John McLaughlin: Phenomenon: Compulsion
John McLaughlin (guitar)
Electric Guitarist (Columbia CK 46110)
Recorded: New York, 1978
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
It was 5 years after the original Mahavishnu Orchestra disbanded. Mahavishnu's drummer Billy Cobham agreed to appear on John McLaughlin's Electric Guitarist album, so named to celebrate McLaughlin's return to electricity after a couple of years of playing acoustic guitar in Shakti. Anyone who had ever seen or heard McLaughlin and Cobham play together would tell you that the energy the two created was volatile. Their ferocious guitar-drum duets were always one of the highlights of any Mahavishnu Orchestra concert. Narada Michael Walden, who succeeded Cobham in the second Mahavishnu Orchestra, used to call these duets "duet solos" because the two players were in such sync. On the blazing "Phenomenon: Compulsion," Billy and John play with such telepathy that it seemed as if they had never left each other's side.
On Electric Guitarist "Phenomenon: Compulsion" is a standalone piece, but it could have been lifted right out of any Mahavishnu Orchestra "duet solo" performance. A couple of things were different. McLaughlin didn't use a double-neck guitar. He did use a flange device that gave his guitar a swirling guttural sound, which added even more sparks to the electricity. McLaughlin and Cobham go at it tooth and nail. They are like two great fencers thrusting and parrying at great speeds. But they know each other's thoughts so neither can score a point. This furious competition morphs into a hypersonic collaboration between two players who recognize no limits.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky