JOHN McLAUGHLIN/CARLOS SANTANA – Love, Devotion, Surrender

With the Mahivishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin made two of the all-time greatest jazz-rock fusion albums – ‘The Inner Mounting Flame’ and ‘Birds Of Fire’. Similarly, with his eponymous band, Carlos Santana was responsible for fusing Latin American rhythms and rock music to produce a string of ground-breaking albums. So why has it taken me so long to get to hear this collaboration of these two outstanding guitarists. The main reason was that I understood that it was a religious album, both musicians being followers of Sri Chinmoy, and so I expected the music to be wishy washy acoustic instrumentals and Hari Krishna chanting. What changed my mind was finding out that the music played on here included covers of John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ and ‘Naima’, and so thirty years late I found a copy. The first thing to say is that the two Coltrane covers are not even the best things on here, with McLaughlin’s ‘The Life Divine’ displaying some of his best guitar playing. Santana also delivers some searing solos, and on the almost side-long traditional hymn ‘Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord’ the two guitarists feed off each other, resulting in some stunning playing. The acoustic ‘Meditation’ gently brings you down after the frenetic guitar dueling of the rest of the album, and if there is one term that does not describe this album it is ‘wishy washy’. This is the sound of two master musicians at the height of their powers, collaborating on a project to celebrate their faith, and should be heard by anyone with even a passing acquaintance with either McLaughlin or Santana’s more commercial work.