Our Top 10 Mahavishnu Orchestra songs list takes a look at a band that closely bordered the genre of jazz fusion and progressive rock. The band consisted of some of the most talented and legendary jazz musicians to come out of the 20th Century. Most jazz fans consider the group a jazz fusion band. However, there were many progressive rock elements to the band’s music that enticed progressive rock fans into buying their records and fueling an argument that the band deserved a place in Progressive Rock history.
Mahavishnu Orchestra was formed in 1971 by jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin. The band released their first album in 1971 entitled The Inner Mounting Flame. The album featured a lineup of virtuoso musicians including John McLaughlin on guitar, Billy Cobham on drums, Jan Hammer on keyboards, Rick Laird on bass and Jerry Goodman on violin. Two years later, the same lineup released the album Birds of Fire in 1973.
In 1974, Mahavishnu Orchestra released the album Apocalypse . With the exception of John McLaughlin, the Mahavishnu Orchestra band featured a completely revamped lineup on the Apocalypse album. Gayle Moran replaced Jan Hammer on keyboards, Narada Michael Walden replaced Billy Cobham on drums, Ralphe Armstrong replaced Rick Laird on bass and Jean Luc Ponty replaced Jerry Goodman on violin. The album was produced by the legendary Beatles producer George Martin.
The revamped Mahavishnu Orchestra released another album in 1975 entitled Visions of the Emerald Beyond. Mahavishnu Orchestra would release only one more album in the 1970’s entitled Inner Worlds. At the time of release Jean Luc Ponty had left the band. However the band toured that year with legendary guitarist Jeff Beck adding to the excitement.
In 1984, John McLaughlin reformed Mahavishnu Orchestra and released two more albums. The band’s original drummer Billy Cobham returned to the band for the reformation. In 1984 they released the album Mahavishnu. The album featured musicians, John McLaughlin on guitar, Billy Cobham on drums, Bill Evans on saxophone, Mitchel Forman on keyboards and Jonas Hellborg on bass. The same lineup released the album Adventures in Radioland in 1987. The only change in the band was the replacement of Billy Cobham with Danny Gottlieb on drums.
Besides their incredible studio albums, John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra released two live albums. Between Nothingness & Eternity was a two record set released in 1973. Unreleased Tracks from Between Nothingness & Eternity was released in 2011.
Our Top 10 Mahavishnu Orchestra songs list is a sampling of great tracks recorded throughout the band’s groundbreaking career.
# 10 – Vision Is a Naked Sword
We open our Top 10 Mahavishnu Orchestra songs list with this breathtaking progressive rock, jazz fusion, I don’t know what you call it piece of music. You can’t describe music like this. The brilliance of this track simply states that the order of this list is meaningless. We should not even be calling these selections of music song they are epic masterpieces of music played by some of the greatest musicians this world has ever known.
# 9 – Radio-Activity
The 1980’s version Mahavishnu Orchestra is heard here on the track “Radio-Activity.” The song was released on the 1984 album Mahavishnu.
# 8 – Birds of Fire
The title track from Birds of Fire. We want to list every song on the Birds of Fire album but then we would have no room for all the other Mahavishnu Orchestra songs from their other great records.
# 7 – One Word
The track “One Word,” opened up side two of the great 1973 Mahavishnu Orchestra album Birds of Prey. Okay, no more Mahavishnu Orchestra songs from this album because we need to cove the other records. Nonetheless, buy this record and you will not be able to stop playing it.
# 6 – Planetary Citizen
The impact of Disco in 1976 had an impact on everyone, even if it was not as noticeable during the time period. Looking back it was quite evident how that drum and bass groove inspired musicians in so many ways. From a historical perspective, its important to list this one.
# 5 – Hymn to Him
John McLaughlin is the fastest guitar player I have ever heard. He defines the meaning of shredding on this mind-blowing track. Their album Apocalypse is one of the greatest records ever made with no classification needed.
# 4 – Trilogy
The great live album Between Nothingness & Eternity recorded in New York’s Central Park was released in 1973. The album featured the original lineup of Mahavishnu Orchestra.
# 3 – Eternity’s Breath, Pt. 1& Part 2
The two part opening to the Visions of the Emerald Beyond album is not to be missed. The great Visions of the Emerald Beyond was released in 1975. Just another set of brilliant Mahavishnu Orchestra songs.
# 2 – Meeting of the Spirits
If you do not have the album The Inner Mounting Flame, then we recommend that whatever you are doing in this given moment that you are reading this, Stop! Go on to Amazon or drive to a music store if you can find on,e and buy this record. Don’t do anything else; don’t eat, don’t drink, don;t watch TV or clean the house just get this record, it will change your life.
# 1 – The Noonward Race
The beginning of this song just leaves us speechless and then it knocks us unconscious. John McLaughlin may just be the greatest guitar player that has ever lived. Listen to this entire track and try to argue that he was not.