Top Artists – The Mahavishnu Orchestra

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – The Inner Mounting Flame

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is the first album by the band, recorded only a year after Bitches Brew single-handedly created the genre of Jazz Fusion itself. Or is it better described as an album of Prog Rock without the vocals? Remember, King Crimson had a violinist and not a whole lot of singing too.   

Whatever it is, mostly what this music wants to do is rock.

And on this copy it rocks like you will not believe. The louder you play it the better it sounds.

The best copies had huge amounts of bottom end weight as well as rich, Tubey Magical grungy guitar tone. Once you’ve heard it sound that way, on the copies without both you’ll notice that the sound falls flat pretty quickly.

It’s hard to think of another record that rocks as hard, and it’s not even a real rock record! We find ourselves playing albums like Zep II and Back in Black for hour after hour, with dozens of copies to get through, and we do it on a regular basis. If anybody knows Big Rock Sound, it’s us. But can we really say that those albums rock any harder than this one?

What to Listen For

The main problem we heard again and again on the copies we were auditioning was an obvious lack of top end extension and clarity. Without all the top there is not enough space for all the instruments to occupy. It then becomes easy for the sound to get congested and the musical lines to become jumbled, with the most subtle elements getting progressively more and more lost in the dense mixes the band is known for.

With everyone blasting away at the same time the mixes on the album get very dense indeed. Big speakers in a carefully treated room are a must if you want to play The Inner Mounting Flame at the loud levels we prefer.

The sides that had the most space and the biggest, tightest low ends tended to do everything else right as well. The energy was rarely less than phenomenal, but that energy only works to increase the listener’s involvement when there is enough space and enough weight to keep the sound opened up above and anchored down below.

5 Stars All Over the Place

Based on the reviews one would have to rank this album as one of the top Jazz/Rock Fusion Albums of All Time. Rolling Stone gives it Five Stars, Allmusic gives it Five Stars, and even Robert Christgau, the toughest grader of them all, gives the album an “A.”

In our experience, few recordings within this genre can begin to compete with the Dynamics and Energy of the best pressings of the album — if you have the system designed to play it. (Even if you don’t the album will still rock like crazy.)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

All songs are by John McLaughlin on both sides

Meeting of the Spirits
Dawn
The Noonward Race
A Lotus on Irish Streams

Side Two

Vital Transformation
The Dance of Maya
You Know You Know
Awakening

AMG 5 Star Review

This is the album that made John McLaughlin a semi-household name, a furious, high-energy, yet rigorously conceived meeting of virtuosos that, for all intents and purposes, defined the fusion of jazz and rock a year after Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew breakthrough. It also inadvertently led to the derogatory connotation of the word fusion, for it paved the way for an army of imitators, many of whose excesses and commercial panderings devalued the entire movement. Though much was made of the influence of jazz-influenced improvisation in the Mahavishnu band, it is the rock element that predominates, stemming directly from the electronic innovations of Jimi Hendrix.

The improvisations, particularly McLaughlin’s post-Hendrix machine-gun assaults on double-necked electric guitar and Jerry Goodman’s flights on electric violin, owe more to the freakouts that had been circulating in progressive rock circles than to jazz, based as they often are on ostinatos on one chord. These still sound genuinely thrilling today on CD, as McLaughlin and Goodman battle Jan Hammer’s keyboards, Rick Laird’s bass, and especially Billy Cobham’s hard-charging drums, whose jazz-trained technique pushed the envelope for all rock drummers.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – The Inner Mounting Flame

xxxxx

  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one and a side two that’s close to it, this copy has much to recommend it
  • The band’s debut here is a true Jazz/Rock Fusion Demo Disc with the Big Sound we love here at Better Records 
  • This album was recorded in 1973, only a year after Bitches Brew single-handedly created the genre of Jazz Fusion itself
  • 5 Stars “…a furious, high-energy, yet rigorously conceived meeting of virtuosos that, for all intents and purposes, defined the fusion of jazz and rock…”

This is the first album by the band, recorded only a year after Bitches Brew single-handedly created the genre of Jazz Fusion itself. Or is it better described as an album of Prog Rock without the vocals? Remember, King Crimson had a violinist and not a whole lot of singing too.

Whatever it is, mostly what this music wants to do is rock. And on this copy it rocks like you will not believe. The louder you play it the better it sounds.

