The Mahavishnu Orchestra's 1971 debut album "Inner Mounting Flame" is a gem in the world of jazz fusion. The rhythms are complex, but dynamic and with passion. The music is quite sophisticated but not to be called "feeble".
All tracks on the album were composed by guitarist John McLaughlin and all the tracks are heavily influenced by spirituality as most song titles would suggest. Regardless of how the spiritual side is taken (or not taken for that matter) the album still gripping enough to grab hold of anyone in the biggest way. Pushing virtuoso musicianship by all parts but still bringing forward more than a tasteless display of technical playing.
The opening track "Meeting of the Spirits" opens with a bang filling the atmosphere with tension and omniscity. What follows is tasty work form each member, thumping bass lines, catchy keyboard, complex drum work from Cobham, and slightly one side guitar solos over the orchestral main riff. A most excellent opening track.
"Dawn" is more an exploration into the jazz, and R&B roots with a hint of classical when Goodmen comes in on violin. The song is dominated by a fast passed, passionate solo by McLaughlin over the slow chord progression in 7/4 time. The song speeds up and we find Goodman coming in with a violin solo. Truly a great song that brings it down a little bit after the electrifying opener.
"The Noonward Race" is extremely fast paced and truly show of McLaughlin’s interest in Jimi Hendrix. The keyboard solo is amazing as it is played over the catchy bass line. We find every member trading instrumental focus. The song is probably the highlight of the album and a great showcase of each members musicianship.
"Lotus on the Irish Streams" is a welcomed departure from the fast paced energy that proceeds it. The definite focus of the song is Goodman's violin playing, but McLaughlin is not to be stopped from playing a fast solo underneath. The song soon sheds the spotlight to Hammer who gives us a beautiful keyboard solo before the song ends. Truly brilliant.
"Vital Transformation" shows us the most groove driven track on the entire album starting with an orgasmic drum solo before McLaughlin comes in with a dueling match between his guitar and the violin. The song has short moments of tranquility sort of like the eyes of a powerful song before going back to the original groove of the piece. Although McLaughlin is the focus of the piece, Cobhams drumming skill is truly showcased.
"The Dance of the Maya" starts of with a haunting melodic lines over the tricky rhythmic pattern the piece begins to fully evolve to a fast blues jam. The loud 10/8 drumming of Cobham is a definite focus of the song even while McLaughlin has a double tracked guitar solo. We can here many subtle rhythm tricks all of them very difficult.
"You know, You know" is a slow jam focusing on an emotional keyboard solo over a slow and heartfelt violin riff. The bass slowly gets faster as McLaughlin throws in brief and energetic guitar sounds (sorry I don’t really know how to say what he’s doing you're just going to have to listen).
The song is truly excellent.
"Awakening" is one of the greatest album finales you'll ever hear. Each member starts trading off starting with violin then keyboard then guitar. You could tell these guys were saving everything they had for the last track. The album dies down and we here a great drum solo from Cobham. The song is the shortest on the album but the most energetic. Great finale.
If virtuoso musicianship that would make both jazz and rock players blush excites you better buy this funking album.