Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Essential John McLaughlin (Columbia/Legacy, 2007)

In guitarist John McLaughlin's four decade plus career he has covered a lot of ground: acoustic, electric, jazz, world fusion and beyond. Coming of age with the British blues and rock boom in the 1960's, McLaughlin's early recordings show him at ground zero of the burgeoning jazz fusion movement. McLaughlin was a valued ringer for Miles Davis, and the extraordinary centerpiece of disc one is "Right Off" from the epochal Bitches Brew album. McLaughlin's overdriven electric guitar spits fire on this track and another landmark of the fusion era, "Spectrum" from the Tony Williams Lifetime band. On the remainder of disc one, scorching electric guitar on "Peace One" and two tracks from the McLaughlin led Mahavishnu Orchestra are offset by some deft acoustic playing on the Charles Mingus classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." Disc two isn't quite as explosive as one, but there are some good performances. There's an extraordinarily high energy tribute to Wayne Shorter called "Wayne's Way", and Chick Corea and Jack DeJohnette are recruited to a very strong song called "Do You Year the Voices Left Behind?" It must be said that disc two does drag a bit with the inclusion of some orchestral jazz band tracks that just don't gain flight. Regardless, this is a solid collection for those curious about McLuaghlin's music, or a rock guitar fan who is interested in branching out to jazz. The only glaring oversight is the lack of any tracks from the classic album Extrapolation, which was a casualty of licensing problems.
The Essential John McLaughlin -

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