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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Floating Point

Abstract Logix ABLX 011




1. Abbaji (for Alla Rakha)
2. Raju
3. Maharina
4. Off the One
5. The Voice
6. Inside Out
7. 14U
8. Five Peace Band.
John McLaughlin - Guitar, guitar synthesiser
Hadrien Feraud - Bass guitar
Louiz Banks - Keyboards
Ranjit Barot - Drums
Sivamani - Percussion, konokol
George Brooks - Soprano sax (track 1)
Debashish Bhattacharya - Hindustani slide guitar (track 2)
Shashank - Bamboo flute (track 4)
Shankar Mahadevan - Voice (track 5)
U Rajesh - Electric mandolin (track 6)
Naveen Kumar - Bamboo flute (track 7)
Niladri Kumar - Sitar (track 8)

It is an extraordinary success story: a guitarist from a small town in Yorkshire becomes a world-class superstar. Born in the small town of Kirk Sandall near Doncaster, John McLaughlin learnt the guitar when he was eleven. Real success arrived when he emigrated to the USA, recorded with Miles Davis and worked with Tony Williams' Lifetime, before forming his own famous bands: the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti, the One Truth Band and the Free Spirits Trio. These group names suggest the spiritual nature of John's music and especially the way that he embraced Indian music, fusing it with extremely brilliant jazz or jazz-rock.

The Indian influence is definitely present in this latest album - actually recorded in India, with predominantly local musicians. The barrage of percussion often uses Indian idioms, although the jazz-rock element is also clearly present, with most tracks having a jazz-fusion beat. The word "barrage" is apt for the percussion, as the first and second tracks are almost submerged beneath the welter of heavy drumming, with busy drummer Ranjit Barot given undue prominence by the recording. Nonetheless you can make out John McLaughlin's work on guitar and guitar synthesiser, although the latter often sounds like an electronic keyboard, virtually indistinguishable from keyboardist Louiz Banks. George Brooks adds some poignant soprano saxophone to Abbaji.

Things calm down for Maharina, a pensive piece, with Louiz Banks seemingly playing piano, not electronic keyboards. McLaughlin's Indian influences are evident in the way he bends notes. The Indian element is also present in Off the One, with Shashanti's bamboo flute fluttering alongside McLaughlin's technoflash guitar and synthesiser.

I find Shankar Mahadevan's vocals on The Voice irritating rather than pleasurable, but I like the Indo-jazz fusion of Inside Out, and 14U has an attractive melody which, like all the tracks on the CD, was composed by John McLaughlin. The final Five Peace Band has lots of that dazzling guitar from John that we know and love. At times, he makes the instrument sound like a sitar. Despite some flaws (such as the over-heavy drumming), this is a splendid album from one of Britain's supreme exports. It's a pity that the tune titles and personnel are virtually unreadable because of the weird typeface.

Tony Augarde





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