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Mahavishnu Orchestra: Inner Mounting Flame

A generation of musicians had their lives changed by this record and subsequent tour by the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Guitarists who had been quite content covering “Layla” and “Whipping Post” were suddenly inspired, after witnessing John McLaughlin in action, to go deeper into their instrument and push the envelope on their own potential. Drummers were blown away by the precision and power of Billy Cobham. Keyboardists were in awe of Jan Hammer, who often filtered his Fender Rhodes electric piano through ring modulators and other devices to tweak his sound into a slicker realm long before synthesizers were made available. But it was the overall blistering intensity and fresh vision of this groundbreaking band that led rock-fed musicians down a different musical path toward a more challenging style of music.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra was the first band to emerge from a jazz/rock movement that had been bubbling up since the late ’60s to capture a huge crossover audience. My own first exposure to the band was as an opening act at a Frank Zappa concert in 1973. My ears haven’t been the same since.

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