Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Rock Revival's Classic Albums: Shakti with John Mclaughlin Natural Elements (1977)

Raga-rock came long before this album, a critical part of psychedelia, with the Byrds (Eight Miles High), Doors (The End), Velvet Underground (Venus in Furs) all imitating the sound of the sitar on their guitars to great effect.

George Harrison's brilliant indo-Beatles tracks on Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt Peppers and Ravi Shankar's appearance at Woodstock all ensured that the east and west could come togther under the rock banner, in the name of flying your freak flag high, perhaps, rather than in any quest for enlightenment.

An exception was John McLaughlin's Shakti, the band he assembled after the break up of Mahavishnu Orchestra, producing an acoustic and intimate sound, with less rock and more jazz, less psychedelia and more folk.

One of the reasons for the authenticity of the band was John's collaborators, (L. Shankar, violin, viola, vocals; Zakir Hussain, tabla, timbales, bongos, dholak, nal, triangle, vocals; T.H. Vinayakaram, ghatam, nal, kinjeera, moorsing, vocals), all masters of Indian classical music, all set to bring their music to the west with the aid of McLaughlin.

Natural Elements was the final Shakti album and certainly the best. It's laid back, happy, complex, one of the most beautiful and accomplished albums of McLaughlin's career so far.

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