John McLaughlin: Belo Horizonte

22 Jun

Belo Horizonte is one of 12 sites for this year’s World Cup in Brazil, a city whose name means Beautiful Horizon, which seems like a good spot for the beautiful game.

Perhaps not to the English, whose team was eliminated there in the 1950 World Cup by the United States — musically, this would be somewhat akin to the Monkees outperforming the Beatles — and whose team returns there Tuesday for the first time since, having already been eliminated from this one.

If the World Cup brings attention to the city, perhaps it could trickle down to the album of the same name by English guitarist John McLaughlin, which is beautiful music, as the title track of the album above demonstrates.

The album was released in 1981, shortly before Friday Night In San Francisco, which featured McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia and Al DiMeola. de Lucia plays on Belo Horizonte — the last song is dedicated to him — but all of the songs are written by McLaughlin and the band is mostly French.

“Belo features some of the best compositions John McLaughlin has ever written,” wrote Walter Kolosky in a 2002 review of the album. “It also showcases some of the most unbelievable acoustic guitar playing ever put onto record. ‘Stardust On Your Sleeve’ should be required listening for anyone who wants to know what a brilliant guitarist can do with his instrument. It is an outstanding piece that ranks among the higher moments of guitar history. This is not hyperbole. McLaughlin is literally able to bend time. Missing this tune would truly deprive you of a great pleasure in your life.”

John Kelman, reviewing for the same website two years later, called the album, “one of McLaughlin’s most enduring works.” He went on to talk about lightning-fast runs — those of McLaughlin’s, not on the pitch — and said “while undoubtedly influenced by the music of Brazil, (Belo Horizonte) also reflected a Mediterranean disposition and a new-found lyricism.” (A good formula for music, not bad for football).

“Belo Horizonte demonstrates another side of McLaughlin that, at the time, came as a bit of a surprise,” Kelman wrote. “Pat Metheny once said that ‘McLaughlin has changed the evolution of the guitar at least three times,’ and it is clear that refreshed, reinvigorated and relocated, he did it once again with Belo Horizonte, an album that sounds as fresh and important today as it did twenty-three years ago.”


One Response to “John McLaughlin: Belo Horizonte”

  1. LondonJazzCollector June 24, 2014 at 3:00 am #

    A big fan of McLaughlin in the early ’70s, must have seen him a half dozen times live as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti, and others. Oddly, Belo Horizonte must be one of the few albums I never had. I still have may be eight albums, sitting in the loft – they haven’t worn especially well with time, though that is not to diminish the excitement we all experienced in their day. Some things wear well with time, others less so, so it goes. I went to see him at the Nice Jazz Festival last year. He is still walking around the stage, beaming, big head of grey hair, bending those electric notes. His Industrial Zen and Five Peace band stuff from I think the early years of this century still have much of interest.

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