Q (5/92, p.97) - 3 Stars - Good - "...an accurate reflection of the fiery passion and keen sense of urgency felt by a cast of virtuoso musicians rejoicing in the unshakable belief that nothing is impossible..."
Uncut (10/00, p.84) - 5 stars out of 5 - "...Fiercely passionate and spectacular[ly] spiritual music..."
Alternative Press (11/00, p.118) - "An indisputable jazz-fusion classic...combining brain-burning virtuosity with profoundly soulful mysticism..."
JazzTimes (11/00, p.70) - "...A snapshot of the band at its interactive best....established the standards for rock-fusion performance..."
Mahavishnu Orchestra: Jerry Goodman (electric violin); Jan Hammer (piano, Fender Rhodes piano, Mini-Moog synthesizer); John McLaughlin (acoustic guitar, electric 6 & 12-string guitars); Rick Laird (acoustic & electric basses); Billy Cobham (drums, gong).
Recorded at Trident Studios, London, England and CBS Studios, New York, New York in 1972. Includes liner notes by Bill Milkowski.
All tracks are digitally remastered.
Guitarist John McLaughlin was in on the birth of jazz-rock fusion, having played with both Miles Davis and Tony Williams' Lifetime in the early '70s. McLaughlin applied what he'd learned from these artists to his own pioneering fusion band, the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This second effort is the Orchestra's definitive recording. The tempestuous mix of jazz, rock, and Eastern influences is at its height here, and all of the players in this notoriously ego-plagued group challenge themselves--and each other--to push the envelope.
The themes, generally stated by McLaughlin and searing electric violinist Jerry Goodman, sound regal, unfolding in an elegant, magisterial way. Drummer Billy Cobham (another Miles alumnus) provides pounding polyrhythms over which McLaughlin and Goodman mix it up with keyboardist Jan Hammer. Hammer's synthesizer solos blazed a new trail for the synthesizer as a lead instrument, particularly in his guitar-like use of pitch-bend. The pastoral, acoustic strains of "Thousand Island Park" provide a brief respite before the listener is hurled back into the firestorm. "Hope" could be a distant cousin of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," while the closing "Resolution" bears similarities to RED-era King Crimson, making it plain that BIRDS OF FIRE takes both sides of the jazz-rock sound seriously.
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