Shakti: Face to Face


Face to Face




Natural Elements (Sony SRCS 7016)

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John McLaughlin (guitar),

L. Shankar (violin), Zakir Hussain (tabla, percussion), T.H Vinayakram (ghatam, percussion)


Composed by John McLaughlin & L. Shankar


Recorded: Geneva, Switzerland, July 1977


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

Though John McLaughlin never admitted it, the tunes on Natural Elements were written to appeal to a wider audience. After the mega success of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Columbia Records was none too happy with McLaughlin's new acoustic Indo-jazz direction. The previous two Shakti records presented tunes as long as half an hour. You are not going to get radio airplay with that stuff. For this turn, McLaughlin's and L. Shankar 's tunes are far shorter. A couple of them actually have some pop riffs and catchy vocal sections. None of this would increase the band's commercial viability, however. The group amazed those who saw and heard it around the world, but those were very few because Columbia's promo machine wasn't going to support this noncommercial music.

"Face to Face" features what may be McLaughlin's most impressive acoustic guitar solo. To get there he and violinist Shankar establish a bluesy shuffle. Shankar's violin pans as it plays the melody. The music is Eastern in style, but less so than most other Shakti tunes. The percussionists are their usual brilliant selves, providing rhythm and occasionally playing beat for note in some dazzling guitar and violin runs. Then McLaughlin lets loose with a torrent of single notes that come as close to being physically impossible as possible. His seamless runs are of a distinct beauty, but seem so difficult to execute that you wonder if he really did. He really did.

In the end, McLaughlin and his Shakti cohorts would have the last laugh. Their music helped spawn the world/jazz music movement and all of its offshoots, which continue going strong today.

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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