How do you define a legend? Legendary status is something that many have supposedly “achieved." But, when you really think about it, how many of those people actually deserve such an honor? Not many, after you wean out all of the fallacies and space-fillers. Now, focus on musical legends. Who comes to mind? Personally for me, I usually mention famous composers and guitarists. In other words, people who have made music that had inspired me (as well as many others), to truly believe in something (yeah, that sounds cheesy; don’t ruin my moment). Well, as of recent times, I’ve been mentioning someone new when the subject of “legends" pops up. That someone is a person whose praise I should sing more often (now, I just need to make up lost time). That person is known to the world as “Mahavishnu" John McLaughlin.
Now, if you know you’re stuff, you’ll instantly recognize the fact that I placed “Mahavishnu" in front of this guy’s name. Is there a connection between him and the legendary jazz-rock fusion band, Mahavishnu Orchestra
? Why yes, yes there is. Mr. McLaughlin was the founding guitarist of the band, and has a very, very successful career with them. Well, enough about that. The focus of this review is how astounding McLaughlin was as a solo artist, as opposed to his involvement in the Orchestra (no matter how fantastic the latter were). I’ve chosen to review McLaughlin’s Que Algeria
, simply based on the fact that it’s one of my all-time favorite albums. It’s my “lazy, summer afternoon relaxation music," however, I still find myself listening to it year-around.
showcases everything that can go right
with an album. Soft, melodic, and full of style, it’s a timeless masterpiece that, quite frankly, anyone can (and should) appreciate. The lazy, texture-rich feel of the album makes you want to fall into a dream and wakeup in an elated feeling of pure ecstasy. Seriously, if your nerves are shot, this will cure you. Guaranteed. I mean, even for jazz, Que Alegria
is one smooth album. This album is the musical incarnation of tranquility.
Starting off with the fantastic reworking of “Belo Horizonte" (the original could be found on the McLaughlin album of the same name), Que Alegria
instantly makes the laid back, peaceful feel known to you, the dear listener. “Belo Horizonte" is simply translated as “beautiful horizon" from Portuguese. The title in and of itself is a great description of this wonderful song. Stunningly melodic, everything moves in amazing coadjuvancy, making it the top-tier type of introduction for this sort of album. Next, we have the simply serene “Baba." A little more depressing sounding than its predecessor, "Baba" sketches a rough image of what Que Alegria
to follow will be like. More or less I’m saying this: If you don’t fall asleep while this song is playing, then you’re going to love everything after it. And now, we move onto that which is the “everything after it" directly after it. That would be the acoustic rendition of “Reincarnation" (originally found on the album Adventures In Radio Land
). Slightly more upbeat then the ennui that is “Baba," “Reincarnation" does a good job of catching your interest, and then running away with it (which keeps you totally transfixed, as you should be). So, one third of the way through the album, and already I’m yearning for warm weather, and lazy days to just relax and listen to some kickass tunes. Oh, and I can tell you this right now: things are going to get even better.
Following the monster “Reincarnation," is the joyous “1 Nite Stand." Things were getting just a tad boring, but McLaughlin has comeback full-force, with a louder, happier sounding song. Incredible guitar work would be the highlight of this one. I really can’t express in words how impressive the overall instrumentation of this track is. Ah, we’ve come to one of Que Alegria
‘s greatest treats: the fantastic two minute bass solo that is “Marie." Bassist Dominique DiPiazza does an excellent job with very little help. This concise piece is one of the overall highlights of this album. I’d say that it’s only flaw is the fact that it’s too short to fully immerse yourself in the wondrous music. “Hijacked" is a fairly fast song by Que Alegria’s
overall standard. However, this is by no means a bad thing. Actually, it’s yet another welcome change of pace. Everything seems to flow together with perfect synergy on this cut. It’s by far one of my favorites for the album, and probably one of my most recommend McLaughlin songs. Two thirds through, and we’re doing pretty well. We’ve sampled a taste of everything Que Alegria
has to offer, so let’s move onto the finale.
The hauntingly beautiful “Mila Repa" adds yet another dimension to Que Alegria
. Tragically harmonious, and filled with style, we’ve hit another one of my favorites from this album. This track really is that
good. I can’t drive the point hard enough home. Ah, the title track. So, does “Que Alegria" the song, match up to the album which it is contained upon? Yes, and it exceeded my expectations by far. I mean, hell, it shot them right out of the water. Beauty seems to be dancing all over this song, and it is certainly worthy of its title. This song is seriously that
good (déjà vu). Now, we’ve reached the finale of the finale. So, how does Que Alegria
go out? With style, of course. “3 Willows" is a nice, peaceful way to close a fantastic album. Not quite as good as its direct two predecessors, but still very impressive.
All in all, John McLaughlin has a well of talent as deep as the Marianas Trench. Great grooves, simple melodies, and soothing texture provide for an excellent overall feel. However, Que Alegria
does have several glaring weaknesses. For instance, the beginning of the album is somewhat boring, and does little to hold all but the most devoted listener’s interest. Also, several songs share all-too-similar sounds to them (this doesn’t necessarily detract from the overall quality, but is still somewhat annoying). Still, I highly recommend giving this a listen. If you ever need some great music to just chill to, this is just what the doctor ordered.