For his next act, the decibel champion of electric jazz shocked the world by unplugging and returning to South Indian music before an excitable audience at South Hampton College. Yet the alert John McLaughlin follower will note that beyond the reliance upon South Indian instruments and scales, there are unbroken links to records like My Goal's Beyond and the high-speed electric music that McLaughlin was casting aside at the moment. McLaughlin called his new quintet Shakti, which means "creative intelligence and beauty and power" and the music here has all of that and something else, a ferocious streak inherited from the Mahavishnu days. McLaughlin ignites "Joy" by playing at a blazing speed, his cohorts Lakshminarayana Shankar (violin), Ramnad V. Raghavan and T.H. Vinayakram (mridangam), and Zakir Hussain (tabla) keeping up with the furious unison tempos with great dexterity and discipline, while a reworking of "Lotus Feet" forms a meditative interlude. Side two is taken up by a single, lengthy raga-like track in which McLaughlin combines his rapid-fire Western manner with note-bending techniques clearly emulating a sitar, and the Indians get plenty of dueling room. In its way, this fire-eating acoustic music is just as energizing as the most electrified Mahavishnu flights.
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