MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA — The Inner Mounting Flame

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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA - The Inner Mounting Flame cover
4.55 | 69 ratings | 8 reviews
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Album · 1971


A1 Meeting Of The Spirits 6:50
A2 Dawn 5:15
A3 The Noonward Race 6:27
A4 A Lotus On Irish Streams 5:41
B1 Vital Transformation 6:14
B2 The Dance Of Maya 7:15
B3 You Know You Know 5:06
B4 Awakening 3:30

Total Time: 46:25


- Rick Laird /Bass
- Billy Cobham /Drums
- John McLaughlin /Guitar
- Jan Hammer /Piano
- Jerry Goodman / Violin

About this release

Columbia – KC 31067 (US)

Released in UK in 1972 (CBS – S 64717)

Thanks to snobb for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Let's out-rock the rock guys?

I doubt that was the purpose of this project but 'The Inner Mounting Flame' does the job anyway. It's ferocious stuff, pretty much an explosion of sound that wipes the floor with not a few rock heroes of the day - but maintains the complexity we might take for granted in modern fusion artists.

From John's website: "After a Club date with Miles Davis in Boston in 1970, Miles tells me that it's time I formed my own band." Hard advice to ignore and he didn't, pulling in an impressive cast and leading them through high-energy fusion that showcases his rapid-fire guitar, Cobham's monstrous drumming and the violin of Goodman, who keeps up with a lot of the guitar throughout. Less featured in the compositions would Hammer (though his contribution is still important) with Laird quite hidden in the mix at times. Or at least, not often given opportunity to dazzle like some of his band mates.

On to the music itself. 'Meeting of the Spirits' is one of the greatest opening tracks ever put down, with it's ominous opening and insistent riffing from violin and guitar, and along with Cobham blasting away, it's a pretty damn exciting way to start a record. 'Dawn' is one of my favourites, and gives a nice 'half-break' in pace before things rev up again with 'The Noonward Race', which is a feel that's maintained elsewhere on the album in songs like 'Vital Transformation' and the blistering 'Awakening.' 'The Dance of Maya' stands out for it's straight blues section and the 10/8 time signature of its bookends (if I'm counting right) leaving more atmospheric moments to the syrupy 'A Lotus on Irish Streams' or the triumph of 'You Know, You Know' - one of the subtler pieces on the album, an effective, memorable and really quite gentle piece.

Any fan interested in jazz fusion ought to at least be familiar with this landmark album. Five stars.
Inner Volcanic Jazz Rock

John “Mahavishnu” McLaughlin was the second guitarist to play with Miles Davis on studio, but actually the first one to go beyond jazz idioms. At first he sounded a bit shy, a subtle guitarist, but with time he became a very impressive semi-psychedelic jazz guitarist with layers of wah-wah and impressive licks, notably shown in Live-Evil and Big Fun (although mainly in Tony Williams' Lifetime).

However, once John decided to form his own fusion band, just like Zawinul, Shorter and Corea did, his style changed into a ferocious and explosive style that had never been heard at that time. Some, bigger fans of Davis’ experimental stuff, may miss the guy’s subtlety, but they can’t deny the magnitude of development that McLaughlin did with the guitar.

But that’s not really it, as his guitar evolved considerably, his compositions grew as well and sound like liquid lava still spreading smoke, with the eclectic mix of heavy rock, jazz, sparse Indian influences, technical musicianship and symphonic arrangements, all in all making the unmistakable sound of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra. Yes, I said technical musicianship back there, Billy Cobham is the other freak on board, a monster on the drum-kit. The remaining musicians all are talented but don’t really stand out as the former two, at least not in this album; Jan Hammer here plays the traditional early 70s keyboards (organ, piano and electric piano) still missing his Moog, Jerry Goodman is on the electric violin, and Rick Laird on the bass.

Other than saying what styles can be heard on this innovative album, it’s useless to try to pin down a band that seriously influenced the sound of McLaughlin & Co.

What I can say is that future bands would be inspired by The Mahavishnu Orchestra, it can be heard on King Crimson’s heaviest record, Red, the technical approach Return to Forever did on Romantic Warrior, maybe a bit in the eclectic songwriting of The Dixie Dregs, and of course dozens of future shred guitarists were influenced by John.

