What does it sound like?:
Let me start by saying my John McLaughlin knowledge is pretty limited – Inner Mounting Flame, Birds Of Fire and the one he did with Santana, Love, Devotion, Surrender. So I came to this collaboration not knowing too much about it or its participants – for the record they are John Surman (sax), Karl Berger (vibraphone), Stu Martin (drums) and Dave Holland (bass).
Recorded in New York in 1970 and originally released in 1971, this album has now been given the usual remastering treatment, although there are no bonus tracks. As to the important bit, the music itself, it’s hard to get a handle on it. There’s no doubting the talent and technique of the five players, but it’s quite a challenging listen. It’s not really rock or even fusion really – I suppose you could call it free form jazz. I’m hoping Colin H will perhaps put me right on this! The individuals do contribute fairly equally here, so it is a genuine collaborative effort (I think when it was first released McLaughlin was given star billing), although all the compositions are written by either McLaughlin, whose impeccable chops are on display throughout, or Surman. The two shorter songs are rather easier to assimilate, but it’s on the three lengthier pieces, Going Backwards, New Place Old Place and Hope, that the musicians really stretch their legs. There don’t seem to be too many repeated themes here; it’s much more along the lines of free improvisation, so your appetite for that sort of unstructured playing will determine your opinion of the record.
What does it all *mean*?
Interesting to hear from a historical perspective, particularly in the light of McLaughlin’s subsequent success and popularity.
Goes well with…
A broad mind and a willingness to try anything once.
Might suit people who like…
Free form jazz, improvisation, maybe Miles’ Bitches Brew.