Visions Of An Inner Mountaining Apocalypse
Personnel: Jeff Richman: Guitar, Producer, and arranger
Vinnie Colaiuta: Drums
Kai Eckhardt: Bass
Mitchel Forman: Keyboards
With Jerry Goodman: Violin
Birds Of Fire featuring Steve Lukather
Can’t Stand Your Funk featuring Mike Stern
Celestial Terrestrial Commuters featuring Steve Morse
Meeting Of The Spirits featuring Jimmy Herring
Jazz featuring Jeff Richman
Dawn featuring Frank Gambale
Lila’s Dance featuring Warren Hayes
Faith featuring David Fiuczynski
Dance Of Maya featuring Greg Howe
Follow Your Heart featuring John Abercrombie
This is a musical salute featuring various guitarists performing the music of guitarist/composer John McLaughlin. Tribute recordings can be hit or miss affairs. One problem lies in the selection of the guest musicians. While attempting to be diverse, the assembled musicians usually represent so many different styles of music (from be-bop accordion players to folk-rap singers) that the collected songs become a crapshoot rather than a celebration of an artist and their music.
When I read the list of musicians that are on the CD, I became excited. The selection of featured guitar players is very impressive. Not only are the musicians in the supporting rhythm section equally as impressive; most of them have played with John McLaughlin. And for extra firepower: original Mahavishnu Orchestra violinist Jerry Goodman appears on four tracks.
Another potential problem lies in creating new arrangements for the songs. Comparisons between the original version and the new arrangement are unavoidable. If you don’t do a straight cover of a tune, then the new arrangement must strike a balance between staying close to the essence of the song, and stretching it out enough to make something new with it. This is not always easy to do—and even harder in this case, given the odd-time, rhythms, and other complexities of the material.
Other than some of the pieces seeming to drag a little, rhythmically and tempo-wise (which admittedly is a personal nit-pick); I think the arrangements retain the character and spirit of the originals while doing what they’re supposed to do: give the guest musician something to sink his teeth into. And there is plenty of great playing throughout the 10 tracks.The liner notes do not say whether the guest musicians selected the piece they played, or whether the producer chose for them. This would have been good to know, because it provides insight into the song selection.
Some of my fave tracks on the CD are:
– Faith featuring David Fiuczynski. This track is from Visions of the Emerald Beyond. What’s surprising is that the original is such a short piece, you wouldn’t think of this as a piece you can jam over. But it works. Fuze uses a nasty, growling tone and just smokes this one.
– Meeting Of The Spirits featuring Jimmy Herring. This song is from The Inner Mounting Flame. Jimmy Herring couldn’t play a wrong note if he wanted to. And he lets it rip on this track. His playing and tone of his guitar manages to capture the spirit of the original version. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (who probably eats Mahavishnu tracks for breakfast) gets a chance to show why he’s a certified Monster.
– Dawn featuring Frank Gambale with Jerry Goodman. Another song from The Inner Mounting Flame. This is a real treat: violinist Jerry Goodman revisits a song that he first played almost 34 years ago. You just melt when Jerry and Frank Gambale play the main theme together.
– Follow Your Heart featuring John Abercrombie. This is from the classic recording, My Goal’s Beyond. This is a great pairing of song and musician. Abercrombie has the touch, and the taste, that does this song proper justice.
Ultimately, what you want a Tribute CD to do is provide a starting point for a music-lover who might not be familiar with the artists’ music. Hopefully they will check out the original versions and discover on their own why John McLaughlin has been influential; that his music stands the test of time; and that he’s one helluva guitar player. And in the process of discovery: becoming a fan, as well. I believe this CD could serve that purpose.