John McLaughlin: Devotion




John McLaughlin (guitar)


Devotion (Restless 7 72656-2)

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John McLaughlin (guitar), Larry Young (Khalid Yasin) (organ),

Billy Rich (bass), Buddy Miles (drums)


Composed by John McLaughlin


Recorded: New York, February 1970


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

If there were one trait that best describes John McLaughlin, it would be that he is a man of great devotion. He has always been devoted to a spiritual path and to his music. He really sees the two as the same. Nothing has ever gotten in his way – though his album Devotion almost did. To this day McLaughlin holds a grudge against the producer of the album, Alan Douglas, who is most famous for producing Jimi Hendrix. The story goes that McLaughlin recorded the album and had to go away. When he came back he discovered the music had been hacked to pieces in the mixing room and reassembled without rhyme or reason. Later there would be some excuses that the master tapes had been damaged in some way and that they were dealt with in the best way possible. No one bought that story. Ironically, McLaughlin's protestations notwithstanding, Devotion is a great album! The original distorted photo of McLaughlin on the album's cover gave you a clue you would be hearing psychedelic rock music of some sort. That was the least of it.

The band surrounding McLaughlin had all played with Hendrix, so the stage was set for another guitar hero to make his mark. He does so with a dark, foreboding and somewhat murky-sounding tune that would become one of jazz-rock's first anthems. The music was much different from McLaughlin's previous effort as leader, Extrapolation. That session had been clean, tight and purposeful. This music is loud and distorted and coming at you from all angles. If you weren't on drugs while listening, you felt as if you were anyway. (Or you wanted some quick.) The mix is mesmerizing. McLaughlin is testing sonic barriers. Young is doing a good job of that as well. Buddy Miles just pounds away. A false ending leads to a kick-ass rock assault that is lost in a groove. Any McLaughlin fan who does not own this music should be put to bed without supper.

Reviewer's Note: McLaughlin also played a calming acoustic version of "Devotion" with his wife Eve on autoharp for The Guitar Album: The Historic Town Hall Concert. The couple even sang vocals. The vocals were not good. Devotion can only take you so far.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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