Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Mahavishnu Orchestra

  • Birds of Fire [Columbia, 1973] A-
  • Between Nothingness and Eternity [Columbia, 1973] B+
  • Apocalypse [Columbia, 1974] C
  • Visions of the Emerald Beyond [Columbia, 1975] C+
  • The Lost Trident Sessions [Columbia/Legacy, 1999] ***

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Birds of Fire [Columbia, 1973]
In which the inner mounting flame is made flesh? Something like that. The celestial raveups are more self-possessed, the lyrical interludes less swoony, and the modal themes are as grand as ever. A-

Between Nothingness and Eternity [Columbia, 1973]
This live album is as rough as they're liable to get on record--I even hear a quote from "Sunshine of Your Love," and the raveup on Jan Hammer's simple rock tune "Sister Andrea" is a ballbuster. Empty patches are inevitable but remarkably few. I'm beginning to wonder, though, how long McLaughlin can make his fusion work. Because this is jazz, McLaughlin and Cobham really do improvise (about the others I sometimes have my doubts). But because it's rock the notes and accents they play don't matter all that much--what communicates is the concept, which is mostly a matter of dynamics and which hasn't changed at all over three albums. Not that the improvisations count for nothing, or that striking new melodies--which are in short supply here--couldn't keep things interesting for quite a while. But it's not going to be automatic. B+

Apocalypse [Columbia, 1974]
McLaughlin was right to decide to revamp. But hiring a vocalist, a string section, Michael Tilson-Thomas, and the London Symphony Orchestra isn't revamping. It's spiritual pride pure and simple--or else impure and complicated. C

Visions of the Emerald Beyond [Columbia, 1975]
Well, it's surprisingly funky, though not dirty-funky--dinky-funky, sort of. Michael Tilson-Thomas is nowhere to be perceived. It's got the usual words of wisdom and choirs of angels. But mostly it's just, er, green--electric green. C+

The Lost Trident Sessions [Columbia/Legacy, 1999]
From before John McLaughlin discovered Barney Kessel and Jan Hammer discovered Jan Hammer ("John's Song #2," "Trilogy"). ***