John McLaughlin

The Heart of Things: Live in Paris

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John McLaughlin's 1997 The Heart of Things studio album and subsequent tour saw him returning to the sort of electric band format that most listeners associated with his days in the Mahavishnu Orchestra of the 1970s. This live album features the same group, with the exception of the keyboard player, as Otmaro Ruiz replaces Jim Beard, and three of the selections are drawn from the studio release. "Seven Sisters," which is actually shorter than the studio version, makes for a fairly mellow opening, while the new "Mother Tongue" is full of extremely rapid solos by McLaughlin, Ruiz, bass player Matthew Garrison, and Gary Thomas, who switches saxophones during the course of the nearly 13-minute tune. "Fallen Angels," another song from the studio release, is a slow, contemplative work, while "Divide" makes use of funk rhythms to support some noisy guitar work from McLaughlin and a solo full of electronic burps from Ruiz. The album's showpiece song is "Tony," a stately tribute to the late drummer Tony Williams that, appropriately enough gives drummer Dennis Chambers his chance to shine. One might complain that "Acid Jazz," the fiery closer, has nothing to do with the musical style that goes by that name, but McLaughlin obviously means to suggest an evolution of 1960s acid rock by the title, and he deliberately evokes Jimi Hendrix in playing that brings him as close to the Mahavishnu Orchestra sound as he has been in many years. It makes a powerful ending to an album that should be welcomed by long-time fans. (As if to emphasize that this was only one of his interests, however, McLaughlin simultaneously released both this disc and The Believer, an album with his Indian unit Remember Shakti, on October 3, 2000.)

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