The Inner Mounting Flame [Columbia, 1971]
Birds of Fire [Columbia, 1972]
Between Nothingness and Eternity [Columbia, 1973]
Apocalypse [Columbia, 1974]
Visions of The Emerald Beyond [Columbia, 1975]
Inner Worlds [Columbia, 1976]
First thing you need to know is there were multiple "orchestras". Once the original group (McL, Hammer (yeah, the Miami Vice guy, don't hold it against him), Goodman, Cobham, whoever the bassist was) broke up, McL continued using the name for at least one lp, maybe more. The one you need is Between Nothingness and Eternity, the live one with the galaxy on the front. MO were one of the LOUDest bands ever, this is a good document of that. Riffage like King Kong's mama's jogging thru your backyard, impossibly fast soloing from e-guitar, violin & minimoog simultaneously... sounds like I'm describing a Metallica record, doesn't it? So be it. The ultimate out jazz/heavy metal fusion (at least til the Boredoms). Back in high school I watched a tripping friend get down on his knees during Side 2 and start begging the speakers to forgive him his sins. No idea if it worked. Buy or die. The earlier two Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire haven't aged so well. Birds in particular seems really schematic to me now, like they're showing off, "look ma, *modes*", but they haven't really figured out how to make music out of the material yet. IMF is kinda in-between Devotion and Birds stylistically, has some moments for sure, but is kinda passable. [JF]
Birds of Fire sure ain't my favourite MO album. Seems at this point, the quintet were trying to outplay each other and the results strike me as being way too self-conscious and pedantic. Even their reworking of "One Word" can't sustain the loose funk that opens the cut, as the group reverts back to their quintessentially overwound executions. It may have been the shit at the time, but IMO this album really didn't age as well as its contemporaries. Perversely enough, my favourite Mahavishnu moment happens on the much maligned Inner Worlds lp, on a track called "Miles Out." Mark III was a group at their loosest (as well as their most hideously commercial, natch.) This cut combines a simple persistent bassline with McLaughlin gettin' crazy on frequency-shifted guitar. Oh sure, he's still bending light with his runs, but the heavy processing results in something truly otherworldly (innerworldly?) [DW]
Visions is by far their best album, totally mind-blowing. If you like these guys(which i don't know how you couldn't) also check out the Lost Trident Sessions. "I Wonder" off that is absolutely amazing!
How could you not mention Visons of the emerald beyond???