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The Mahavishnu Orchestra

The Lost Trident Sessions

Columbia Legacy

Four groups in the early '70s were responsible for changing the sound of jazz and rock forever. The Headhunters, Weather Report and Return To Forever, each spawned from Miles Davis' fusion super-groups, fueled their funk-laden sounds with polished musicianship and virtuosity. But few did it with the aplomb and ferocity of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, led by Davis' favorite guitar player, John McLaughlin. This music was as ground-breaking as that of the Beatles, John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix-it pushed sound into new realms. The Mahavishnu Orchestra rode the powerful, hard-rocking backbeat of drummer Billy Cobham and arpeggio-loving bassist Rick Laird to far-away places. Mahavishnu's music, saturated with Eastern mysticism and spirituality, gave fusion legitimacy. The long-missing master copies of these recordings, considered the Holy Grail of fusion, were unearthed late last year. From McLaughlin and keyboardist Jan Hammer's stunning exchanges on the epic "Dream," to Jerry Goodman's innovative electric-violin on "Steppings Tones" and "Sister Andrea," it's plain to see why Mahavishnu's players became legendary long before they stopped playing. —Ian D'Giff


Folk Implosion

One Part Lullaby

Interscope

Lou Barlow is a busy guy. He's got his band, Sebadoh. He's got acoustic solo work under his own name. He's also one-half of the band Folk Implosion. While both Sebadoh and Barlow solo are organic affairs, Folk Implosion is more of a studio concoction. Unlike his other endeavors, Barlow has had chart success with FI-"Natural One," from the Kids soundtrack. Here, he builds on that success, taking pop songs and pairing them with electronic structures. Bubbly drums abound, and guitars distort and wheeze, yet through it all Barlow's sweet tenor is "in love with the chemical following the setting sun." In fact, the references to nature never stop. Could it be a constant, but subtle, reference to the song that helped put food on the table in both Barlow and guitarist John Davis' homes? Who cares? This disc should be a mandatory pharmaceutical handout with any anti-depressant prescription. —Greg Hoy


Lost Boyz

Lb Iv Life

Universal Records

The premier party crew hailing from South Jamaica, Queens proves that even death can't put the brakes on a good dream. After losing hype man Raymond "Freaky Tah" Rogers, the rest of the crew (Mr. Cheeks, Pretty Lou and Sprigg Nice) returned to the studio, regrouped and released this album. Even though Freaky Tah died before the album's completion, his presence is still prominent on several cuts, including the first single, "Ghetto Jiggy," another LB dance-floor anthem. The street epic "Let's Roll Dice," the Mr. Sexx-produced "We Got That Hot Shit" and the electric "Plug Me In" all showcase the patented LB hardcore hip-hop roots that made them the underground kings from Queens. Other standout joints include the self-explanatory defiant tones of "Can't Hold Us Down" and "LB Fam IV Live." —A. J. Woodson


Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals

Burn To Shine

Virgin

An album like this has been a long time coming from Ben Harper. It seems he's finally found his niche--an anguished corner whirling with a desperate tension. His previous albums played like runaway trains lost in an angry wash of distorted guitars and occasional hooks. His chops are now tighter and his confessions more believable, and his ability to sing with gritty tenderness has blossomed. The album opens with the mood-setting "Alone," a mournful march with acoustic textures. "The Woman in You" showcases Harper's impressive vocal skills and will surely garner airplay. Julian Nelson's counterpoint bass work pushes the tropical vibes of "Steal My Kisses," while "Two Hands of a Prayer" shines with Harper's ability to meld centuries-old imagery with a contemporary gospel righteousness. —ID


LI Sounds

The Sun Kings

Stupid Grin

Their name says it all: the Beatles (George, not John) via the Electric Light Orchestra. That haggled '70s group was itself a horrendous and raucous piece of Beatle butchery. With so many ELO-ish harmonies, watery guitar effects and minor-fifth chord changes, the Sun Kings are asking for it. They even have a song called "Don't Let Me Down," a title a little too close to ELO for our purposes. Your basic layered guitar pop comes nonstop. Horns add a little R&B flavor to "Never Again" but they don't help "Latest Love Affair," a messy salsa-ish romp. More than one of these guys enjoys the Monkees, especially "Last Train to Clarksville." The Sun Kings have a nice, neat album on their hands, something that would sit comfortably on the shelf between copies of the Friends soundtrack and those Barenaked Ladies. But Stupid Grin needs more. As the album carries on, the Sun Kings' sweetness increasingly becomes cloying. Expect sugar shock.—GH

 
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