John McLaughlin: Vision is a Naked Sword


Vision is a Naked Sword


Mahavishnu Orchestra


Apocalypse (Columbia CK 46111)

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John McLaughlin (guitar), Jean-Luc Ponty (violin),

Gayle Moran (keyboards), 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: 94/100 (learn more)

I sure do miss McLaughlin song titles like "Vision is a Naked Sword." What in the world did that mean? It sounded so cosmically spiritual. That is all that really mattered back in those days. Listening to this music was your way of convening with the Supreme Being. (That, some incense and a joint.)

McLaughlin could have called this tune anything he wanted and it would still be great. To hear a full symphony orchestra playing Mahavishnu riffs in full-throttle is a spine-tingling experience. McLaughlin, Ponty, Armstrong, Moran and Walden were the core Mahavishnu band at this point. Their sounds pierce through the London Symphony's support. McLaughlin and Ponty lead with blazing excursions. They perpetrate about a dozen false endings before the music culminates in a soaring coda. Thrilling stuff!

Reviewer's fun fact: Mahavishnu Orchestra road manager Joseph D'Anna has very fond memories of this recording session. In an interview for Power, Passion and Beauty The Story of the Legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra, D'Anna recalled: "I remember just being a young and nave kid, and thinking, 'Hey, we are playing with the London Symphony Orchestra.' I thought all these classy classical musicians must be real gentlemen. As soon as there was a break, they all whipped out cigars and started playing cards. It was like when I was growing up on the streets of Brooklyn. It was so strange to me."

Reviewer's pet peeve: The CD reissue of the album lists conductor Michael Tilson Thomas as playing piano on this cut. He actually plays piano on the earlier cut "Power of Love." I can't help it. I hate mistakes in liner notes. It is not like they were writing a book with 90,000 words in it. (And, yes, I hate it when I make mistakes in my reviews as well.)

Editor's note: Walter is being much too self-effacing. His 400+ reviews are virtually error-free. I wish I could say the same for my own humble reviews. Alan Kurtz

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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