The best copies had huge amounts of bottom end weight as well as rich, Tubey Magical grungy guitar tone. Once you’ve heard it sound that way, on the copies without both you’ll notice that the sound falls flat pretty quickly.

It’s hard to think of another record that rocks as hard, and it’s not even a real rock record! We find ourselves playing albums like Zep II and Back in Black for hour after hour, with dozens of copies to get through, and we do it on a regular basis. If anybody knows Big Rock Sound, it’s us. But can we really say that those albums rock any harder than this one? (more…)

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Visions of the Emerald Beyond

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

On the first track of side one we will happily state for the record: no record rocks harder. When you hear Ponty’s double-tracked violins explode out of each speaker on the first track you will know what we mean when we say this record is as big and as bold a recording statement as any you have ever heard.

It’s yet another triumph from one of our favorite engineers, KEN SCOTT.

This may be jazz, but it’s jazz that ROCKS harder than 98% of the rock records we’ve ever played, and we’ve played thousands.  (more…)

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds of Fire – What to Listen For

xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Birds of Fire.

Birds of Fire as a recording is not about depth or soundstage or ambience. It’s about IMMEDIACY, plain and simple. All the lead instruments positively jump out of the speakers — if you are lucky enough to be playing the right pressing. This is precisely what we want our best Hot Stampers to do. The better they do it, the higher their grade.

The main problem with this record is a lack of midrange presence. If the keyboards, drums and guitars are not right in front of you,, your copy does not have all the presence it should. On the best copies the musicians are right in the room with you. We know this for a fact because we heard the copies that could present them that way, and we heard it more than once.

Which of course gets to the reason shootouts are the only real way to learn about records. The best copies will show you qualities in the sound you had no way of knowing were possible. Without the freakishly good pressings you run into by chance in a shootout you have no way to know how high is up. On this record up is very high indeed.

A True Demo Disc

Birds of Fire is one of the top two or three Jazz/Rock Fusion Albums of All Time. In my experience, few recordings within this genre can begin to compete with the Dynamics and Energy of the best pressings of the album — if you have the Big Dynamic system for it.

This link will take you to more titles in the None Rocks Harder series.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – Let It Bleed and Visions of the Emerald Beyond

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

This LET IT BLEED is a gorgeous monster. Everything just jumps off the page, so to speak. I have been listening to a first pressing Decca, which I have owned for years, but your copy made it sound egregiously insipid. As I kept turning up the volume, the room seemed to be nodding its head and egging me on to keep increasing it. I never reached the point where too much was too much. Great copy.

The Mahavishnu EMERALD was brilliant. It brought out all the exciting dimensions of my system. The exquisite strings floated above the musical melee which tattooed its obligato deliriously across its raucous underbelly. The sound reached out like tongues of flame making the speakers completely disappear in their rocking wake. This is an amazing record that projects and dances the music in every direction and then some. Everything is alive. So completely alive. A real treat. A great recording that tells me my system is completely responsive. (more…)

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds of Fire

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Jazz Classics

xxx

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds of Fire

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This WHITE Hot Stamper Birds of Fire has a side one that will blow your mind. Turn this one up and prepare yourself for the kind of sound that perhaps one out of fifty records has to offer, with cymbal crashes that really crash, bass that threatens to move your house off its foundation, and the kind of jazz rock fusion POWER that few groups in the history of music have ever been capable of. It’s 100% guaranteed to bring your stereo to its knees. Was it really possible to encode this kind of energy onto a slice of vinyl decades ago? This side one proves it was.

More Mahavishnu Orchestra

We tried doing a shootout for this album in 2008 and failed miserably. At that time, not that long ago when you think about it, there was no way we could get this music to play so LOUD, so CLEANLY, and with such CORRECT TONALITY, from the deepest bass to the highest highs, complete with the wild swings in dynamics that the recording captures so well.

The Audio Revolution Is Alive and Well and making progress all the time. It’s never too late to join in the fun. (These Sound Improvements really made a difference in our system and they can make a difference in yours, guaranteed.)

The amazing engineer Ken Scott (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century) is the man responsible for the superb sound here, but the explosive dynamics are not just for show. They’re here for a reason. This music requires that level of sonic realism; better yet, DEMANDS it. In truth, the sound is not only up to the challenge of expressing the life of the music on this album, it positively ENHANCES it. (more…)