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This review is from: Floating Point (Audio CD)
No. I was not expecting Mahavishnu. Nor was I expecting Shakti. And certainly not flamenco-jazz fusion ala "Guitar Trio."
John was great in all of these groups. He was great in his work with Miles (Bitches Brew, Silent Way, etc). He was great in his solo recordings, such as "My Goal's Beyond" and "Electric Guitarist".
Where John got off the track was when he became enamored with Guitar Synthesizer. The albums he released in the mid-70s, esp "Inner Worlds", were a real let down. I bought the vinyl as they were released and was sadly disappointed. The albums sat on my shelf for years, while his Mahavishnu #1 (IMF, BOF, BNAE), Shakti, and Guitar Trio albums got heavy play.
Unfortunately, Floating Point is more closely related to these mediocre mid-70s albums such as Inner Worlds than to any of his truly great albums. If I were to hear any of these cuts on the radio without knowing who it was, I would not guess it was John McLaughlin. His extensive use of Guitar Synthesizer simply does not demonstrate his guitar chops.
Having heard John play a blistering version of Maharina on Clapton's "Crossroads 2007" DVD, I was indeed expecting some really excellent guitar playing on this album. It just wasn't there. Even Maharina makes use of guitar synthesizer and is nothing comparable to what he did on Crossroads.
Another issue is his use of predominantly Indian musicians. I am a big fan of Indian (Hindustani) music. Niladri Kumar is one of my favorite young sitarists. One of the reasons I bought this albums was to hear one of my favorite guitarists playing with one of my favorite sitarists. I expected this album to be some kind of combination of Jazz-Fusion guitar with indian instruments, and some kind of Jazz-Rock-Indian fusion. Or at least "indian-flavored" Jazz fusion.
Not to be.
Although the liner notes are in tiny print and difficult to read, from the best I can tell, Niladri only plays on one song. And listening closely to that song a number of times, I cannot tell that there is ANY sitar at all on that song. Perhaps it was run through so many special effects that the distinctive sitar sound was lost. I don't know, but you certainly can't tell there is any sitar at all on this album.
"The Voice" does indeed make use of vocals that are a cross between traditional indian vocals and Jazz scat, but that is the entire indian influence I can tell on the entire album.
I am not sure why anyone would assemble such a great group of indian musicians and then put out such a mediocre run of the mill non-indian-influenced music. Was this some kind of "charity" thing -- McLaughlin wanted to promote these artists to the west doing strictly western jazz fusion? I don't really think Niladri Kumar needs him to do that!
I suspect over the years, my opinion of this album may increase to 3 stars, simply because it is a pleasant pretty sounding album. Right now I am ticked off that I wasted money on this album when there are so many other albums I could have bought, that I know I would thoroughly enjoy.
But I can't see ever considering giving this "4 stars" or placing it on the same high pedestal as his earlier albums.
I would NOT recommend purchasing this album unless you are a true "completist".
I just read all the other reviews. One thing I noticed in common with a lot of the "positive" reviews is the claim that this is a mix of Jazz-fusion and Indian music. This demonstrates how superficial these reviewers understand the music. They read in the liner notes that there are Indian musicians on this album, so assume that the music has Indian elements to it.
One of the reasons I bought this is because I did not read all of the reviews. I only read the first few reviews listed, and they all gave this high recommendations and claimed it included Indian elements.
As I mentioned previously, the Indian influence is next to nil. I suspect none of these reviewers even owns any Indian music albums. I have no problems with someone saying they like this (or any other) album. But you need to be accurate in your descriptions so other people will know what they are purchasing.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 27, 2011 2:24:34 PM PDT
Thanks for your review.
Posted on Mar 9, 2012 10:06:54 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2012 10:15:09 AM PST
Amazon Customer says:
I'll go out on a limb and assume that I'm one of those "positive reviewers" you accuse of having a superficial understanding of the music.
On the contrary, I'd say your understanding is superficial. You expect to hear something distinctly Indian, but the entire point of the album was to mix elements of Indian and western music into something entirely different. In particular, the forms of the compositions adhere largely to the Western jazz-fusion tradition, while the melodic content draws heavily on the rhythms and ragas of Indian music. If you watch the DVD about the making of this album, the Indian musicians (as well as McLaughlin) themselves discuss this very idea. Niladri Kumar, in fact, gives a very colorful analogy for the fusing of Indian and Western concepts in this album.
"Raju," for example, features a highly Indian influenced melody, but it is layed over a blues-based harmonic cycle. To say that Debashish Battacharya's (sp?) Hindustani slide playing is anything short of Indian is just incomprehensible.
In addition, "The Voice", "Off the One", "Inside Out" and "Five Peace Band" all display glaring Indian melodic/rhythmic influence against a backdrop of very jazzy harmony.
Even "Abbaji"'s stilted rhythmic phrasing exhibits some very undeniable Indian characteristics.
I don't know what you were expecting: Electric Shakti? If anything, it's the polar opposite. Whereas Shakti found McLaughlin as a Western-trained musician playing Indian music, Floating Point finds traditional Indian musicians playing Western jazz fusion. In both cases, the influence of each on the other is undeniable, though hardly evenly matched. Shakti was much more Indian than Western, and Floating Point is considerably more Western than Indian.
Posted on Feb 26, 2013 5:40:08 PM PST
Stay the course, brother. The guitar-synthesizer is an abomination. It ruined Pat Metheny and it's steadily ruining John McLaughlin as well. This isn't jazz, it isn't fusion, it isn't anything. Except twenty dollars down the drain.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2013 9:10:41 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2013 3:22:22 PM PST
>I'll go out on a limb and assume that I'm one of those "positive reviewers" you accuse of having a superficial understanding of the music
That's pretty far out on the limb for sure! I don't recognize your login, so doubt I even read your review. If I had wanted to focus on your review, I would have just posted a reply. So don't let it get to your head.
And in spite of your rude comments, underneath you admit I was right:
> the entire point of the album was to mix elements of Indian and western music into something entirely different.
Its different alright, but being different doesn't necessarily mean good.
>I don't know what you were expecting: Electric Shakti?
I stated clearly in the beginning of my review that I was not expecting Shakti, so this is a Red Herring. Totally irrelevant.
> Floating Point is considerably more Western than Indian.
Which is what I was saying.
More importantly, however, was that the resulting music is very bland, Guitar Synth prevalent MUZAK.... basically elevator music. Nothing at all worthwhile.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2013 5:09:40 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2013 12:18:08 PM PDT
Amazon Customer says:
>That's pretty far out on the limb for sure! I don't recognize your login, so doubt I even read your review. If I had wanted to focus on your review, I would have just posted a reply. So don't let it get to your head.
I didn't say that you were focusing on my review, nor did I let it "get to my head." Neither is it relevant whether I was one of those intended to be included in your sweeping remark, although I will note that, in your review, you said that you read "ALL the other reviews," which would include mine. But, anyway. Continuing:
>And in spite of your rude comments, underneath you admit I was right:
My rude comments? The closest thing I made to a rude comment was that your understanding of the music was superficial; a remark which was EXACTLY COPIED FROM YOUR OWN REVIEW. :) I was simply turning the tables on you. And I don't admit you were right. You say there are no elements of Indian music in this album, and the quote from my reply which you say concedes you were right specifically says that the album is a blend of Western AND INDIAN elements.
>Its different alright, but being different doesn't necessarily mean good.
That's a matter of musical taste, and it's completely beside the point. My point is that you shouldn't go around saying other people's understanding of music is superficial when your understanding seems to be even moreso. If this music has no Indian elements to it, then why do both John and his Indian musician friends seem to think so? Many of the guest musicians have talked extensively about how John incorporates and fuses the two systems in this album. Seeing as both John and his guests are pretty much masters of Indian music and you're not, I'll trust their perspective (along with my own ears) over yours.
>I stated clearly in the beginning of my review that I was not expecting Shakti, so this is a Red Herring. Totally irrelevant.
I didn't say Shakti, I said Electric Shakti. Since you are obviously disappointed that this album wasn't "Indian enough," I think it's a fair analogy. :)
>Which is what I was saying.
No, you were saying that there is no trace of Indian music in this album (besides Shankar Mahadevan's performance), which is patently and demonstrably false.
>More importantly, however, was that the resulting music is very bland, Guitar Synth prevalent MUZAK.... basically elevator music. Nothing at all worthwhile.
That's your opinion, and it seems pretty superficial to me. The only possible point of comparison between this and "muzak" is in the smoothness of tone. But the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic sophistication and compositional dynamics present throughout this album are light years beyond anything you'll hear on your local easy listening station, and furthermore make this, in my opinion, one of John's most accomplished albums (and I own all of them.) The opening track alone is worth the price of the album, to me, and I find the tone of his guitar synth beautiful and extremely lyrical, as well. No "elevator muzak" features such subtle rhythmic displacement and harmonic motion. Then there are things like the hypnotic compound rhythmic breaks of "Inside Out" and "Off the One" that would leave all but the most accomplished musicians bending over to scratch their chins as they picked their jaws up from the ground.
But I'll let McLaughlin himself have the final word: speaking about the album in a 2007 interview he explained the idea was to put traditional Indian musicians into a Western jazz-fusion context, which seems like it shouldn't work because, ""they don't have the training; but I know how to set up some harmony where they can just go on their ragas and everything works out fine."
Which is true. The solos of the Indian musicians is always unmistakably based on the raga system. Additionally, the rhythmic foundation of the album is unabashedly Indian. As Rod Sibley put it in his review of the album, "John brings the East and West close together, but he doesn't let them touch, like the hands in the Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel. The rhythms of the East serve as a foundation while the harmony of the West is suspended above them; each moving parallel to the other at the same time."
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