John McLaughlin: No Return
John McLaughlin (guitar, keyboards)
The Promise (Verve 314 529 828-2)
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: Milan, Italy, 1995
Rating: 71/100 (learn more)
I have been dreading writing this review. But the time has finally come. I must listen to "No Return" again. In the last 20 years, it has been my least favorite John McLaughlin composition and performance. I'm sure it was fun imitating Miles Davis's voice at the beginning, and endlessly repeating the catchy funky riff on the keyboards. I know it was cool to hear organist Joey DeFrancesco play trumpet just like Miles Davis too. The overly talented DeFrancesco can really do that. No doubt the special-effect voices and noises also added to the joy of creation. McLaughlin's solo is undeniably hot. The interplay between the two players is understandably tight because of their familiarity in The Free Spirits. All the elements for a joyous result are in place.
Alas, the decision to play the same fun but simpleton riff over and over throughout the entire song was not good. I would be happy to rate this 7-minute track a 90 if they had cut out most of that repeating riff and left the good stuff. (The new tune would have only been about 3 minutes long, however.) I cannot deny the superior musicianship here. For that reason alone, it is a noteworthy performance that deserves attention from skeptics. And in fact I have had arguments with those who think this is a fantastic piece. To them I say only that the irritating riff at the core of this cut is my Telltale Heart. For me, the title of this tune is an order I shall henceforth obey.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky