Birds Of Fire review by Mahavishnu Orchestra

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  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.9 (12 votes)
Mahavishnu Orchestra: Birds Of Fire

Sound — 9
Considering the amount of people on this website who enjoy progressive music I was very suprised no-one has reviewed this, I found boxes of Old Vinyl that had been left behind and came across this. The Mahavishnu Orchestra were a blistering Fusion five piece of the 1970s, and this album marks the first reincarnation of what has become the least pretentious supergroup I know of. Guitarist John McLaughlin effortlessly pushes the envelope here and encompasses every conceivable style of non-western music imaginable, the record oozes class and I like how every member is given a chance to explore. Rick Lairds bass and Billy Cobhams rhythm section goes beyond the call of duty and contributes to the overall atonal fury that this record begins to show. The band are at their best when engaging in blistering call and response medleys, such as the frankly bizarre 'One Word' with Jan Hammer making what was at the time highly original forrays into Moog territory. the pure force of the multi faceted texture this record displays is not an easy digestion and this will put a lot of listeners off, that being my primary criticism of this audio journey. Having said that hearing Jerry Goodman and McLaughlin effortlessly build tension on tracks such as 'Sanctuary', one finds it hard not to become at least slightly engaged with the polyphonic nature of the record. The lack of lyrics is an obstacle that needs to be gotten around, however the listener still feels a story and no emotion is lost in the telling of it. This is not a slip streamed piece of work, and the aforementioned use of the word 'atonal' is apt, western ears may find some of the unusual melody grating and there's no denying that this band are an acquired taste. The ambience of tracks such as 'Saphire Bullets of Pure Love' proves a brief interlude from the spasming nature of these jam artists and is readily taken.

Lyrics — 8
No lyrics, and part of me wishes there was lyrics just to make the Mahavishnu Orchestras emotion even more clarified to us as listeners, that said there is so much going on that another part of me fails to see how any spoken word could possibly do justice to the grandeur of their vision and this adds a lot of mysticism to the tracks.

Overall Impression — 10
Their legacy is undeniable and references to their music can be heard to this day in bands such as the Mars Volta and despite having a violin sound suprisingly nothing like King Crimson, a band in a similar vein at this kind of time period. Mahavishnu Orchestra effortlessly melded together and I love how McLaughlin often sacrifices the chance to be blazing for the good of each passage, making the songs so much better for it. Hammer, Goodman and McLaughlins voice is one throughout this entire record, with each instrument taking on a voice and one cannot forget Cobhams Fusion-esque drum style that puts most mathcore percussionists to shame without even trying. The solos are precise and choreographed and there's such a joy attached to this record that the danger of self indulgence (a forever looming pit fall in this type of music) was kept minimal, that said it is still there and again, this is something listeners will either love or hate, depending on who you are. I thoroughly enjoyed this record, at times blazing, at times Regal and at times subdued, the full fury of the orchestra never slackens and this is true right up until the closer 'Resolution' is played out, this was to be this version of the Mahavishnu Orchestras last work which is a real shame as the infectious mix of rock frenzy could have been taken so much further, something which is truly frightening and will forever warrant another listen.

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

    John Mclaughlin i a guitar genius, some of the stuff he does with the MA is absolutely mindbending
    Cobalt Blue
    Birds of fire took me so so long to learn. I've been meaning to get the rest of the album, i've only heard a couple of tracks.
    Haha, Absolutely brilliant review, Better than everyone on the whole of the UG team put together!
    Great fusion album, it almost feels like a mix of jazz and classic rock.
    My favorite album by them, definitley, and I have all of Mahavishnu's stuff. I love the song Celestial Terrestial Commuters.
    I can't get into them..I'm all for dissonance every now and then, but these guys just go waay overboard. they are excellent musicians though.