Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Mahavishnu Orchestra/John McLaughlin: The Inner Mounting Flame [Columbia, 1971]
He couldn't very well call it the John McLaughlin Lifetime, but that's what it is--with Billy Cobham a somewhat heavier Tony Williams, Rick Laird subbing for fellow Scot Jack Bruce, violinist Jerry Goodman and keyboard man Jan Hammer vainly filling in Khalid Yasin's organ textures, and McLaughlin back on electric guitar. The raveups aren't quite as intense as "Right On," though "Awakening" and "The Noonward Race" come close, but McLaughlin has a much clearer idea of how to make a rock band work than Williams. No vocals is the right idea--imagine what claptrap he'd come up with putting the beyond into words. To change pace he provides more of the noble, elemental themes he introduced on Devotion--my favorite is "The Dance of Maya," which breaks into a blues about halfway through. Mistake: "A Lotus on Irish Streams," a lyrical digression featuring Goodman, who ought to be watched closely at all times. A