Devotion - (1970)
This album is from a pivotal moment in McLaughlin's history. This was just after he left Miles' group, but before Mahavishnu Orchestra started, and the music captures this moment perfectly. McLaughlin's technique had not progressed to "Mahavishnu" perfection yet, but the music has the in-your-face rock drive of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This recording date grew out of sessions Alan Douglas put together, featuring McLaughlin and Larry Young jamming with Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles (Billy Rich was the bass player). McLaughlin sounded timid next to Hendrix (none of the material with Hendrix has been officially released), but really comes to life on Devotion. This is arguably one of the finest acid rock albums of all time. McLaughlin is on fire, using fuzzboxes and phasers, over Larry Young's swirling Hammond B-3, with Billy Rich and Buddy Miles as the rock-solid rhythm section. If you think that McLaughlin's solo at the end of "Right Off" (from A Tribute to Jack Johnson) is one of the high points of his career, then this is the album for you. Soon after this album was recorded, McLaughlin holed up, practiced like crazy, and re-emerged as "Mahavishnu" John McLaughlin, with both a new sound and a new band. Documenting the period just before that transition, Devotion is a complete anomaly in his catalog, as well as one of his finest achievements.