Friday, November 6, 2015

John Mclaughlin - 1978 "Electric Dreams"

Electric Dreams is the sixth solo album by English jazz guitarist John McLaughlin and his "One Truth Band", released in 1979. Between his fourth and fifth solo albums he spent several years active with the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
While performing with Miles Davis, Davis had titled a song on the album Bitches Brew after McLaughlin. McLaughlin returns the favour here, naming a song "Miles Davis".

At this point, it is easy to see that the John McLaughlin story has become a peripatetic journey of electric-acoustic switchbacks, with the formation of the One Truth Band that plays on this CD being just another short chapter in the saga. And this time, McLaughlin is thoroughly in charge: there is little of the competitive dueling or tightly drilled, high-volume unison lines of the past; it's the guitarist and his sidemen, although sometimes keyboardist Stu Goldberg steps out with some wicked chops. McLaughlin returns Miles Davis' favor of naming a piece on Bitches Brew after him by turning the tables, and indeed, "Miles Davis" often has the loose, jamming feeling (and a quote of "It's About That Time") of the maestro's own jazz-rock sessions. There are also some aftershocks from the Shakti experience on "Love and Understanding." For the most part, though, McLaughlin conforms to the controlled funk and electronic sounds of the times, with generally more restraint and a considerable musical payoff. 

The last three minutes of "Desire and the Comforter" from Electric Dreams say it all about John McLaughlin. He just tears apart his electric guitar with cascades of funk, blues, rock, jazz, and Far-Eastern scales. Every strike of a string has individual meaning. His guitar soars above the chord changes and captures the spirit of the music. He leaves space (or texture) where it should be left. Like no other guitarist on earth, John McLaughlin knows when not to play, despite claims from those who say he plays too many notes. And even though there are a million notes a minute on this tune, the spaces in between the notes create the epiphany.

McLaughlin recorded Electric Dreams with the One Truth Band, which also included L. Shankar on violin, Tony Smith on drums, Stu Goldberg on keyboards, Fernando Saunders on bass, and Alyrio Lima handling various percussion duties. The OTB was a much more rhythmic unit than JM's previous bands, and although its members may not have been the "master" musicians like those who comprised The Mahavishnu Orchestra, they certainly knew how to "funk a groove". Electric Dreams is full of such grooves and infectious tunes. Sure, we could have lived without the God-awful "Love and Understanding". But Electric Dreams offers the beautiful "Electric Dreams, Electric Sighs", featuring JM on banjo! The classic “Dark Prince” is a brooding, straight-ahead jazz-fusion homage to Miles that overshadows the album’s other Miles tribute piece, “Miles Davis."

On this recording, McLaughlin used a guitar that had a scalloped fret board. The concave spaces allowed McLaughlin to stretch notes beyond believability. A main component of the band's sound, Shankar's far-eastern violin, does seem ill placed at times, and Goldberg's synth patches are outdated in some areas as well. But, these issues actually endow the album with a bit of charm. The veterans Smith and Saunders make for a very steady rhythm section. Lima is more effective in concert than on this recording. Saxophonist David Sanborn, a guest star on several McLaughlin albums, makes a more than welcome guest appearance on the haunting “Unknown Dissident”.

The mix wasn't always successful. But on the whole, Electric Dreams offers some of the best composing and playing of McLaughlin's career and has been unfairly overlooked.

Tracks Listing

1. Guardian Angels (0:52)
2. Miles Davis (4:54)
3. Electric Dreams, Electric Sighs (6:27)
4. Desire And The Comforter (7:35)
5. Love And Understanding (6:39)
6. Singing Earth (0:38)
7. The Dark Prince (5:17)
8. The Unknown Dissident (6:18)

Total Time 39:05

Line-up / Musicians

- John McLaughlin / Electric guitar, 6 + 12 + 13 string acoustic guitars and banjo
- L. Shankar / Acoustic and electric violin
- Stu Goldberg / Electric piano, Moog synthesizer with Steiner Parker modifications, Prophet synthesizer, Hammond organ
- Fernando Sanders - Fender bass, acoustic bass, vocals on "Love And Understanding"
- Tony Smith / Drums and vocals
- Alyrio Lima / Percussion, amplified Chinese cymbals
- David Sanborn / Alto saxophone on "The Unknown Dissident"



  2. A very cool transitional album from him. Had this way back in high school. Thanks.

  3. John is the Jimmy Page of Fusion!! Not afraid to grab a limb and shake it and see what falls out!

  4. You got the date wrong. It came out in 1979.

  5. Strange this. The date on the scans also say 1978 but I remember buying it in 1979 as soon as it came out so I can only surmise the record company got the date wrong when they reissued it in 1992 from which these scans come from. In 1978 McLaughlin put out Electric Guitarist which is also excellent.

  6. Thank you very much, and very aprecciated zippy...!