The Inner Mounting Flame by the Mahavishnu Orchestra was the band’s debut album, released in August of 1971 with the backing of Columbia Records. The 45-minute album consists of eight tunes, all written by guitarist John McLaughlin. Sometimes considered one of the best jazz-rock albums of all time, Inner Mounting Flame borrows from many musical directions, including rock, jazz, and even Indian classical music forms. It’s the first release from what would become one of the most dominant fusion groups of the 70s.
An amazing aspect of this album is the range of contributions that the individual musicians of the band made to create the overall sound. The keyboard textures of Jan Hammer send each tune into a more ethereal, full-bodied, and rich place. During tunes such as “A Lotus on Irish Streams,” Hammer defines the atmosphere with his careful selection of sounds, riffs, and comping style. The versatility of drummer Billy Cobham, and his ability to compliment every change in the band’s style, expand the album’s sound exponentially. Cobham’s affinity for merging catchy grooves with odd time signatures assisted in clearly defining the Mahavishnu sound. Rick Laird, the bassist, was the backbone of the band — the reins that steered the group. He regulated the avant-garde aspects of the sound to create a perfect balance between the groove and experimentation. This balance made the Mahavishnu Orchestra a perfect kind of fusion band: very catchy and listenable yet experimental and avant-garde.
With Jerry Goodman’s brilliant violin and the unique genius of John McLaughlin’s virtuosic guitar work and writing leading them to new heights, the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s The Inner Mounting Flame was an unbeatable musical force. This was the album that set their trajectory to become one of the most listened to and respected fusion groups of the decade.
Stay tuned for next week’s album!