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.