John McLaughlin and The Free Spirits: Tokyo Live (1993)
This record will disappoint those hoping for a 1990's version of the Tony Williams Lifetime. Listeners hoping to hear a wailing, plaintiff, distorted guitar will be upset as well. McLaughlin's bluesy tone is somewhat warm and processed, and it's sometimes easily lost in the cascades of a busy B-3 barrage. But, the guitar chops remain vintage McLaughlin. He plays through and around and underneath the changes, intertwining his unison lines with DeFrancesco so cleverly that you have to work a bit to distinguish the two. (Although his unison playing is always impressive, McLaughlin's tone on this recording makes this a drawback.) His empathy with the supercharged Chambers is evident from the very first beat.
Tokyo Live offers several top-notch McLaughlin compositions, most notably "Vukovar," which make for an exciting and pleasing outing. Although the slow-moving duet "When Love is Far Away "featuring McLaughlin on guitar and DeFrancesco on trumpetdrags this album down a bit, the overall nightclub feel and musical energy still carry the day.
Although this remains the only true Free Spirits album released to date, the band did not reach its creative peak until its brilliant performance on the cut "Thelodius Melodius" from the 1996 recording The Promise.
Related link: John McLaughlin Reviews @ All About Jazz .
Track Listing: 1 Nite Stand; Hijacked; When Love is Far Away; Little Miss Valley; JuJu at the Crossroads; Vukovar; No Blues; Mattinale
Personnel: John McLaughlin- guitar; Dennis Chambers- drums; Joey DeFrancesco- B-3 organ and trumpet
Record Label: Verve Music Group
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock