MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA — Between Nothingness & Eternity (review)

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA — Between Nothingness & Eternity album cover Live album · 1973 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
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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