Jeff Melton 17-March-2001 Birds of Fire

Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire (Sony Legacy, CD, 1972/2000)

Sony Legacy continues its lauded reissue series of 1970's classic fusion with the second album by John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. Birds of Fire was the culmination of a solid year opening gigs for the likes of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the Allman Brothers, and Yes. The evolution of the five-piece ensemble is evident in the group cohesion, which is more clearly refined here than on their thunderous debut, The Inner Mounting Flame. Jan Hammer had only just started using what would become his trademark Mini-Moog (highlighted on "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters"). The band was a marvel of harnessed energy and finesse (witnessed by the furious opening title track). This new remix of the album adds much-needed keyboard and drum definition to the mix. Plus the semi-classical pieces such as "Thousand Island Park" carry a fragile beauty where Hammer's piano understates McLaughlin's acoustic guitar with excellent foundation bass from Rick Laird. The band also exhibited pacing as shown on "Miles Beyond," McLaughlin's nod of tribute to Davis. "Hope" is an example of a short piece which spotlights the building approach the group used to develop themes. The big showcase piece on the disc is "One Word" where the group got to stretch out a bit more with Billy Cobham exhibiting masterful control of the quick tempo change. One key point to keep in mind is in 1973 this album was a Billboard chart topping success for the last week of January that year. The album remains a shining reminder of the Camelot period of early 70's pop music.

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