MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA — Between Nothingness & Eternity

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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA - Between Nothingness & Eternity cover
3.49 | 21 ratings | 5 reviews
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Live album · 1973


A1 Trilogy 12:16
a. The Sunlit Path
b. La Mère de la Mer
c. Tomorrow's Story Not the Same
A2 Sister Andrea 8:37
B Dream 21:26

Total Time: 42:25


- Rick Laird /Bass
- Billy Cobham /Drums
- Mahavishnu John McLaughlin/Guitar
- Jan Hammer /Piano, Synthesizer [Moog]
- Jerry Goodman /Violin

About this release

Columbia – KC 32766 (US)

Recorded in August of 1973, in Central Park by Location

Thanks to snobb for the updates


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Although most Mahahvishnu Orchestra fans tend to go for their first two studio albums, its the third album, the live “Between Nothingness and Eternity”, that best captures what this band was best at, high energy hard rock. Whereas other fusion pioneers of the day were mixing and matching various genres and cultures, Maha went straight for the rock jugular, mixing a Deep Purple/Hendrix Experience adrenaline fueled rhythm overdrive with solos that fused bebop agility with rock n roll sledge hammer tonality. There was nothing particularly subtle about this group, and that’s why many jazz fans were not interested, but many rock fans embraced them as a band that set a higher standard for ultimate shredding. “Eternity‘s” recording quality is far from perfect, there is distortion and uneven sound balances, the performance is somewhat sloppy, but that intense explosive energy that was this band’s salient feature comes through more on this live outing than it does on their previous studio albums. Consider “Eternity” to be the first ‘punk jazz’ album if you will.

There are lots of cool musical highlights to be found on here. Side one opens with McLaughlin’s signature sweeping tamboura like guitar arpeggios that promise a special performance to come. A few minutes into this side Cobham launches into a high speed double time beat that foreshadows the hardcore thrash scene that will happen in the 80s. This side closes with “Sister Andrea”, which features one of the funkiest Fender Rhodes riffs ever. The best highlight on side two comes when the rest of the band backs off and allows Cobham and McLaughlin to take off on a high speed conversation that matches the old Mitchell/Hendrix jams for a display of two guys who really enjoy each other’s musical company. That interchange also shows how Maha was essentially a McLaughlin and Cobaham band. Bassist Rick Laird does well, but he is essentially a jazz musician. Violinist Jerry Goodman digs into the funk numbers, but seems over his head when Cobham turns up the tempo. Keyboardist Jan Hammer deals with the music by more or less imitating McLaughlin.

John’s original idea for the band was supposed to be himself, Cobham, Larry Young on keyboards, Jean Luc Ponty on violin and Tony Levin on bass. That would have been the better band as both Young and Ponty would have brought more original ideas that could have stood on their own and countered McLaughlin’s intensity.
Between Heavy Jazziness & Uncomprehensible Complexity

Between Nothingness & Eternity is a ticket to, well, nothingness and eternity, passing through all the diversity and virtuosity this line-up could offer back in the 70s, yes the whole unbelievable deal: the speed-of-light passages, the ear-bleeding rhythms, the eternal duels between members John, Jerry and Jan, the heavy blastings riffs, the delicate and intriguing indo material, and the ocassional intricating jazzy grooves.

While the same tracks featured here were later released as studio versions on the Lost Trident Sessions album which do present the tracks as they were intended to be, without any jamming nor noodling plus a clean production, I consider Between Nothingness & Eternity to be a much more rewarding listen since the intensity and capacity the players show on this live experience is completely unique in it, which is totally withdrawn from the studio versions.

The live performance begins alike Birds of Fire and Inner Mountaing Flame, with the calling of the legendary gong and the trademark Mahavishnu introductory guitar lines, however after that it becomes all new and unpredictable: From frenetic up-lifting melodies to the never ending duels of electric guitar, electric piano and moog, and violin; nobody is better than the other, each member shows they're highly capable of playing demanding stuff but that's not it, they manage all this to make it appealing for the listener, even so that I'm sure that a 'serious' heavy rock fan of stuff like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and the like can get a tremendous kick out of the playing in here since besides being fusion, it rocks!

The concert moves on to 'Sister Andrea', a funkier treat as a whole, somewhat similar to the groovy but still heavy 'Miles Beyond' from Birds of Fire. While composed by Jan Hammer, there's still a lot of room for the rest of the band; an evolving beast-alike guitar solo from John at the beginning, a fast and somewhat dissonant violin solo in the middle and ending finally with a fascinating moog show-off by the composer himself of course, Jan.

The live show finalises with the 20+ minute extravagant track called Dream. It may seem a chaotic mess when you first listen to it, full of unnecessary self-indulging sections, frenetic passages that seems to be played by people who dare more than what all a man can dare of, and in the end it is that! However, once again they've managed, above all that uncomprehensible indulgement, to achieve an incredible unique jazz rock piece which is seemed to be played by raging gods, in which in the very end of the track these gods seem to reconcile and tune things down.

Final words of this overlooked live gem is that it's essential for any rock fan interested in listening to some of the wildest playing out there from the 70s played live, even if in parts it may seem incomprehensible. Not the best place to start though, but it's safe to purchase this after having bought and understood Birds of Fire and Inner Mountaing Flame.

An outstanding ''goodbye'' album from this unbelievable line-up, which no other band yet has showed such skill delivered in such a unique and rockin' way.
Heck, you gotta give these guys a star just for having the bon bons to try this. Recording your third album with all new material in a live concert setting where you only get one shot to get it right. Outdoors. In New York's Central Park, no less. Anyway, one of the things I love about their first two albums was how their light-speed madness was countered with very delicate and emotional passages. I think the fact that they were in a studio environment was the key to their success because it gave them the ability to control it all and give the songs an identity. Unfortunately, too much of that is lost on stage. A gong starts things off with a trilogy of John McLaughlin tunes joined together. "The Sunlit Path" is a ferocious duel between his turbo charged guitar and Jan Hammer's Rhodes piano, "La Mere De La Mer" features violinist Jerry Goodman and drummer Billy Cobham firing rounds at each other and "Tomorrow's Story Not The Same" finds things taking on a rock feel where the violin, guitar and Moog battle it out until they all collapse in a frantic ending. Hammer's "Sister Andrea" establishes a funky rhythm before it drops into a kind of free-form segment between the piano and guitar. They climb back into the funk again and the violin and Moog get the spotlight for the rest of the song. McLaughlin's "Dream" is an aggressive, adventurous attempt at an almost 22 minute epic that probably worked better if you were there in person than it does on record. It has a subtle beginning with John playing acoustic guitar in a flowing duet with Goodman's violin. A fast paced undertow rises up from the band to change the mood before they drop out again and the guitar starts playing a blazing pattern while the piano solos overhead. After a wild, manic moment you are treated to what sounds like a jazz/rock fusion interpretation of the highly recognizable guitar riff from Cream's "Sunshine of your Love." Yes, it's strange. They then retreat to a blistering musical argument between the drums and guitar that goes on for way too long. Things get crazy again before Rick Laird's steady bass calms things down for the violin and guitar to shine before the piece ends quietly.

This was the last album we'd get from the original lineup. When musicians are as uniquely talented as they obviously are it's nearly impossible to keep them in one band for very long. This was a bold move for them that fell short of the mark and may well have hastened their breakup. I highly recommend the first two albums but this one is only for those who want to hear how fast they could play outside the confines of the studio or just want to own everything they recorded. It's by no means terrible but I rate it as average overall. Kind of a curiosity piece at best.

Members reviews

The only live album from the original Mahavishnu Orchestra lineup might have been a godsend when it first came out, but it's since been supplanted in importance by The Lost Trident Sessions: all three songs from this album are there, plus more songs on top of that, and the sound quality is significantly better. (Well, obviously, it's a studio recording and this is a live album, but even so for a live album from the era the sound quality here is only mediocre-to- average).

The setlist here consists of expanded versions of the first three songs from the Sessions, but the studio versions are much tighter - in particular, Dream in this twenty-minute rendition simply lasts for too long, especially considering the five minutes of extremely quiet playing at the beginning - which, thanks to the recording standards, aren't easy to hear.

Ironically, the New York concerts the album documents were vividly described during the preamble of the infamous Crawdaddy magazine article on the band - in which the band members made no secret of their frustrations working under McLaughlin, which prompted the personal falling-out which ended this lineup of the group. Mahavishnu devotees may wish to own it simply for that reason; for everyone else, it's alright, but now that we have the intended studio followup to Birds of Fire available to us it's utterly redundant.
Sean Trane
As I explained in the BoF review, the tensions between Hammer and Goodman on one side and McLaughlin and Cobham on the other, started destroying the group and taking into the abyss the third album’s recording sessions with the group, Columbia decided to bring out as a third offering a live album, which consisted of brand new and unreleased material: the three extended tracks on the live album being found in their original dimension on the Lost Trident Sessions. What really happened is that Mc and Cobham wanted to release the LTS tapes as a finished album, while Hammer, Goodman and now joined by Laird opposed it. This led to an imminent break-up, but the group owing one more album to Columbia settled on recording their august 73 Central Park concert. The group would soldier on until New Year’s Eve in Toledo. After which, McLaughlin build from scratch a new line-up of MO that would go on to record three albums of its own.

Out of seemingly nowhere gongs are chiming, but nowhere is there a spaceship (even if the album would have a very celestial artwork), so where back down to Mahavishnu planet and its superb Trilogy (not RGI, you potheads!! ;-)), Cobham being astoundingly virtuosi, while every other musician in the group works for great unity. The first movement Sunlit Path seems to be providing Goodman’s violin some rays of exposure, the second Mère De La Mer (mother of sea) is more Hammer’s moment, while the closing Tomorrow’s Story is highlighting Mc’s blistering guitar. The crowd is overwhelmingly enthusiastic as can be heard between trilogy and Sister Andrea, the only known MkI line-up track that isn’t McLaughlin penned (until much later, when Lost Trident will be released), but by Jan Hammer. And unfortunately the live version does not stand much comparison to its studio version, but still remains a scorching beauty.

The flipside is filled by the gigantic Dream, which finds itself expanded to twice its original length. In the middle is an extended and delightfully slow violin-laced spacey session, until the track picks up for the last 14 minutes where the group climbs from one climax to another, soaring higher than the Himalayas, sometimes slightly over-stretching the track and solos, but nothing scandalous, either. Even at this final stage of the line-up’s life, it’s impossible to find the cracks in the varnish in their incredibly tight music; although the seeds were already sown, troubles would really blossom after McLaughlin’s return from his Santana collaboration. .

Some thirty years later, we now know that the three gigantic extended tracks on this Live BNAE album were actually part of the LTS released at the turn of the millennium, recorded less than a month before the concert. On the downside of this album, we are still waiting for Columbia to reissue the remastered version of this album as TIMF and BoF have received it. On the plus side, though the very same Columbia label never destroyed the artwork with their red frame around the original covers as they had done for all the other MO albums as they did so with all of WR’s repertoire. How not to recommend a MO MkI line-up? Simply impossible not to, but this album should be discovered after the studio ones, including the LTS album.

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