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Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Mahavishnu Project - Return To The Emerald Beyond - ****

In my younger years (long ago), I was an absolute fan of John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and I was especially in awe of the technical skills of the musicians, the speed at which they played, etc. Visions of The Emerald Beyond was probably the band's last album I spent my money on, because I thought they had now completely moved into the realm of Kitsch, with a capital K. The music brought in funk in its ugliest form, vocals to run away from ("Earth Ship"), bird singing, Disney's mellowness, Motown, ... nevertheless, in retrospect, and when putting on this album by Greg Bendian's tribute band "The Mahavishnu Project", I remember the whole album by heart, so I must have played it more than I care to admit (especially "Be Happy" with the incredibly fast unisono theme by McLaughlin and Jean-Luc Ponty still makes me happy). This band consists of the a line-up mirroring the original band, with the only difference being the absence of a trumpet player (then Bob Knapp - I still have the vynyl album to check). The music sounds amazing after three decades : still kitsch, still requiring stellar musicians to play it. And their interpretation is excellent. They don't play it as a note-by-note rendition of the original, they use the material and play it their own way, thankfully a little more modern (yet hardly - long time ago since I heard a real synthesizer solo, plunging into the very depths of the machine!). This album does not have the pretence to bring anything new (and in any case less pretentious than the original). But it has the value of bringing something forgotten back to life (my youth, for starters). And how!