The Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds Of Fire
John McLaughlin - guitar [click here to see more vinyl featuring John McLaughlin]
Jerry Goodman (violin), Jan Hammer (keyboards, synthesizer), Rick Laird (bass), Billy Cobham (drums, percussion)
Written by John McLaughlin, except B3 written by Bob Brookmeyer and John McLaughlin
1 LP, standard sleeve
Original analog Master tape : YES
Heavy Press : 180g
Record color : black
Speed : 33 RPM
Size : 12'’
Record Press : Pallas
Label : Speakers Corner
Original Label : Columbia
Recording: August 1972 at Trident Studios, London, by Ken Scott and CBS-Studios, New York, by Jim Green
Production: The Mahavishnu Orchestra
Originally released in 1973
Reissued in 2019
Side A :
1. Birds Of Fire
2. Miles Beyond
3. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters
4. Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love
5. Thousand Island Park
Side B :
1. One Word
3. Open Country Joy
« Emboldened by the popularity of Inner Mounting Flame among rock audiences, the first Mahavishnu Orchestra set out to further define and refine its blistering jazz-rock direction in its second -- and, no thanks to internal feuding, last -- studio album. Although it has much of the screaming rock energy and sometimes exaggerated competitive frenzy of its predecessor, Birds of Fire is audibly more varied in texture, even more tightly organized, and thankfully more musical in content. A remarkable example of precisely choreographed, high-speed solo trading -- with John McLaughlin, Jerry Goodman, and Jan Hammer all of one mind, supported by Billy Cobham's machine-gun drumming and Rick Laird's dancing bass -- can be heard on the aptly named "One Word," and the title track is a defining moment of the group's nearly atonal fury. The band also takes time out for a brief bit of spaced-out electronic burbling and static called "Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love." Yet the most enticing pieces of music on the record are the gorgeous, almost pastoral opening and closing sections to "Open Country Joy," a relaxed, jocular bit of communal jamming that they ought to have pursued further. This album actually became a major crossover hit, rising to number 15 on the pop album charts, and it remains the key item in the first Mahavishnu Orchestra's slim discography. » AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell
« English guitarist John McLaughlin has often been described as a guitarist’s guitarist. Players like Pat Metheny and Jeff Beck have referred to him as the greatest living guitarist. His uncanny mix of highly charged electric guitar and fusion incorporated Indian classicism, Western classical music, psychedelic blues, flamenco, and jazz is unique. McLaughlin first came to prominence as a member of Miles Davis’ band, with credits on In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, On The Corner, Big Fun and A Tribute To Jack Johnson. His solo debut, Devotion (1970) featured Larry Young, Buddy Miles and Billy Rich, setting in motion the template for amplified fusion. In the early 1970’s McLaughlin assembled the first incarnation of his renowned band The Mahavishnu Orchestra. With Jerry Goodman (The Flock) on violin, Rick Laird (Brian Auger Trinity) on bass, Jan Hammer (Keith Jarrett) on keyboards and r & b legend Billy Cobham on drums, Mahavishnu Orchestra exploded onto the scene with their 1971 release The Inner Mounting Flame. This was followed by the unexpectedly successful (first jazz rock instrumental to make it into Billboards Top 20 rock albums) Birds Of Fire in 1973. The volatility of the musical genre-bending quintet was evident in their musical exploration and band dissension. Regarded as the quintessential lineup (there were various changes throughout the years), the unbridled passion and ferocity of this band had a huge impact on the 70’s music scene.
Speakers Corner has reissued a 180-gram vinyl of Birds Of Fire. The sonic intensity and improbable genre blending is as compelling now as it was 45 years ago. Side One opens with the title track ushered in by a simple gong. McLaughlin and Goodman set up a deep groove as J.M. unleashes a piercing, high-volume solo. Cobham, Hammer and Laird propel this visceral jam and it is sublimely relentless. Goodman offers a counterpoint. The fusion-based tempo is hypnotic. The tribute to jazz icon Miles Davis (“Miles Beyond”) is a groove-fest. Hammer lays down soulful hooks on electric piano as the band enters in full, cohesive mode. Goodman pushes the electric tonality of his violin on the first verse. Eventually, McLaughlin unleashes a concise “machine gun” guitar solo. This fusion-tempo discourse continues on “Celestial Terrestrial Commuters” with Hammer on Moog synthesizer and electric piano. Goodman and especially McLaughlin cut loose with dynamic abandon.
Following a quirky 25 second electronic interlude (“Sapphire Bullets Of Love”), McLaughlin showcases his fluency on classical guitar with a brilliant performance (“Thousand Island Park”). Accompanied by Hammer on piano, the guitarist is nothing short of virtuosic as he infuses pastoral, folk elegance. There is inherent spirituality with Mahavishnu Orchestra. :”Hope” a brief (2:00) piece has repeat chord progression that fills the ears with a swirling aspiration. Side Two returns to the hard-driving energy. In the nearly 10 minute opus “One Word”, Cobham leads the group with a propulsive drum. A rare solo by Baird at the 1:42 mark is surrounded by jagged electric guitar and Fender Rhodes shading. Then scorching effects-laden runs by McLaughlin and Goodman are alternated and done in counterpoint. Cobham’s extended solo is monumental, leading into an explosive finish. As if to allow the listener to catch a breath, the atmospheric “Sanctuary” feels like an electric meditation with an Indian-influenced melody. There are spacey keyboards and the rolling flow is mesmerizing. In stark contrast, “Open Country Joy’ is playful for the opening minute. But McLaughlin, backed by a funk rock groove erupts in a searing guitar solo. The eventual return to country roots showcases Goodman’s lyrical “fiddle” techniques. “Resolution” is a two-minute capsule of the chord modulating fusion that epitomizes this band.
Speakers Corner has done justice to this seminal recording. The sonic explosiveness of McLaughlin’s guitar is captured in all it’s distorted glory. To fully appreciate the Birds Of Fire vinyl upgrade, listening to it at increased volume with superior headphones is recommended. The ear-splitting, incendiary power of this band (and of course McLaughlin’s guitar) is spellbinding. » Robbie Gerson, Audiophile Audition, Apr 16, 2019
Of the three 'incarnations' by the spiritually inspired Mahavishnu Orchestra, the first is the most full-bodied. The enlightened John McLaughlin and his musicians were immortalized through their début album "The Inner Mounting Flame", which was included in the list of the 100 Best Jazz Albums; a short time later they recorded their highly concentrated studio compilation "Birds Of Fire".
Long before today’s saleably labelled World Music, the quintet set the standards for a meaningful amalgamation of dynamic rock with complex Indian rhythms and occidental conventions. Already in the title piece, the musicians combine a sharpened Hendrix style with expansive melodies, and with smacking grooves and fine riffs draw all that is grand in jazz ("Miles Beyond") into the musical centre. With almost chamber-music-like density, "Thousand Island Park" blossoms out in soft colours, whilst as a contrast unremittingly flowing cascades in "Hope" search desperately for their destination.
It is thrilling how finely weighed patterns ("One Word") escalate to techno-like violin playing and how the listener is invited to take part in an inner procession in the following "Sanctuary". After such soaring heights, we are brought back to earth with a familiar funky sound in a popular, pastoral vein ("Open Country Joy") before taking off abruptly once again: in the final piece, "Resolution" with its slowly rising carpets of sound, all that is sublime in New Music conquers over world cultures.
AllMusic : 5 / 5 , Discogs : Rate Your Music :