Classic Rock Bottom

This week's selection might be the beginning of a new series. Then again, it might not.

This is one of those albums that's technically not lost or forgotten. However, The Mahavishnu Orchestra really hasn't been mentioned much, if at all, on this here site. So, why not start this (maybe) series off with some jazz-rock fusion? 

Released in 1971, "The Inner Mounting Flame" reached #11 on the jazz charts and peaked at #89 on the album charts. No singles were released from this album. I can't imagine AM radio playing a song off this album, would have probably freaked out the young 'uns.

Some might bemoan the lack of vocals, but it doesn't make much of a difference to me. Not all songs (or albums) need vocals. The instruments are the vocals here.

For those that like geetar, this John McLaughlin guy isn't too bad.

A bio from

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.

A review from (pay close attention to the last sentence):

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. What doesn't date so well are the composed medium- and high-velocity unison passages that are played in such tight lockstep that they can't breathe. There is also time out for quieter, reflective numbers that are drenched in studied spirituality ("A Lotus on Irish Streams") or irony ("You Know You Know"); McLaughlin was to do better in that department with less-driven colleagues elsewhere in his career. Aimed with absolute precision at young rock fans, this record was wildly popular in its day, and it may have been the cause of more blown-out home amplifiers than any other record this side of Deep Purple.

The Inner Mounting Flame

1. Meeting Of The Spirits
2. Dawn
3. Noonward Race
4. A Lotus On Irish Streams
5. Vital Transformation
6. The Dance Of Maya
7. You Know, You Know
8. Awakening

Availability: Around $5-$7 new or used.

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A Semi-Household name?  Weird...  But I cant listen to this, theres no link...


Meeting of the Spirits is very frenetic hard to follow at points.  The description of "freakouts" from Allmusic is perfect!  Hard to hear "progressive" but very easy to hear "jam session".  But its missing the sound of the times, its a little like Doc Severinsen and a sober Jimi Hendrix got together.

Dawn is more melodic for the most part but the wild geetar parts are at least more discernable and you can really feel the technical ability of this guys works.  The song is pretty good at keeping me engaged, but it still feels left of center.  If I were a teen in 1971 this likely would have never made it onto my turntable, but if I were in my mid 20's?  Maybe it would have...

The Noonward Race has that Hendrix like geetar and there's moments of that progressive feel that I like!

A Lotus on Irish Streams, wow what a change of pace!  Not sure I liked the abrupt end to the madness!  Maybe some more intermediate would have worked better?  This one is a mood piece, must of been after a freakout during the downer phase...

Vital Information, and just like, BOOM were back in freakout mode!  I'm not sure I would agree that these jam are sophisticated.  I think that if you were to hear a couple tracks then yes, sophisticated might work, but a whole albums worth?  It starts to just sound the same.

The Dance of Maya.  I'm lost on this track totally.  Dance?   Maya?  I hear neither, but hey! its his interpretation not mine! You Know You Know is another downer paced tune.

And just when you think things couldn't get any more frenetic, Awakening come on, thankfully this is the shortest song of the bunch as well.  Thought this got off to a decent start but then it really melted together into one mess of jam session.  It had very few progressive moments that caught my ear and no Deep Purple-esque anything!  Still its  a great slice of music from a cool time period but something I wouldn't be interested in hearing again

I love musical instrumentation, but without vocals it leaves me a bit cold (I have always wanted to say that). And there are no vocals here. Does that make it bad music? No.

Some of this, mainly the piano parts, sound like elevator music. Does that make it bad music? No.

The guitarist can really play.

I have to agree with Scott, this sounds like jamming in it's highest form. Does that make it bad nut? No.

But with the absence of vocals, it really sounds like one long 50 minute song. Not something I feel the need to own, but I'll give it an "A" as far as background music goes.


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