Aah, what a chaotic, interesting and emotionally elevating trip this was, once again. Wow. The stuff like this just floors me every time. I just listened to Apocalypse right from the start to the end. Those who are already familiar with this fantastic album know that it means a very strange journey through many different moods. Apocalypse is a curious mixture of jazz, funk, rock, indian and western classical music. And against all the odds, it really works! Mental. Magical. Mystical.
There are thunderous dissonant orchestral parts that are intermingled with very beautiful female vocal passages. There is great, melodic drumming by Narada Michael Walden. There is rhythmic, melodic bass playing by the wonder kid Ralphe Armstrong. Jean-Luc Ponty wails on the violin.
And of course, there is Mahavishnu John McLaughlin himself, playing all kinds of crazy lines on an electric guitar. He is nothing short of incredible. There are fast runs and slower parts, there is consonance and dissonance. It is a perfect blend of relaxing peacefulness, extremely intense drama and everything that falls between those extremes. Yeah!
It is clear to me that John McLaughlin must be a genius to put together an album like this. His composition is completely "out there" and unique. Sure, there have been other bands who have fused classical music with rock (e.g. Deep Purple and Moody Blues), but nobody has ever released anything like Apocalypse.
Please note that this is not an easy-listening album for most people. Mahavishnu Orchestra has such a strange, unique idea of harmony and rhythm that it usually takes some time to get used to. It is now March 28th 2010, and I think I have listened to Mahavishnu Orchestra for pretty close to twenty years now - since the early 1990s. During that time, the music has naturally reprogrammed my mind, creating fresh connections and pathways along the neurons in the brain. If you are new to Mahavishnu Orchestra, you might want to start with slightly more accessible albums such as Visions of the Emerald Beyond (1975) or the live album Between Nothingness and Eternity (1973).
One last note: Music such as this grows on you. If you do not like it right away, please do not abandon it altogether. Relax, let your mind open, and come back later in a different mood. Complex music often requires more attention than the so-called regular music. To really get into Mahavishnu Orchestra or other music that is now unfamiliar to you, find a peaceful place where you can relax and put on your headphones. Listen to the whole album in one go, without opening your eyes or thinking about anything else besides the music. Or if you have a good stereo system at home, sit on a sofa or a floor, and let the music fill your consciousness. If you keep doing this, your mind will expand and ultimately, you will become a different person, with an expanded musical taste and expanded consciousness.
Trust me: the mind expansion will happen. You will start to see things differently and hear things differently. The crazy melodic lines will start to make more sense, slowly but surely. Stick with it and you will be rewarded with joy. Peace.
Oh, one more thing. Listen to this album very loud!