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Mahavishnu Project: Return to the Emerald Beyond

Let's get something out in the open right away-I have been a big fan of the Mahavishnu Orchestra for many, many years. When I first heard about the Mahavishnu Project, who are basically a very polished M.O. cover band, I was pretty sceptical, as I'm sure a lot of people are who have never heard them before. Well, Return to the Emerald Beyond, the band's debut for Cuneiform Records, is a kick ass 2CD live set that sees the band playing the classic Visions of the Emerald Beyond album, plus a few additional M.O. songs for good measure. Recorded live in 2006, Return to the Emerald Beyond is a sprawling, exploratory listen, as the band play the Visions of the Emerald Beyong from start to finish, for the first time ever, as it's documented that the Mahavishnu Orchestra rarely played many of the songs from the album, let alone in its entirety. In keeping with the true spirte of the original recording, Mahavishnu Project expanded its line-up for this recording to include strings, reeds, and vocals, to go along with their guitar, drums, violin, bass, and keyboard formation.

For the most part, the arrangements are kept pretty true to the originals, but this band injects plenty of their own flair and allows plenty of space for soloing and ensemble fireworks. Drummer and leader Greg Bendian is quite the player, giving these songs plenty of funk and rock grooves in the tradition of Narada Michael Waldern and Billy Cobham, while guitarist Glenn Alexander rips it up with all the fury of a young John McLaughlin. If the original Mahavishnu Orchestra were to have gotten together and played today, I'm sure it would sound something like this-these guys really hit on the vibe here, so much so that it's scary at times. The passion, fury, and precision of songs like "Eternity's Breath", 'Can't Stand Your Funk", "Cosmic Strut", and "Earth Ship", flows through the fingertips and souls of these players, as if channeling the spirit of the MK2 version of the M.O. directly. When they crank out "Vital Transformation" from the original M.O. line-up, which relied less on orchestrations and more on the subtleties of jazz meeting rock's firepower, the results are staggering. If you don't believe me, check out the furious "Be Happy" for some mind-blowing playing.

As I mentioned earlier, many will no doubt question the validity of releasing something like this, but in all honesty, it's great to hear these songs given a fresh spin after all these years. Many of the tracks are epic in length, with plenty of room for the musicians to roam, and there's lots of beauty woven into these classical, jazz, and rock passages. In addition, most of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra have given Mahavishnu Project the thumbs up on their efforts, which basically validates their entire reason for doing this wonderful tribute. End result is a great nostalgia trip that is simply impressive on so many levels-bravo!

Track Listing
Disc: 1
1. Eternity's Breath
2. Lila's Dance
3. Can't Stand Your Funk
4. Pastoral
5. Faith
6. Cosmic Strut
7. If I Could See
8. Be Happy
Disc: 2
1. Earth Ship
2. Pegasus
3. Opus 1
4. On the Way Home to Earth
5. Smile of the Beyond
6. Vital Transformation
7. Sister Andrea

Added: February 13th 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3879
Language: english

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