Now Here This
John McLaughlin’s doctor, if he were to hear Now Here This, would likely tell this new member of the septuagenarian club to hang up the guitar, relax and buy a condo in Florida. But McLaughlin is having none of that: His second album with the 4th Dimension—Gary Husband (keys, drums), Ranjit Barot (drums) and Etienne M’Bappe (electric bass)—is a largely furious affair. Nearly a half-century after he first started gigging in the U.K., McLaughlin retains the dazzling technique and articulation that established him as a guitar hero with Miles in the late ’60s and stunned with Mahavishnu Orchestra in the ’70s.
Now Here This, in fact, treads as close to classic Mahavishnu fusion territory as McLaughlin has ventured in many a year. Where the group’s 2010 debut, To the One, was McLaughlin paying tribute in spirit to A Love Supreme, this latest outing is a seemingly random collection of new, unrelated songs, the only apparent threads the top-shelf musicianship and songwriting (all McLaughlin originals) throughout.
Barot is the group’s new secret weapon. He appeared previously on McLaughlin’s Floating Point, but now he’s been fully integrated into 4th Dimension. Like Billy Cobham and Tony Williams before him, Barot is a juggernaut but he’s also got plenty of ideas about how to ride a melody. In collusion with funkmeister M’Bappe and the highly rhythmic Husband, he gives McLaughlin a hell of a lot to work with here: 4th Dimension is the guitarist’s most imposing electric band since those heady days of 40 years back.
And electric is the key word; anyone looking for the Shakti version of John McLaughlin will have to wait this one out. Whether on tracks like the manic, racing “Call and Answer,” the screaming opening cuts “Trancefusion” and “Riff Raff,” or “Not Here Not There,” on which McLaughlin’s tone skews Santana-like, the guitarist is clearly enjoying being the world’s most intense plugged-in 70-year-old.