Mahavishnu Orchestra: Hymn to Him
Hymn to Him
Apocalypse (Columbia CK 46111)
Gayle Moran (keyboard), Carol Shive (violin), Marsha Westbrook (viola), Philip Hirschi (cello), Ralphe Armstrong (bass), Michael Walden (drums), London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.
Composed by John McLaughlin. Orchestrated by Michael Gibbs.
Recorded: London, March 1974
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
Apocalypse was the first album from McLaughlin's second version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Although he had wanted the first band to do a project with a symphony orchestra, they were not interested. So when he formed the second Mahavishnu, after the bitter dissolution of the first, the first thing he did was join with the young conductor Micheal Tilson Thomas and Beatles' producer George Martin to record Apocalypse with the London Symphony Orchestra. The album was not well received. Back in 1974, it was deemed too grandiose. Over the years, however, some critics and fans have revisited the album and found that it was unfairly maligned. George Martin himself says of all the records he has ever produced, he is proudest of this one. When the Beatles' producer says something like that, we should pay attention.
"Hymn to Him" is indeed grand in scope. Its components are in parts devotional, classical, jazz, funk and rock. The strings and woodwinds of the LSO gently usher in Ponty's crying violin. McLaughlin joins with melancholy calls of his own. A slow, reverential theme is developed. As we know by now, this cannot last. Walden's drum roll increases the tension ever so slightly. The full LSO declares itself. Over the orchestral strains, McLaughlin solos slowly at first. The velocity increases as he squeezes every bit of emotion from his electric strings. After a respite, Ponty and McLaughlin enter into highly charged calls and responses between which the LSO serves as a bridge. Then, at the 16-minute mark, the band and the orchestra join together and raise the hair on the back of your neck. You will return to this passage time and again in future years. The opening theme, made all the more poignant by what you have heard since, returns as the coda. Many thought McLaughlin was taking jazz-fusion too far by adding the classical music element to it. In hindsight, we realize this was just the beginning of the possibilities.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky