Saturday, March 3, 2012

Favorite Albums: Electric Guitarist by John McLaughlin (1978)

One of my favorite albums from the 1970's is Electric Guitarist by John McLaughlin, released on CBS records in 1978. The album is the epitome of Jazz/Rock fusion music. It is pure jazz in the structure of the songs, with changing time signatures and improvisation; it is rock in its electric sound and impact.

Joining McLaughlin for this album is a Who's Who of 1970's Jazz/rock stars, including Keyboardist Chick Corea, drummers Billy Cobham, Tony Williams, and Jack DeJohnette, bassists Stanley Clarke,  Jack Bruce, and Alphonso Johnson, guitarist Carlos Santana, saxophonist David Sanborn, and others.

John McLaughlin at this stage of his career was the preeminent guitarist in the music world, playing with an extremely high level of virtuosity.  McLaughlin was an established band leader with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He was also a great innovator for jazz, the electric guitar, and music in general.

This album displays all of these gifts and talents of John McLaughlin. One thing that is unfortunate about modern music is that CD releases contain a lot of filler since the CD can fit almost 80 minutes of music on it. John McLaughlin expresses more on this 38 minute LP than a lot of artists say in a career.

Being a bassist myself, two of my favorite songs on the album feature two of my favorite bassists, Stanley Clarke on the track, “Did you hear the voices that you left behind?” and Jack Bruce on “Are you the one? Are you the one?”, a Coltrane tribute.

Clarke's solo on upright bass is typical of his playing, in that it has the fluidity and lyricism one associates with the electric fretless bass guitar. Jack Bruce soloing on the electric fretless bass provides a choppy, funky bass solo.

The song, “Phenomenon: Compulsion” features just McLaughlin on electric guitar, and Billy Cobham on drums.  It is a powerful, musical rush.

McLaughlin closes the set with a soulful, solo electric guitar ballad, “My Foolish Heart.”

If one wanted to use one LP to show 1970's Jazz-Rock fusion music at its best, John McLaughlin's Electric Guitarist would be a great choice.

Track Listing

1. New York on My Mind
2. Friendship  
3. Every Tear from Every Eye  
4. Do You Hear the Voices You Left Behind?
5. Are You the One? Are You the One?
6. Phenomenon: Compulsion
7. My Foolish Heart

Below is my YouTube play list of five of the songs from the album:

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