Mahavishnu Orchestra: Wings of Karma
Wings of Karma
Apocalypse (Columbia CK 46111)
Gayle Moran (keyboards), Michael Tilson Thomas (piano), Carol Shive (violin), Marsha Westbrook (viola), Philip Hirschi (cello), Ralphe Armstrong (bass), Michael Walden (drums), London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.
Composed by John McLaughlin; orchestrated by Michael Gibbs.
Recorded: London, England, March 1974
Rating: 89/100 (learn more)
The opening measures of "Wings of Karma" are presented by the London Symphony Orchestra only. The music is deep and somewhat foreboding. The arrangement is heavily into drama as strings, horns and kettle drums portend dire consequences. Then the electricity is turned on. McLaughlin leads a charge that carries both the central Mahavishnu band and the larger orchestra up a hill from which they joyously roll down the other side. All is not doom and gloom. McLaughlin and Ponty wail away in unison as the LSO finds an aggressive riff-jammed groove. McLaughlin plays a nasty solo midway through that cuts through the orchestra like a jagged knife. Violinist Ponty plays his own part that takes wing. In many ways, "Wings of Karma" may be the most accessible tune on the album. The band and the orchestra really mesh well. Economics prevented McLaughlin from ever taking the LSO on the road with him, and Apocalypse was not met with much critical acclaim at the time. But there are certain parts of this tune when the dream that McLaughlin had for this music appears close to coming true. (This goal is fulfilled on the less accessible but more triumphant "Hymn to Him" which follows this cut on the album). At the very least McLaughlin showed that fusion could encompass more than just jazz and rock. Next you add classical music and then eventually the music of other cultures to develop a true fusion.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky