CD Review: John McLaughlin & The Fourth Dimension – The Boston Record

John McLaughlin & The Fourth Dimension – The Boston Record
(AbstractLogix ABLX042. CD Review by Rob Mallows)

This new album sees McLaughlin turning away the Indian influences of Remember Shakti and returning to the hard-edged fusion sound with which he made his name in the seventies with Mahavishnu Orchestra. There is, for example, a new take on classic You Know, You Know from 1971’s Inner Mounting Flame album.

The Fourth Dimension has existed for over seven years; in this incarnation, the line-up is glove-wearing bassist Etienne Mbappe, Indian percussionist Ranjit Barot on drums and vocals, and the UK’s own Gary Husband on keys and drums alongside him. Their terrific collective playing kicks up a fantastic musical storm which the live recording at Berklee College in Boston captures very well.

The album offers tunes old and new, always with a strong bluesy feel and powerful rock rhythms. Every track confirms McLaughlin’s near-mythical status as one of the modern jazz guitar gods. He’s decidedly on form.

The Boston Record starts with a heavy rock-influenced on opener Raju with its power chords, distorted guitar and pulsing rock rhythms, which together send a signal of intent about the album. Third trackLittle Miss Valley is straight-up blues funk, its heavy bass and blues-rock melody eerily reminiscent of Mezzoforte’s EG Blues. Echoes from then deploys riffage by the yard, odd metering and some straight up blues-rock rhythms before taking an Indian turn with Barot’s mesmerising use of interesting Indian rhythm singing – konnakol – popularised in this genre by fusion drummer Steve Smith.

Senor CS is beautifully simple: a distorted opening introduces just guitar in conversation with the piano, the main theme stretched almost beyond recognition by McLaughlin through his jaw-dropping runs up and down the fretboard. Call & Answer brings back the pace and power, McLaughlin and MBappe trading riffs and ideas from the get-go; on this track, Gary Husband demonstrates why he’s one of UK’s top collaborators in the fusion/contemporary jazz style. Really, really nice tune.

Overall, The Boston Record shows that fusion still has 
new dimensions and directions to offer the listener. An essential album.

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. Very nice review, Rob. My only issue is your crediting Steve Smith for popularizing use of konnakol in fusion, or jazz, period. If anyone 'popularized' it…insofar as it *is* popular, given he did not begin exploring its use until the early part of the new millennium. it would be Trilok Gurtu, who began introducing it to Oregon's music as early as 1987; or, of course Zakir Hussain, who introduced it with McLUghlin in the original Shakti of the 1970s. No, konnakol was both introduced and popularized in the jazz world by McLaughlin & Hussain in early Shakti, and then further by Gurtu with Oregon. Smith cam much much later…and, of course, popular is a relative term in the jazz world' isn't it? 🙂

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