Mahavishnu Orchestra: Steppings Tones


Steppings Tones


Mahavishnu Orchestra


The Lost Trident Sessions (Columbia Legacy CK 65959)

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John McLaughlin (guitar),

Jan Hammer (keyboards), Jerry Goodman (violin), Rick Laird (bass), Billy Cobham (drums)


Composed by Rick Laird


Recorded: London, June 1973; released 1999


Rating: 81/100 (learn more)

In a move to ease dissension, John McLaughlin had agreed to allow other Mahavishnu Orchestra members to write some music for the band's upcoming third studio effort. What would later become known as The Lost Trident Sessions were tapes of that ill-fated studio attempt. The results from these tumultuous sessions would be released with great fanfare and commercial success some 26 years later.

"Steppings Tones" was bassist Rick Laird's composition, but he was not really happy with it. He had been rushed to write it and considered it unfinished. In fact, in the few concert appearances of the tune, it was used as an introduction to longer pieces. In that capacity, it is actually quite a successful piece.

Everyone seeing the title for the first time assumes it is a typo. In some instances, writers have even corrected it to "Stepping Stones." But they have been wrong. The legally published title is indeed "Steppings Tones." At the time, the band members were fond of playing a word game. They would take the first letter of a second word and add it to the end of the first word. They apparently had a lot of fun doing this. Things can get boring on the road. You probably had to be there. Even after Mahavishnu disbanded, Billy Cobham continued to play a variation of the game when he released his album A Funky Thide of Sings.

"Steppings Tones" is written in intervallic steps, which Laird loudly lays down as McLaughlin provides a panning arpeggio. Cobham adds the requisite fills. Goodman plays a repeating melody as Hammer comps with some electric piano. The theme repeats over and over as if running in place. The tune would make a good theme for a TV detective show. But Laird is right. It sounds unfinished. And this is one reason for The Lost Strident Essions. A more complete version of Laird's composition appears on the Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman album Like Children.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

Related Links

In Conversation with John McLaughlin by Walter Kolosky
The Dozens: John McLaughlin on Standards by Walter Kolosky

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