Undoubtedly one of the many truly groundbreaking albums from the 70s, and one of the best at it. And although in Birds of Fire they’d find a more balanced approach, with room for every member to shine, for me the compositions and the execution of these in Inner Mounting Flame are by far superior thus the better album.
While experimental rock groups like Pink Floyd occasionally took us on leisurely psychedelic trips to the moon, planets, stars and nearby galaxies these guys were intent on taking us to parts of the uncharted cosmos where even God wasn't too sure about what was out there. I would never dare mention The Mahavishnu Orchestra to the pop-loving layman but, since I'm supposedly among adventurous souls here where fusion music has been given a comfortable suite, I feel safe in saying that a substantial number of you will find this music very stimulating and enjoyable. (But you might want to send the kiddies and Granny into the next room while you listen.) Obviously, in order to get to these outer realms of creation where 4/4 time signatures are the exception instead of the norm, one must travel at light speed and the first tune, "Meeting of the Spirits," attains that velocity in a hurry. I must pause here to point out that even though this music is, at times, maniacal and unconventional it's also lyrical and melodic between the intense individual solos so it's by no means just a jumble of indecipherable notes. In other words, it's quite accessible to the broad-minded and that's just one of its many charms. "Dawn" slows the pace for a moment as if we've reached our destination but soon we begin to explore our surroundings and the tempo picks up once again. "The Noonward Race" is noisy at first and faster than a speeding bullet but there are planned, structured musical phrases interspersed throughout the song. The rapid-fire interplay between guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Billy Cobham is incredible. By now the listener could use a rest and "A Lotus on Irish Streams" is as welcome as an oasis in the arid desert. Jan Hammer's piano, Jerry Goodman's violin and McLaughlin's acoustic guitar create a beautiful and peaceful atmosphere. Insane, adrenalized drums from Cobham begin "Vital Transformation" where a recurring ascending melody is played between solos that whiz by your head like renegade comets. "The Dance of Maya" starts with a theme that would fit perfectly at the start of a mutant monster movie but then it morphs into (believe it or not) a Chuck Berry style rock and roll pattern where Goodman turns in a hot violin lead. Then, amazingly, the original theme comes back and is played simultaneously on top of the rock and roll. I would designate it as my favorite cut if it weren't for the next one, the slower "You Know You Know," which also floors me. It's a simple repeating riff with a long 15/4 measure in between where all kinds of interesting things happen. Billy's drum fills are spectacularly tasteful. The last tune, "Awakening," feels as if the whole band got sucked into a black hole because they reach speeds that were heretofore unattainable. However, it was necessary in order to get us back to earth.

As I intimated earlier, this ain't for everybody and even the most courageous among you might find this far too busy and off the beaten path to tolerate for even five minutes. I understand. I, more often than not, am more comfortable listening to tunes that are relaxing and pleasant but from time to time I need to take a walk on the wild side and that's when albums like this one are called for. I am absolutely blown away every time I hear "Inner Mounting Flame" and consider it to be a magnificent achievement by this group that is only surpassed by their next offering, "Birds of Fire."

Members reviews

The primal flame to really fused jazz and rock?

This is perhaps what a volcanic eruption may sound like...

First effort of one of the big 3 fusion bands of the 70's, with WEATHER REPORT and RETURN TO FOREVER, "The Inner Mounting Flame" can be considered as the first record to genuinely combine the raw fury of hard rock with free unconstrained jazz. Of course, funk, jazzy rock or jazz incorporating rock elements have already been heard since the end of the 60's, but I cannot think any other artist went so far in this fusion of genres before. Compared to pioneering records such as Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way" or Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats", "The Inner Mounting Flame" marks a clear evolution. This debut album is a pure magma, an acoustic and electric maelstrom sculpting heavy musical mantras inside mountains. Jazz, rock, blues and Indian ragas find themselves melted together to fuel an unique loud, rapid and mystical fire, with multiple uncommon time signatures and complex rhythms.

Like most line-ups from this time period, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's members are all virtuosi in their respective instrument and form a true dream-team: incredible guitarist John McLaughlin, who just spent 2 years at Miles Davis' school to record no less than pioneering albums, organist Jan Hammer, who will later compose Miami Vice theme, whirlwinding violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird and extraordinary drummer Billy Cobham. The fast and spiritual aspects of the music is logical when you know John McLaughlin was the only composer as well as a disciple of the Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. That's certainly where these stylistic choices come from.

The disc opens with the incandescent "Meeting Of The Spirits". Violin and drum explodes in a lava of burning guitars. Wow! After all this condensed fury, "Dawn" arrives as a welcomed spacey pause. A calm beautiful jazzy and bluesy kind of ballad. Then appears the raging "Noonward Race". This high-speed delirium jazzy hard-rock can stand for an overboosted jam. In contrast, "A Lotus On Irish Streams" is the perfect soundtrack to wander barefoot in peaceful hanging gardens. A bit mystical and dominated by Jan Hammer's relaxing keyboard textures, this track is a delicate and soothing passage.

Back to life with "Vital Transformation", maybe the hottest and grooviest composition of the album. Not really sounding like an ancient Center American ritual, "The Dance Of Maya" starts with a dark oppressive pattern. This first half tends to become a little repetitive though. Then it surprisingly mutates into a heavy blues-rock! The slow desert jam "You Know, You Know" is enjoyable, nonetheless not varied enough. The record finishes in fireworks with its wildest track, "Awakening". A thundering and breathtaking piece, fast-paced, with multiple breaks and corrosive moments. Guitar, bass, violin, keyboards, drums, each musician displays his virtuosity here!

As the debut opus of a legendary band, "The Inner Mounting Flame" was already, and still remains nowadays, a true sonic blast, stunning and innovative. Such an advanced mixture of hard rock with complex time signatures in the improvisational jazz mold was never heard at the dawn of the 70's.

Simply an essential listen for anyone interested in fusion music. Not the most accessible MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA offering, but undoubtedly their rawest!
One of the first of its kind. Fiery and fiercely fast guitar with some of the best fusion keyboard work in this genre. This is almost a supergroup, with John McLaughlin, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman, and Billy Cobham---all in the same band. Hammer is one of the best keyboardists ever, and he really shines on this one.

So many people have reviewed this album before me, so I just want to mention some things I like. One, is the fuzzed out guitar that John was doing in Miles Davis' band. It's so... ROCK! Yet the music is so... jazz, that it fuses into this sound that is a little hard to describe. Jan Hammer always plays some great electric piano, comping chords like a champ, and Jerry Goodman lays down some nice violin parts, even if his sound is a little 'scratchy'. Unlike his funky solo albums, Billy Cobham is here, rockin' hard on the drums, and his definitive style is already showcased on this album.

This album was important stepping stone in the development in jazz-rock/fusion. Where Miles Davis, Weather Report, and Herbie Hancock would go off into the stratosphere at this time in the early 70s, Mahavishnu Orchestra said, "yea, we can rock out too". This opened up the door for bands like Return to Forever, Fermata, and later on, Brand X. Essential for a any fusion collection, and if you don't have this one, you're missing an important album in the development of the genre.
One of the first of what I think of as the "second wave" of fusion bands - those designed from the ground up to be fusion acts, rather than evolving into a fusion style like Miles Davis's band or the Mothers of Invention did in the 1960s - the Mahavishnu Orchestra are probably best known for this classic album, on which for most of the time they play a fast, loud, and heavy brand of fusion. From the dark, foreboding eruption that commences the opening track to the end, this is a true triumph for every musician involved. John McLaughlin plays incredibly fast and complex lead guitar, showing both the craft he'd learned in fusion works by Miles Davis and Tony Williams and the influence of other artists working in the same vein - in parts, for example, I can hear a strong influence from Frank Zappa's celebrated guitar solos on Hot Rats. The rhythm section of Rick Laird and Billy Cobham do an admirable job of both keeping up and keeping their hand in the game, Cobham's drums in particular being a forceful and complex treat in their own right. Jan Hammer's keyboard textures and Jerry Goodman's violin complete the picture; a particularly good piece for them is A Lotus on Irish Streams, a rare moment of calm, reflection and beauty in the middle of the fury which is a showcase both for Hammer's piano lines (which at points recall more classic jazz styles) and Goodman's plaintive violin work.

A true cornerstone of the fusion scene, and a key work not just in the discography of group leader John McLaughlin but of every member of the band, The Inner Mounting Flame deserves nothing less than five stars - in fact, I'd say it earns each of those stars twice over.
Sean Trane
With Miles Davis, Tony Williams' Lifetime and Ian Carr's group Nucleus, jazz-rock took a definitive shape and started crystallizing to its actual form. Out of the Bitches Brew sessions came two bands that would really further define JR/F, the first being the brainchild of Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul called Weather Report, and the second being the pet project of John McLaughlin (and with Billy Cobham), called Mahavishnu Orchestra, based on the name his guru Chimnoy had given him. Both bands are simply the essence of jazz-rock and both were particularly progressive in their early days, before jazz-rock sort of veered to jazz-funk and later to fusion. With an almost impossible-to-improve line-up in terms of virtuosity, MO's first era was simply flawless, even if it sometimes went over the top and might seem today a bit indulgent.

Contrary to Weather Report (who reigned as a duo but allowed anyone to come up with numbers), MO was clearly John's ship and clearly he was the captain with no back up, coming up with all of the music, leaving no credits to others. Between his roles with Tony Williams' Lifetime and Miles' group, two albums became very much essential in understanding John's evolution: first came the fantastic Devotion, where his guitar playing simply came of age and his brand of jazz-rock was born with the help of Larry Young (ex-Lifetime) and Buddy Miles (ex-Hendrix), than came the acoustic My Goal's Beyond (where he meets Cobham and Goodman), where John opens up to a very wide spectrum, including Indian music. But these albums cannot lead anyone to guess what was coming with Inner Mounting Flame. Even three decades after my discovery of this album, I still refer to it as Inner Mounting Erection, because it never fails to arouse my interest and reach orgasm, at least aural. (Sorry, I just had to do it ;o)) So when TIMF came out, its impact on music took on seismic importance and they became an instant success, as this album was the perfect mix between jazz and rock.

Opening on the McLaughlin-defining Meeting Of The Spirits (a fantastic version of this emblematic piece) with John's eruptive solos flowing out like molten lava, fluid life a river and rapid like the thunder lightning, and the whole group accompanying him effortlessly, bringing the whole thing to an orgasmic big bang. The reflective Dawn, on the other hand, shows a very different and much quieter facet of this quintet, where Goodman's violin takes on the prime role as a soothing pill, even if McLaughlin's guitar manages to pull the track upbeat, before letting it drop to its original level. The aptly-titled Noonward Race is exactly that: a monstrous piece, a 300MPH track where Cobbham and McLaughlin let use see that they're not normal earthlings, then seeking to hide that fact, they are letting first Goodman and his violin, then Hammer's distinctive-sounding synth have their say, the track resembling a jam. Just like Dawn, the track Lotus On Irish Stream is gentle and soothing (after such a brutal Race), where McLaughlin's acoustic dexterity is featured, where Goodman's aerial violin borders the cheesy and Hammer's cool piano is the cement that binds the track.

The flipside starts with a machine gun fire, courtesy of Cobham, and Vital Transformation becomes the alter-ego of Meeting Of The Spirits, and echoes that track's greatness. Dance Of Maya breaks the cycle of hard-smooth rotation of tracks with a slow-developing blues (that transition from the intro to the track proper is one of the best I've heard) where Mc and Co unleash all they got in terms of histrionics, while respecting the format. The following You Know track seems to be a variant of Meeting, but a calmer one, just content to play with the original riff, Cobham twisting our heads with his fantastic drum rolls. The closing Awakening is a bit the alter-ego of Noonward Race, at least in its intro, but even when reaching its apex, its delivers inhumane speed activity that no police radar has been able to measure, even three decades down the line.

How not to give this album anything but maximum ratings, without appearing a fool or having a chip on his shoulder?? This is the album that set the blueprint for so many groups to come, that its historical importance is worth maximum rating, let alone the musical near-perfection that it embodies. Blindly!!!

This album is difficult to describe. All fully instrumental with some of the best virtuoso musicianship you are likely to hear. The music is a fusion of heavy guitar, using jazz metrical patterns, Indian influences and a dash of Celtic thrown into the mix. The music ranges from intense and off kilter with a range of time signatures, to a beautiful and melancholy pathos. There are crescendos and allegros on keyboards intermixed with the frenetic guitar of McLaughlin. There are influences of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew", the milestone album from the jazz great.

Goodman is a star on violin who plays off Mclaughlin's masterful guitar. The excellent "Birds of Fire" was to follow but this is the masterwork from Mahavishnu Orchestra. Highlights include Meeting of the Spirits, Noonward Race, Vital Transformation and, my favourite MO track, The Dance of Maya.

There are other highlights interspersed in the other tracks but it needs to be listened to as a whole to fully appreciate the innovation and ferociously original style of the band. The album is of course legendary and highly revered in the jazz world and the band have become revolutionary progenitors of jazz fusion.

My one concern is it is very short and the CD does not include bonus feature tracks. The booklet is pleasant to read and thumb through with some great pictures of them in full swing.

Impossible to ignore and highly recommended for jazz fans too, not only those into classic prog or jazz albums. I give it 5 stars because it is a legendary jazz masterpiece though is not easy to listen to at first for newbies to the genre due to the nature of the estranged music.

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