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Mahavishnu Orchestra

Live at Montreux DVD

Review by Gary Hill

This is a two DVD set featuring two Mahavishnu appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival. For those who think that only the original lineup of the group is really Mahavishnu, this is probably a set to pass on. For the rest of us, though, we get some great Mahavishnu Orchestra music. We have a disc from 1984 and one from 1974. Both feature some killer John McLaughlin performances. The rest of the band (both lineups) are impressive, too – but for many it will be McLaughlin who steals the show. In the 1984 show McLaughlin plays through a Synclavier for most of the set, giving his notes a sound closer to a synthesizer than a guitar. While this is an intriguing variation, I’m not so sure that it’s how I prefer a guitar to sound. Still, the music is inspired and the performance is on the money. The 1974 disc includes only two tracks in video performance, but four more in audio only mode. This one shows some of the limitations of the technology of the time. While the performances are possibly superior to the first disc, the recorfding leaves something to be desired. The bottom line: this is a great set that should please most fans of Mahavishnu Orchestra. Those who only enjoy the first lineup of the band will probably avoid it like the plague. For the rest of us this is a great release that could have been better if the source material on the 1974 video had been captured better.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at
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