The music of John McLaughlin has stretched across an expanse of decades. Only now, are there beginning to be those that recognize his guitar playing genius as he moved from stage to stage, first as a jazz musician, then becoming one of the fathers of jazz/rock fusion, before moving into guitar playing as an instrument of exploration and spirituality. I first encountered the brilliance of John McLaughlin as he began emerging into his fusion period with Mahavishnu Orchestra. This watershed band incorporated the drumming of Billy Cobham, the keyboards of Jan Hammer (who went on to not only create his own music but also played with Jeff Beck on Beck’s essential late ‘70s instrumentals), Jerry Goodman, and Rick Laird.
But before that, McLaughlin played with many of the jazz and blues greats that include Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Alexis Korner, and Tony Williams, amongst other notable names. At one time, McLaughlin even played with pre-Cream Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker in a jazz ensemble. McLaughlin’s rich history even includes session work for well-known bands including working on Metamorphosis by The Rolling Stones, as well as with names like Tom Jones, Petula Clark, David Bowie, and others. After Mahavishnu Orchestra. McLaughlin worked with fellow Sri Chimmoy adherent, Carlos Santana on the excellent Love, Devotion, Surrender. His explorations after that were with world music band, Shakti, as well as other collaborations. Rich career? A resounding YES!
The Essential John McLaughlin does as neat a job as it can in assembling a reasonable overview of the works of John McLaughlin, if even it leaves many things under-represented. But with a career such as McLaughlin has enjoyed, there can only be small chronological forays into the musical history of John McLaughlin. And as many would state at this point, “…it’s better than nothing, right?” The great hope here is that many would become interested in several of the many phases of his career to check them out more extensively. Rock, you like? Mahavishnu Orchestra. Jazz? Then invest in his many jazz involvements – be sure to listen to the unmatched “Right Off” from A Tribute to Jack Johnson with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham, and Michael Henderson, included on this 2CD retrospective as a 17-minute edit. Guitar appreciation? Eastern influences? Then explore with his many post-Mahavishu Orchestra works. There much to respect about John McLaughlin and The Essential John McLaughlin is a great way to introduce yourself to this unsung virtuoso.
This 2CD spread includes a booklet that contains a very informative liner note from author, Bill Milkowski. There are additional photos, extensive track credits, and plenty of McLaughlin goodness here to enjoy. Where edits occurred on this set, the emphasis on John McLaughlin remained.
It’s about time that someone started paying some attention. You’re going to come away an avid fan of John McLaughlin. I guarantee it.