Mahavishnu Orchestra: Lotus Feet
Inner Worlds (Columbia Legacy CK 52923)
John McLaughlin (guitar synthesizer),
Stu Goldberg (mini-moog), Ralphe Armstrong (bass), Narada Michael Walden (drums).
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: Herouville, France, July 1975
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
"Lotus Feet" is noteworthy for several reasons. First, its overt Indian character indicates the tune was clearly written with the future in mind. That future would be McLaughlin's Indo-jazz band Shakti, already in the forming stages during the recording of this album. Mahavishnu always had an Indian element to its music. But it was understated compared to the vibe that permeates "Lotus Feet." Second, it was arguably the first time McLaughlin successfully employed an early guitar synthesizer. While other tunes on the album used the synthesizer, they did so in conjunction with electric guitar or to create sound effects. Here it is the primary instrument. Third, "Lotus Feet" would become perhaps McLaughlin's most enduring composition. Over the years he has also performed it with Shakti and Remember Shakti, and employed its melody as the thematic linchpin in the movie Molom, for which he and Trilok Gurtu provided the soundtrack. The tune has even been popularly covered by others such as pianist George Winston.
On an album full of surprises (some welcome, some not), "Lotus Feet" provides a respite. Meditative in nature, the tune is built around a simple Indo rhythm played by Walden on congas and sleigh bells placed over the top of a drone box. McLaughlin plays his guitar through a patch that makes it sound almost like a wooden flute. It takes about three seconds to fall in love with the melody. It is that beautiful. This is McLaughlin, both as composer and player, in restrained mode. Stu Goldberg also plays synthesizer in the form of the mini-moog. At times it becomes a bit difficult to tell the two apart, which is a problem that has always been intrinsic to the nature of the technology. Unless you're writing a review and trying to distinguish who is playing what, this quirk is of little significance.
I would not mind at all if the strains of this wonderfully executed piece followed me around as my own personal soundtrack. There is no doubt my stress level would be appreciably lower.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky