Thursday, 30 January 2014

Review: Shakti - Natural Elements

After two distinct and different, yet both impressive records, Shakti recorded just one more album together before calling it a day - arguably the strongest of the three, ‘Natural Elements’. And again, following the path set out by the first two efforts, the group retained their own personal sound but chose to make some more artistic changes and developments to the proceedings.

Most noticeable of all to begin with is the fact that instead of the usual short number of lengthy and winding compositions, here composers McLaughlin and Shankar have written a series of much shorter pieces, ranging in length from just under two to over seven minutes, with most hovering around the five minute mark – a clear change in direction from the fifteen minute and half-hour long hypnotic opuses from their debut.

Better still is McLaughlin’s continuing development and integration with the rest of the group, and overall sounding more relaxed and comfortable, allowing for a greater balance and stronger overall more cohesive sound, and for each of the group to play off of each other with confidence and ease, and more than a solid fistful of beautiful moments.

Offering a strong and diverse but coherent mix, ‘The Daffodil And The Eagle’ gives us some intense and arresting music, whereas the immediate follow-on ‘Happiness Is Being Together’ is pure unrestrained joy, and the climactic ‘Peace Of Mind’ absolutely beautiful high to end on.

Shakti of course only recorded three albums (not counting the partial band reunion ‘Remember Shakti’ some two decades later), with all three being supremely excellent examples of all the men involved and of ‘world-music’ fusion - before the name became muddied and too encompassing. ‘Natural Elements’ though stands, even if only on tiptoes, just above the two earlier recordings, and is a clear peak of admittedly many high-points in the careers of both McLaughlin and Shankar.


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