Mahavishnu Orchestra: The Way of the Pilgrim
The Way of the Pilgrim
Inner Worlds (Columbia CK 52923)
Stu Goldberg (keyboards), Ralphe Armstrong (bass).
Composed by Narada Michael Walden.
Recorded: Le Chateau Herouville, France, July and August 1975
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
McLaughlin, under financial pressures, reduced his 11-piece Mahavishnu Orchestra to a quartet in late 1975. Inner Worlds was its first and only album. The whole tenor of the record, which was released in January 1976, was quite unlike the output of the previous two versions of the band. It was filled with R&B tendencies, and even appeared, on some tunes, to hover a little too low over pop-vocal terrain. At the same time, the album also included some extreme music that frightened even seasoned Mahavishnu fans! These were unique sounds, created mostly by McLaughlin's new synthesizer, which had the power to thrill or cause pain, depending upon your point of view. McLaughlin was not afraid to produce some ugliness in service to his muse. He pushed any new instrument or device to its outer limits. That was his nature.
Walden penned this piece, and much like "Cosmic Strut," which he wrote for Visions of the Emerald Beyond, it rocks! It had the type of catchy head arrangement that composer Walden would later become famous for with Jeff Beck and his successful production career with Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and others. Walden's drumming is strong and funky. McLaughlin even funks it up a bit, inserting abbreviated chinky 9th chords between his soaring solos. With his outstanding solo, Goldberg shows why he was one of the pioneers of the mini-Moog. "Way of the Pilgrim" is truly a stellar fusion outing. If this "new" pared- down Mahavishnu Orchestra had played more music like this, it might have found more sustainable popularity.
There are two disparate theories about Inner Worlds. Some claim the record was a weak effort made to finish off John's Mahavishnu Columbia recording contract. They point to the fact that John gave control over large portions of the record to Narada and the rest of the band as an indication of his lack of interest. Others say Inner Worlds should be viewed as a brave experiment and important progressive rock album. These fans, who tend to be younger, are not hampered with the Mahavishnu Orchestra's pre-Inner Worlds history. Theirs is a view from a fresh and uncluttered perspective. Perhaps this puts them in a better position to judge. After all, they argue, McLaughlin would never just "toss off" anything.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky