MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA — Apocalypse (review)

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA — Apocalypse album cover Album · 1974 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Atavachron
Often ignored in favor of their better-known releases, M.O.'s 1974 project was an ambitious gathering of musicians from all backgrounds led by McLaughlin and his second Mahavishnu incarnation of Ralphe Armstrong on bass, the percussion of Michael Walden, Gayle Moran's keys and voice, and Jean-Luc Ponty's violins. They are supported by the London Symphony Orchestra with George Martin handling production and except for a few passages of dated jam-rock, it is among the best things they ever did. In '74, it was nothing terribly original in the brave new world of progressive fusion to employ a full orchestra, or to dabble in realms never meant to meet. What is special about this session is that it worked so well. And it is filled with beautiful, powerful music.

A solemn piano, John's strings and a vibration of brass gingerly awaken 'Power of Love', sad and reflective, a nourishing piece that tugs at the heart. The mood changes and this record comes alive on the enormous 'Vision is a Naked Sword', a titan of strings, horns, and Walden's cracking skins. It expands with rushes of change, huge movements, migrations west, east, and the two crashing into each other with great joy. And McLaughlin's fevered frenzy out in front, possessed, as if he's trying to squeeze out several lines at once. 'Smile of the Beyond' is pleasant enough and features Gayle Moran's engaging mezzo-soprano, the London Symphony giving their all with much pride and no prejudice as heard in 'Wings of Karma' and the sublime 'Hymn to Him', a 19- minute roiling cauldron of musical interaction, atom-smashing, skattered altercations and the occasional explosion of life. An album that remains a passed-over high point in the all too often bourgeois world of fusion, and perhaps John McLaughlin's finest hour as leader.
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