Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Mahavishnu Orchestra: Between Nothingness and Eternity [Columbia, 1973]
This live album is as rough as they're liable to get on record--I even hear a quote from "Sunshine of Your Love," and the raveup on Jan Hammer's simple rock tune "Sister Andrea" is a ballbuster. Empty patches are inevitable but remarkably few. I'm beginning to wonder, though, how long McLaughlin can make his fusion work. Because this is jazz, McLaughlin and Cobham really do improvise (about the others I sometimes have my doubts). But because it's rock the notes and accents they play don't matter all that much--what communicates is the concept, which is mostly a matter of dynamics and which hasn't changed at all over three albums. Not that the improvisations count for nothing, or that striking new melodies--which are in short supply here--couldn't keep things interesting for quite a while. But it's not going to be automatic. B+