Mahavishnu Orchestra: Gita
Inner Worlds (Columbia CK 52923)
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: Le Chateau Herouville, France, July-August 1975
Rating: 80/100 (learn more)
Expectations are a huge part of listening. That is why the vocal cuts on the Mahavishnu Orchestra's swansong album Inner Worlds were so difficult to accept by many Mahavishnu fans. There had been a few Gayle Moran vocals on the band's previous recording Visions of the Emerald Beyond. But this was a new pared down quartet, and the lead vocals were handled mostly by the male voice of Michael Walden. Moran's sparse vocals had been almost operatic. Walden's were R&B and soul and sometimes syrupy sweet and all over the record. This was not expected from a powerhouse fusion band! And let's face it. Walden was no baritone most of the time. He was not afraid to soar into the higher pitches. How masculine sounding were these new vocals? Could the mostly male fusion audience accept this?
Mostly not. Walden has a good set of pipes and sings quite well. This would be further proven later in his solo pop career. Yet, the melody of "Gita" with its ascending lines and wild guitar synthesizer work was every bit a part of the fusion legacy that the Orchestra was still building. One could easily imagine the tune, played without the vocals, being a killer live number. Some 30 years later the song is heard with fewer expectations. I enjoy it because I know what has come since. But an honest review must consider "Gita" in its original context. For the melody, band performance and early use of the guitar synthesizer, I give a 90 rating. For the shock of hearing the vocals at that time – no matter how talented Walden was or the spiritual message of the lyrics – I give a 70 rating. We split the difference and bestow an 80 rating.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky