John McLaughlin: Fallen Angels (live)
The Heart of Things
The Heart of Things: Live in Paris (Verve 543 536-2)
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
"Fallen Angels" had appeared on this band's previous studio recording The Heart of Things. I have a small complaint with the tone, and thus the mix, of John McLaughlin's guitar. I think it should have been sharper and louder. It gets lost in the unison lines with saxophonist Gary Thomas. You can still hear a hint of McLaughlin, and the lines played together are hauntingly beautiful. Maybe that is what he had in mind. You know the ensemble thing? I guess it is a little issue, but I felt I had to mention it.
This is an outstanding fusion album, and "Fallen Angels" is one of the reasons. The long intro is really a wonderful soundscape. McLaughlin and Thomas take turns playing fluttering notes amidst the electric textures of bassist Matt Garrison and keyboardist Otmaro Ruiz. Dennis Chambers remains patiently subdued, working only brushes and cymbals. (That could be Victor Williams as well.) The true head of the arrangement appears. "Fallen Angels" becomes a melodic dirge. Chambers loses patience and begins hitting loud accents. The band sounds almost like a revving engine. Yet even as the power builds, the tempo slows. That's unusual. McLaughlin takes a pensive solo. You can hear him fine here. The band leaves lots of open space, providing plenty of room to fit everything into our ears. The music is now almost a whisper. But a few heavy strikes from Chambers bring back the volume and the tension. This live cut is a good representation of the song, but doesn't do justice to the intense dynamics in the venues I attended.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky