Stormy Mondays: Fusion Favorites

This week’s Stormy Monday takes you right into the crucible with a healthy shot of early fusion. I know, I know, the word is loaded with all sorts of connotations that could scare away even the adventurous listener. But fear not, this is prime music from some of the form’s most influential creative forces. The opening track is The Mahavishnu Orchestra doing You Know, You Know which originally appeared on the seminal The Inner Mounting Flame. On the album it’s an understated interlude, but this version from Berkeley in 1972 reveals just how funky the piece could be. And there is plenty of room for the rapid-fire virtuosity that is the band’s calling card, too.

Tony Williams

Next up is a mid set pair from Tony Williams’ Lifetime. While less commercially successful than the other big fusion acts, the band is a favorite of both critics and musicians. In fact the music Lifetime produced stands the test of time a bit better than that of some of its better-known brethren. Circa 45 > Big Nick is a soupy, loose exercise in Larry Young’s organ dynamics balanced out with Williams’ genius drumming (along with percussionist Juni Booth). Toss in some slick Don Alias guitar and a Latin wash, and this joint shines.

Now chances are, if you’re afraid of fusion, it’s Weather Report’s fault. Everyone knows the band was Jaco’s home base, but actually digging into Weather Report’s catalogue will lead to some crazy, cartoony and campy music, all covered in synthesizers and special effects. It will also lead to some stunning musicianship and truly moving passages. Here an earlier line-up featuring the great Alphonso Johnson (who, incidentally, is undergoing treatment for throat cancer- keep him in your thoughts) on bass takes on a long, equally hectic and beautifully quiet Directions. This track is not to be missed. Enjoy!

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3 Responses

  1. Nice…can’t wait to listen to this edition. Anyone who’s a fan of Mahavishnu Orchestra should also check out the album Apocalypse they did with the London Symphony Orchestra. Has my favorite song by them, “Vision is a Naked Sword.” Also a big fan of the McLaughlin-Santana album “Love, Devotion, Surrender.” I mean, anytime Carlos Santana plays on an LP and you don’t sort it under S for Santana you know the other guitarist is bringing the noise.

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