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Mahavishnu Project: Phase 2

As grandiose tributes go, Mahavishnu Project’s Phase 2 (Aggregate) gushes a love supreme. There’s no disputing drummer and Project leader Gregg Bendian’s devotion and surrender to John McLaughlin & Co.’s awe-inspiring jazz-rock milestones The Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire and Visions of the Emerald Beyond. The Project’s players-guitarist Pete McCann, keyboardist Steve Hunt, bassist Stephan Crump and violinist Rob Thomas and Bendian-may even fool McLaughlin, Jan Hammer, Rick Laird, Jerry Goodman and Billy Cobham into thinking that this is really their handiwork. Nearly all of the Project’s versions are at least twice as long as the originals. The 15-minute avant-car-chase rock of “Noonward Race” comes closest to usurping its progenitor. I suffered three brain aneurysms trying to follow the group’s lightning-fast convolutions. And combining “Lila’s Dance” with “The Dance of Maya” is shrewdly synergistic. Tackling some of the most soulful and technically devastating jazz rock ever is a foolhardy, if brave, undertaking, even if it does have John McLaughlin’s blessing (like he’s gonna turn down those royalties?). Go see these guys live, but pass on this double-disc marathon.

Originally Published