BETWEEN NOTHINGNESS AND ETERNITY by Ken Emerson, ROLLING STONE 1973
Review of BETWEEN NOTHINGNESS AND ETERNITY by Ken Emerson , ROLLING STONE Jan.28,1973
Mahavishnu John McLaughlin is unquestionably one of the greatest guitarists playing anything remotely resembling rock to emerge in the past five years. But after the brilliance of INNER MOUNTING FLAME and BIRDS OF FIRE, BETWEEN NOTHINGNESS AND ETERNITY -LIVE is a bit of a disappointment.First, the song titles are new , but the music isnt. The sound is heavier, more abrasive, and as befits a live performance, more ragged and improvisational, yet its too familiar. Even the most incandescent licks [with which LIVE abounds] lose a great deal of their candlepower the third time around. Secondly, LIVE exposes McLaughlins limitations as a writer. He is less a composer than a deviser of riffs. These are generally quite intricate, and the Orchestra elaborates them with masterful ingenuity, but still, McLaughlins music does not so much progress and develop as repeat itself. When the possibilities of a riff are exhausted, McLaughlin , often without the pretense of a transition, simply picks up another, and off they go again. The procedure recalls LAYLA , and indeed McLaughlin resembles Eric Clapton in that neither can write as extraordinarily as he can play, and both compose around riffs. (As if to acknowledge this kinship, at one point on LIVE McLaughlin coyly alludes to SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE . In the past, this has not presented a serious difficulty, for the Orchestra has inclined toward relatively brief tracks. But the cuts on LIVE are very few and very drawn-out, with the result that, particularly during the 21:26 of DREAM , the music tends to be redundant and disjunct. Although frequently dazzling, it doesnt hold the listener over the long run. But LIVE offers many short-term joys: the rousing funky parts of SISTER ANDREA, the reflective opening of DREAM, the searing interplay between McLaughlin and Jan Hammer on Moog, the endlessly inventive and sizzling drumming of Billy Cobham. Violinist Jerry Goodman is oddly inconspicuous on LIVE but the drummer almost makes up for his diminished presence. Overshadowing them all, of course, is McLaughlin, now spewing forth cascades of notes, now sculpting stately lines, now elegantly musing, always playing with a genius almost unparalleled.
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