John McLaughlin: guitar
Rick Laird: bass
Billy Cobham: drums, percussion
Jan Hammer: keyboards, organ
Jerry Goodman: violin
“This is a masterpiece!!” exclaimed a very focused looking gentlemen as he held up a fresh pressing of The Inner Mounting Flame at a record fair I recently attended. It had been a long time since I listened to it; so that night I threw it on the Hi Fi, grabbed a cold beverage and sat back and listened.
Right from the start, you can tell this is something special. “Meeting of the Spirits” is the first track and really sets the tone for the rest of the record. All the seeds of what you will hear later are there; beautiful slow parts as well as blinding guitar and violin solos. It’s got heavy, it’s got light – it has it all. McLaughlin’s brilliance is evident everywhere on it. Oh and if you don’t already know who Billy Cobham is, you will surely want to hear more. He’s one of the best drummers ever.
“Dawn” starts as a very nice laidback piece that may remind you of sitting outside on a nice summer evening. It then builds into a great funky jam and Jerry Goodman’s violin holds with McLaughlin the whole way through. Up next is the spastic “Noonward Race” where Rick Lairs’ bass really shines – some great funky stuff.
“A Lotus on Irish Streams” is a beautiful, mostly acoustic piece that harkens a little Baroque style meshed with sort of Irish folk music. Jerry Goodman is very prominent on this piece as well as Jan Hammer’s lovely piano. Once again Billy Cobham will blow your mind in the first few seconds of “Vital Transformation.”
“The Dance of Maya” is just cool; sounds like Alice in Chains 20 years before they existed. “You Know, You Know” is my personal favorite cut on the album. It’s just a nice hypnotic sort of groove and again Cobbham is amazing.
“Awaking” closes out the album with a fury! My fingers get sore just thinking about trying to play this stuff. The whole band is firing on all cylinders and it is really just amazing to listen to the speed and accuracy they are able to achieve.
This is a record that really established John McLaughlin as a true great. The work he did with Miles Davis on ‘Bitches Brew’ and in a ‘Silent Way’ are expanded upon here with definitely more guitar and more rock in the fusion formula. The whole band is incredible and McLaughlin’s ability for speed and substance prove his virtuosity beyond any doubt. That guy at the record fair was right – “THIS IS A MASTERPIECE!!”