John McLaughlin – Floating Point (CD)/Meeting of the Minds – Abstract Logix ABLX 011 – CD + DVD

by | Jul 31, 2008 | CD+DVD | 0 comments

John McLaughlin – Floating Point (CD)/Meeting of the Minds (DVD)  – Abstract Logix ABLX 011 – CD + DVD, CD: 60 min., DVD: 80 min. ***:

John McLaughlin has always been a true innovator on the guitar, and his collaborations with the likes of Tony Williams, Miles Davis and his own Mahavishnu Orchestra are legendary. Not unlike many of the musicians from the sixties, he also became enamored with Eastern spirituality, an experience that also led to an appreciation for the music and musicians of Eastern India and their very rich culture. His musical endeavors with the raga-based acoustic group Shakti reflected his years of intense study and attention to Indian music, and he’s engaged in frequent ventures in subsequent years with numerous Eastern artists. This new set combines a generously-proportioned CD along with a “making of” DVD that documents his latest encounter with the musicians from the East.

The 80-minute accompanying DVD shows the artists in the studio over the five-day period the album was recorded, and is broken into chapters for each day. The only audio option is a 2.0 stereo soundtrack, and this, combined with the limited menu options, makes for some confusion when first viewing. The only bonus material on the disc is a commentary by John McLaughlin, which is also in 2.0 stereo, and the base audio track runs concurrent to the commentary. Usually these commentaries either isolate the comments or suppress the normal soundtrack somewhat, and John McLaughlin’s comments just flow along with the onscreen action so seamlessly, it took several tries on my part before I was absolutely certain that the commentary was engaged. This is all fine and well, it just required a little intuitive effort to sort things out. The video itself is very well done, and offers a 16:9 presentation with overall very good image quality, and is an interesting exploration of the creative process in the studio.

Unfortunately, and despite the many good qualities of this CD/DVD offering, I just didn’t find the music all that engaging on any kind of emotional level. John McLaughlin, as usual with most of his previous entanglements with Eastern Indian artists, has selflessly placed himself and his instrument in the background, clearly placing the focus on the players surrounding him. While his intent is noble and clear, the end result is that we don’t get to hear a whole lot of his truly distinctive and often fiery guitar work. I also felt the music relied a little to heavily on the keyboards of Louiz Banks, and the resulting music took off in a direction other than what I would have personally desired. Of course, this has been par for the course for John McLaughlin throughout his career – his entire life’s work and discography has been a series of incredibly successful hits and collaborations and less than commercially or artistically satisfying misses. He cannot be faulted, however, for staying true to his personal vision regardless of the commercial ramifications.

The CD/DVD set is extremely educational as an exposé of the creative process in the studio. And while I have a very keen appreciation of John McLaughlin’s generosity of spirit, I ultimately found the resulting music frequently less than inspiring. True fans, however, will probably find it an essential – albeit somewhat less than fully engaging – musical experience.

TrackList for CD: Abbaji (for Ustad Alla Rakha); Raju; Maharina; Off the One; The Voice; Inside Out; 1 4 U; Five Peace Band.

— Tom Gibbs

 

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