Were it not for the The Music People -- a three-record sampler album released by Columbia Records in 1971 -- I might have never heard of John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
The Music People was offered at a bargain price by Columbia, which hoped that those who bought that sampler would be inspired to buy albums by several of the 40 different artists featured on it. Some of those artists were well-known (Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Santana, Spirit), while others were obscure (Sweathog, Bell + Arc, Compost, Blue Rose, Grootna).
Columbia's strategy worked on me, at to some extent: I bought the first Blue Öyster Cult album and I also bought the Mahavuishnu Orchestra's 1971 debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame, after hearing the tracks from those albums that Columbia included on The Music People.
The leader of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin, was a technically accomplished guitarist whose compositions meld jazz fusion with Indian classical music. He sometimes played a guitar with both a six-string neck and a twelve-string neck:
|John McLaughlin's twin-neck guitar|
The group also included Jerry Goodman (an electric violin who parents were member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's string section), Jan Hammer (a keyboard player who later wrote the music for the Miami Vice TV show), and Billy Cobham (a drummer who recorded with Miles Davis and many other jazz notables).
The Inner Mounting Flame, isn't characterized by catchy, hummable tunes. McLaughlin's music features very fast playing and devilishly complicated time signatures. (I've never been able to get my arms around the rhythmic structure of several of the tracks on the album. If you can figure out the time signature of "The Dance of Maya," for example, please enlighten me.)
Here's the initial track of The Inner Mounting Flame, "Meeting of the Spirits":
Click below to buy "Meeting of the Spirits" from Amazon: