comments


i applied as well for contrib.

Of course, I consider myself as the absolute outsider.

The quality level of applications is tremendously high.

Jethro42
January 7th 2011


12492 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was to asking you about your own case since I really love your writing style, but in my book, if if you haven't completed at least 25/30 reviews, it's not worth the try. It's my two cents. Also:
The quality level of applications is tremendously high[2]

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 7th 2011


6218 Comments


You are probably right Jethro, i have 19 reviews up to now and i review relatively to totally obscure stuff, so that's why i said that I'm the total outsider in this.

Jethro42
January 7th 2011


12492 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah I can 150% hear you. It's not pretty fair from Sputnikmusic.com to neglect all these old and/or obscure stuff that all deserve more credits, since these reviews are as much, sometimes still more read and visited than the brand new releases and indie shit reviews.
Personally, my first goal is to cover whatever I want for my own pleasure, so I'll stay motivated to write more and more. That's what counts.

Ire
January 7th 2011


41805 Comments


first two albums are fantastic

i should get this pretty soon



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