Saturday, August 25, 2007

John McLaughlin - 1970 - Devotion



"John McLaughlin's second album as a leader is the most rock-oriented of the numerous projects he was involved with during his first year in America. Recorded in February of 1970 for the now defunct Douglas label, Devotion features McLaughlin and organist Larry Young taking a break from Lifetime to play with drummer Buddy Miles (Electric Flag, Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys) and bassist Bill Rich. The rock/soul rhythm section is what really distinguishes this from the similarly-minded Lifetime material and the all-instrumental Devotion often sounds like a long lost collection of Hendrix jams. It very nearly is, as Devotion was inspired by jam sessions that McLaughlin participated in with Hendrix, Miles, Young and Rich (those tapes have never been officially released). Not that McLaughlin could really be mistaken for Jimi Hendrix, but Hendrix's style is clearly an influence on McLaughlin as he makes the transition from being a supplemental player in more democratic ensembles to the lead guitar god who would front Mahavishnu Orchestra.
By any normal useage of the term, Devotion is what is known as a "wank-fest." Over the medium tempos established by Miles and Rich, McLaughlin basically engages in a series of extended, heavily-distorted guitar solos; Larry Young provides harmonic accompaniment and trippy textural variety with his Hammond organ and electric piano. Despite some technical problems I think the album is pretty good, even if I wouldn't call it essential. None of the six tracks are all that different, except maybe for "Siren," which dabbles with the sort of psychedelic studio enhancements that intrigued Hendrix. I think that the best piece is the long title track, which is the most organized of the bunch and which is the closest to having a developed theme. McLaughlin's playing is both passionate and uplifting and I consider it to be one of his career highlights. "Dragon Song" and "Marbles" are probably my two favorites after "Devotion," — I think they have the most memorable riffs — but the other tracks are all fairly similar." ~ Ground and Sky

John McLaughlin, guitar; Buddy Miles, drums, percussion; Larry Young, organ, electric piano; Billy Rich, bass

Tracklisting:

01. Devotion — 11:23
02. Dragon Song — 4:13
03. Marbles — 4:13
04. Siren — 5:42
05. Don't Let the Dragon Eat Your Mother — 5:16
06. Purpose of When — 4:44