Thursday, November 9, 2017

John McLaughlin - 1982 [2013] "Music Spoken Here"

Music Spoken Here is an album by John McLaughlin, released in 1982 through Warner Music Group. The album reached number 24 in the Billboard Jazz Albums chart 1983.

Though this fitfully inspired yet always intelligently musical record is an electric album, McLaughlin is more often heard on acoustic guitar in something resembling his electric manner, along with more pronounced classical and flamenco influences. This quintet, along with bass and drums, contained two keyboard players, Francois Couturier and the noted classical pianist Katia Labeque (who was McLaughlin's companion). Labeque, seated at a Synclavier and a grand piano, has acres of technique and almost no feeling for jazz, though she is adept at providing moody backdrops, and her rapid-fire synth runs and Jarrett-like etudes on the Steinway aren't too far away stylistically from McLaughlin's helter-skelter flurries. In a continued homage to McLaughlin's once and future employer Miles Davis, "Blues for L.W." brazenly quotes "Blues for Pablo," and sometimes the music texturally resembles the heavily synthesized things that Miles would soon be putting out.

 Music Spoken Here features the same line-up as the previous year’s Belo Horizonte. MSH is a little rougher around the edges than the earlier effort. This may be seen as an improvement to some, as the music is a bit wilder. But to others, the compositions may seem a bit weaker. However, make no mistake about it: this is a fine album with much to offer.

"David" is the highlight of the album. For several years, McLaughlin played this piece on tour and demonstrated why the acoustic guitar, when played brilliantly, may be one of the most expressive instruments on the planet. (Also listen to the Trio's version on Passion, Grace and Fire. ) Another piece of note is "Negative Ions," a murky tune that toys with our inner demons. Mclaughlin obtains a truly strange tone and sound on this cut. He appears to be playing an electric for this piece, but the original liner notes do not confirm this.

Classical and jazz pianist Katia LaBeque lets loose with some furious written-out runs that, although well played, sound a little too rehearsed for a jazz album. Her sound however, does help to define this music, giving it a European flavor.

Music Spoken Here comes awfully close to New Age music in places, as did Belo Horizonte, but as with all McLaughlin's recordings, there is more than meets the ear. Just when you think the man is going soft, he unleashes a torrent of sound which ensures the tune will never make any New Age radio play list!

Tommy Campbell deserves a few words. His drumming on two records and two tours was outstanding. In the end, McLaughlin said that this music really couldn’t go on in the way he intended, because his desire to play acoustic on stage was overwhelmed by the volume of the drums. In order to be heard, he had to turn his volume way up, and this led to major feedback problems. Perhaps McLaughlin should have relied upon Tommy in an electric fusion band. For now, we will have to settle for two very good recordings.

John McLaughlin is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists in the history of music. Making albums from the 60's through the present, his intense guitar work with The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis gave birth to jazz/fusion. In the early 80's, he recorded three albums for Warner Bros. Records. Music Spoken Here features John on acoustic guitar backed by an electric band. It was recorded in France along with its companion piece, Belo Horizonte. Mr. McLaughlin has a fanatical following.

Music Spoken Here is fresh and modern and impeccably played forward-looking music. The one big thing that sails this disc into the future is the Synclavier played by Katia Labeque. She is supreme on the Steinway as well. And of course, McLaughlin's fluent writing and supple guitar playing on both electric and acoustic--he's so far out there on each. Aspan powers in with synth and drum rolls to the main melody. Unbelievably fast riffs from both keys and guitar with drums and acoustic bass holding it together. Musicianship is unquestioned on this entire spacious set--all the players are quite advanced. Blues For L.W., The Translators, Honky Tonk Haven all brilliant. Honky Tonk Haven especially so. The original lp (which I purchased for $7.97) ends side one with a very short flamenco piece Viene Clareando. "Side two" begins with solo guitar into selection called David. Lifts nicely with Synclavier and bass sustaining--drums setting the background. Lovely melody, bass solo. This whole record, by the way, continues the pace set by previous album Belo Horizonte from 1981. Also an excellent recording. Next is the Negative Ions piece which picks up with big drums. Brise De Coeur is a sparkling piano and guitar duet. Loro finishes out the work--a buoyant melody if ever there was one. I see that this disc is priced in the many dollars area. Too bad. New people need access to this music. I know that I never tire of learning from it. Music Spoken Here is a beautiful and memorable project of fine artistry, but probably was not of high Profitability. Therefore, few humans will know that it existed.

Track listing:

1. "Aspan" (John McLaughlin) – 5:42
2. "Blues for L.W." (McLaughlin) – 6:21
3. "The Translators" (McLaughlin) – 2:38
4. "Honky-Tonk Haven" (McLaughlin, Shankar) – 4:08
5. "Viene Clareando" (Segundo Aredes, Atahualpa Yupanqui) – 0:32
6. "David" (McLaughlin) – 7:47
7. "Negative Ions" (McLaughlin) – 3:52
8. "Brise De Coeur" (McLaughlin) – 5:20
9. "Loro" (Egberto Gismonti) – 2:11


John McLaughlin – guitar
Katia LaBeque – keyboards
Francois Couturier – keyboards
Jean Paul Celea – bass
Tommy Campbell – drums