John McLaughlin: Marbles
John McLaughlin (electric guitar)
Devotion (Varese Sarabande)
Billy Rich (bass), Buddy Miles (drums).
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: New York, February 1970
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
The behind-the-scenes story is now infamous. McLaughlin recorded the sessions for Jimi Hendrix producer Alan Douglas. McLaughlin went away. When he came back he discovered, much to his horror, that the tapes had been edited and spliced back together every which way. It was a nightmare. The story from the Douglas camp was that somehow the tapes had been damaged and editing became a salvage operation. While McLaughlin may still be upset about the whole affair all these years later, Devotion is still a prized possession in many a fusion collection.
Straight from gigs with Jimi Hendrix, drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Rich joined Larry Young and McLaughlin for this outing. Despite its spacey introduction, "Marbles" is one of the most accessible pieces McLaughlin has ever recorded. Miles's thumping drums introduce McLaughlin's simple but hypnotic scalar riff. "Marbles" becomes a kick-ass psychedelic jazz-rock number. As Rich and Young continue the riff, McLaughlin plays off it every which way from Sunday. He goes pentatonic and uses blues scales to produce trebly rapid-fire lines and screeching howls. While Miles and Rich are an okay rhythm section and Larry Young provides some interest, this tune was clearly a showcase for young guitarist McLaughlin's shredding. I challenge Mr. McLaughlin to pull this tune out some night on the road. It will kill! As an interesting aside, the "Marbles" riff motif would often later appear in the music of McLaughlin's Shakti band. Of course, they would play it acoustically with an Indian twist.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky