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“There is nothing fleeting about John Mclaughlin's...”

Written on: 29/08/2006 by jfderry (208 reviews written)

There is nothing fleeting about John Mclaughlin's interest in the religion, culture and music of India, his head being turned eastwards first by Graham Bond in the early 1960's, "He was interested in the invisible things in life. He introduced me to a book about ancient Egyptian culture, and I got very interested in this because, for the first time in my life, I realized that a human being is much more than meets the eye". He searched for literature in the London library of the Theosophical Society, which informed him about India, eastern philosophy, and yoga and formed friendships with like-minded musicians, for example, sitting in on The Koan for Big Jim Sullivan's Sitar Beat back in 1967.

Yoga was an important focus after his move to New York in 1969, by which time John McLaughlin had a good understanding of the Carnatic and Hindustani schools of Indian music. Guesting on Rawalpindi Blues on Carla Bley's Escalator Over The Hill was probably coincidental, but continued interest arose from reading the Sufi messages of Hazrat lnayat Khan and via the personal teachings of Sri Chinmoy and Ravi Shankar. Although his playing in the Mahavishnu Orchestra and with Carlos Santana on Love, Devotion and Surrender was largely inspired by John Coltrane's search for extended solo forms derived from raga structures, it was not until frequenting an Indian restaurant for vegetarian food in 1971/2 John McLaughlin met and played with Indian musicians, Badal Roy and Khalil Balakrishna, who he subsequently set up with Miles Davis.

Meeting the other members of Shakti was equally fortuitous; Lakshminarayana Shankar whilst studying vina at Wesleyan University and Zakir Hussain at Ali Akbar Khan's school for Indian music near San Francisco, lead to a revolutionary three years for the fusion of World musics until 1978, when the band disbanded to allow John McLaughlin a return to the western harmony in his roots.

In the interview quoted from above, John McLaughlin revealed that old friendships had been nurtured through the years, with himself and Zakir Hussain meeting up every year or so and sometimes playing together. It was therefore a natural follow on that they should decide to perform in public once more, as far as possible under the banner of their most famous collaboration.

Remember Shakti The original 1999 2CD release of live recordings made during the 1997 U.K. tour featuring original Shakti member T.H. "Vikku" Vinayakram plus bansuri Panditji Hariprasad Chaurasia.

The Believer Follow-up release in 2000 but quite different with a new communication between guitar and the electric mandolin of U.Shrivinas and also introducing the magical rhythms of Vikku's son, Selvaganesh.

Saturday Night In Bombay The group becomes part of an extended ensemble for a historical concert recording from Bombay in December 2000 released in 2001, and now nominated for a Grammy award in 2002.

Niyati A 40 minute bonus track composed by John McLaughlin and performed in Bombay, from which other recordings were used and previously released on Saturday Night In Bombay.

DVD Concert footage of three of the tracks performed in Bombay, of which four were subsequently released on Saturday Night In Bombay.

Liner Notes Stylish fold out pamphlet containing an array of concert stills with text by Zakir Hussain, John McLaughlin and manager Christian P gand.

The purple raw silk packaging with embroidered Shakti logo and finished with Remember Shakti pattern braid (that actually forms a handy pull to ease removal of the box contents) is gorgeous. But, is this enough to seduce us into parting with the asking price of £60 (=$87 =643F =98Euro)? What is the motivation for the veteran Remember Shakti fan who has already purchased the three preceding albums, complete with liner notes? The carrot for the donkey comes in the form of the bonus track and the concert footage.

Niyati is a superb latter day John McLaughlin composition, and the "drummer's guitarist" has understandably featured extended percussion improvisation. But, considering that the Remember Shakti fan is also likely to be a John McLaughlin fan, there is frustratingly little Gibson action to be found within the generous expanse of this track. It seems that for the reasons set out in the Saturday Night In Bombay review, JM felt it prudent to sit back and take equal share of the limelight. However, the track is incredible listening for the percussive fireworks and exciting communication.

The choice to go with a DVD rather than CDROM/MPEG is clear once the length and quality of the movie files are seen. DVD is a denser medium and is what is needed on this occasion. The problem is that not everyone has a DVD player yet, but most people might know someone who has got one. Watching the concert is pure joy. Being able to repeat that experience is priceless. If that doesn't justify the cost of the box set, then how about buying it anyway? You can then make presents of your old Remember Shakti albums and spread the message. That way everyone is happy!

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