MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA — The Lost Trident Sessions (review)

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA — The Lost Trident Sessions album cover Album · 1999 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Warthur
The Lost Trident Sessions is a real treat for fusion fans - the long-lost third album from the band's legendary original lineup, officially released after sitting in the vaults for 25 years. This time around John McLaughlin doesn't dominate the songwriting to the same extent as he did on the first two albums, with each of the other members except Billy Cobham contributing a composition of their own. (Billy, of course, had recorded his solo album Spectrum mere weeks previously, and so had already found an outlet for most of his compositions there.) The album leans closer to rock than the first two classic Mahavishnu albums, and has a tranquil, spacey atmosphere which lacks much in the way of the furiously fast playing of those discs. It's a mild departure for the Orchestra, but an intriguing one, and although the album was never finished it's clear that just a little more polish would have yielded a third essential fusion classic. But the skilled playing masks the discontent and personality clashes in the band that had already begun coming out by this point - to the extent that apparently some of the participants weren't even talking to each other - and the lineup would disintegrate before the album was completed, leaving McLaughlin to construct an entirely new lineup and release the live album Between Nothingness and Eternity - which consists of extended versions of the first three tracks from these sessions - instead of this one.

On balance, I wouldn't say this album is quite as essential to fusion listeners as the first two. It certainly wasn't as influential - how could it have been when it wasn't released? - and the new material, whilst good, still needs polish to come up to the standards of The Inner Mounting Flame or Birds of Fire. Still, anyone who's listened to those albums should regard this disc as the vital next step in any exploration of the Mahavishnu Orchestra's output.
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