Birds of Fire by Mahavishnu Orchestra on Apple Music

10 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Birds of Fire is the second and final studio album by the original, "classic" Mahavishnu lineup, but it's also a cornerstone of the jazz-rock fusion canon. For one thing, the interplay between the front line of guitar hero John McLaughlin, keyboardist Jan Hammer, and former Flock violinist Jerry Goodman is even more fiery and intense here than on the debut album. When the three of them start trading fours (following a lengthy, funky Rick Laird bass solo) on "One Word," it's like the fusion-era equivalent of an old-school bebop cutting session. Of course, McLaughlin's blistering licks are all over the record, but moments like the brassy synth solo on "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters" give hints of the greatness still to come from Hammer. But beyond all the smoldering solos, the tunes by bandleader and sole composer McLaughlin stand as much more than mere vehicles for jamming; they emerge as striking statements in and of themselves, be they contemplative pieces like the acoustic-based "Thousand Island Park" or one of the album's many barn-burners.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Birds of Fire is the second and final studio album by the original, "classic" Mahavishnu lineup, but it's also a cornerstone of the jazz-rock fusion canon. For one thing, the interplay between the front line of guitar hero John McLaughlin, keyboardist Jan Hammer, and former Flock violinist Jerry Goodman is even more fiery and intense here than on the debut album. When the three of them start trading fours (following a lengthy, funky Rick Laird bass solo) on "One Word," it's like the fusion-era equivalent of an old-school bebop cutting session. Of course, McLaughlin's blistering licks are all over the record, but moments like the brassy synth solo on "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters" give hints of the greatness still to come from Hammer. But beyond all the smoldering solos, the tunes by bandleader and sole composer McLaughlin stand as much more than mere vehicles for jamming; they emerge as striking statements in and of themselves, be they contemplative pieces like the acoustic-based "Thousand Island Park" or one of the album's many barn-burners.

TITLE TIME
5:42
4:40
2:54
0:20
3:20
1:55
9:54
5:02
3:52
2:09

About Mahavishnu Orchestra

One of the premiere fusion groups, the Mahavishnu Orchestra were considered by most observers during their prime to be a rock band, but their sophisticated improvisations actually put their high-powered music between rock and jazz. Founder and leader John McLaughlin had recently played with Miles Davis and Tony Williams' Lifetime. The original lineup of the group was McLaughlin on electric guitar, violinist Jerry Goodman, keyboardist Jan Hammer, electric bassist Rick Laird, and drummer Billy Cobham. They recorded three intense albums for Columbia during 1971-1973 and then the personnel changed completely for the second version of the group. In 1974, the band consisted of violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, Gayle Moran on keyboards and vocals, electric bassist Ralphe Armstrong, and drummer Narada Michael Walden; by 1975 Stu Goldberg had replaced Moran and Ponty had left. John McLaughlin's dual interests in Eastern religion and playing acoustic guitar resulted in the band breaking up in 1975. Surprisingly, an attempt to revive the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1984 (using Cobham, saxophonist Bill Evans, keyboardist Mitchell Forman, electric bassist Jonas Hellborg, and percussionist Danny Gottlieb) was unsuccessful; one Warner Bros. album resulted. However, when one thinks of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, it is of the original lineup, which was very influential throughout the 1970s. ~ Scott Yanow

  • ORIGIN
    New York, NY
  • FORMED
    1971

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