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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bathed in Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Hal Leonard), by Colin Harper

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Music aficionados know John McLaughlin as Miles Davis’ guitarist on Bitches Brew and as leader of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Colin Harper’s informative biography delves into McLaughlin’s surprisingly varied earlier life in skiffle and old-time jazz. By the ’60s he had moved to Swinging London where he got to know the rising stars, including such admirers as Jimmy Page. By the ’70s his breathtaking jazz fusion earned “an implausibly large audience.” McLaughlin was the perfect anti-rock star who didn’t drink, smoke or shoot, eschewed meat and followed an Eastern spiritual path with true devotion. The spotlight left McLaughlin after the mid-’70s and he may have been happier for it. Harper makes a good case for the guitarist as a singular artist who pressed virtuosity in service to a higher calling. (David Luhrssen)