John McLaughlin and The 4th Dimension - To the One
Virgin Records; Audio CD; Rs. 395
The moment you read legendary virtuoso jazz/fusion guitarist and composer John McLaughlin's note on this album which he says is another tale from his life, about his love for those around him and in the end for the “Infinite One”, one would expect this album to be placid and out and out soulful.
Insert CD, press play and you're in for a surprise. The album starts with “Discovery”, the opening riff of which is rhapsodically fierce. This track has everything. Thunderous drumming by Mark Mondesir and Gary Husband, a mellifluous, yet energising piano solo punched in with a funky bass solo at the end by Etienne M'Bappe. And if you think the song can't get any better, you will be amazed at the insane chord changes McLaughlin meanders through.
Next up is “Special Beings” which is nothing like the first track only going on to prove that each number is a masterpiece in itself. Hearing this you probably will see what contemporary jazz viewed from a fusion angle is like. McLaughlin's major inspiration for this album came from John Coltrane, the renowned American saxophonist and this is clearly evident in this spiritual rendering.
With “The Fine Line” McLaughlin's tone is arduous and distorted as compared to his work on any of the other tracks on the album. 70s fusion is back with a bang on this one. During the final cadenza he somehow ever so magically makes you realise he's among the best alternate pickers ever.
“Lost and Found” is characterised by its synth texture. McLaughlin on the guitar synthesiser and M'Bappe on a fretless bass together create one of the best made funky ballads.
The penultimate track on this album is “Recovery” which is a whole block away from the previous number. This song is an upbeat one packed with obscure, supersonic unison lines, intricate rhythm and profound harmonic arrangements. There's also a powerful solo by Husband before McLaughlin takes the song to the end.
“To the One” is the last track and quite clearly the best rendition in this album. What starts off slowly develops into something you might think is slightly pacey. The final bit witnesses the theme reiterated in a hushed fashion, as the otherwise energised band provides support to the restrained chant played against McLaughlin's guitar synthesiser until it slowly fades out.
This is surely one of McLaughlin's best works but the album wouldn't be as good if The 4th Dimension didn't add its pulsating musical character to it. With this, John McLaughlin's fan club is only going to expand!