Liberation Time ABSTRACT LOGIX
SOME PASSAGES ARE AS AUDACIOUS AS HIS HIGH-PERIOD 70S WORK.
Former Mahavishnu man’s powerful rumination on the events of recent times.
For his 19th solo album, John McLaughlin serves up his poignant and powerful reaction to the global pandemic. The visionary guitar legend’s frustration that lockdown turned into what he describes in his brief yet affecting notes as “an explosion of music in my mind”. Spanning that same range of emotion, Liberation Time is at times angry and at times a becalmed response to the situation. Recorded remotely, it explores the epidemic with, as he says, a “provocative mix of catharsis and reflection”.
What the shutdown has done, as with so many artists, is give McLaughlin an opportunity to reflect and step off the treadmill. That freedom has seeped into the music he’s written: some of the passages on Liberation Time are as audacious as his high-period 70s work as result. Instead of using a fixed band, the relative freedom of being remote has meant McLaughlin could call on the cream of players. With drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Gary Husband (who also adds keys); Etienne M’Bappé and Jerome Regard on bass and Roger Rossignol on piano (among others), the man at the centre of it all has created a frenetic stew of conflicting styles and moods.
One of the greatest reviews ever of John McLaughlin accused him of “scaring the hell out of his guitar” and that perfectly encapsulates his playing. On Liberation Time, it’s immediately apparent that this could be no one else – the soaring runs that begin opener As The Spirit Sings connects the listener immediately with arguably one of the most innovate yet strangely overlooked guitarists of all time. Singing Our Secrets is all expansive mellow melancholy, while the playful, soulful Lockdown Blues highlights M’Bappé’s frenzied bass before breaking into a propulsive vocal chant.
If all this wasn’t enough, the title track goes truly ape – machine-gun guitar flying all over the place, creating the truly chaotic magical sound that only McLaughlin on fire can. With Julian Siegal on tenor, Right Here, Right Now, Right On is blazing hard bop. Two of the most affecting pieces are the interludes Mila Repa and Shade Of Blue, which find McLaughlin at the piano on record for the first time since 1973. Their naïve dissonance adds moments of respite from the immense grooves of the big numbers here.
Liberation Time is an important album: sometimes subtle, often seismic, but unquestionably spiritual throughout. For anyone who hasn’t checked out John McLaughlin’s work for a while, this offers a perfect opportunity to rekindle the inner mounting flame.