Thursday, November 28, 2013

That's Why I Love Mankind: The Songs of Randall Stuart Newman

And a Happy Thanksgiving and Hanukkah to all of you and yours! Today's post is to celebrate not only the spate of holidays that fall on this day -- apparently it will be another 75,000 years until these two feastly festivals happen concurrently -- but also the birthday of one of our nation's (and the world's) greatest songwriters, who happens to turn a milestone 70 years old.
We're talking about a septugenarian so prolific and talented that even if you've never heard one of his records all the way through, odds are you know him quite well anyway from his legendary (and immensely popular) work on innumerable film scores, from Ragtime to Toy Story. Born in Los Angeles but having moved to New Orleans as a boy, he absorbed the cultural environment of one of Earth's most magically musical cities and began recording in the late 1960s. 
His songs are populated by crazed, cynical and deeply flawed -- but always ineluctably human -- characters who seem perpetually poised at the precipice of either complete self-annihilation or salvation... sometimes, as in my personal favorite track of his (Guilty), both! He's also one of the funniest songwriters ever to exist. I mean, how many people can you name who have had #2 hit singles on the pop charts with (tongue-in-cheek... well, sort of!) songs about whether short people should be allowed to continue living? He is also, and deservedly so, one of the most covered artists of all time, and many of his songs (I Think It's Going to Rain Today springs to mind) have become classic and highly revered standards in their own right.
He has written, in an entirely unique and always hilarious way, about Rednecks (they don't know their ass from a hole in the ground, and they aren't always from the American South), Political Science (his own special interpretation of "nuclear diplomacy"), money (it's all that matters, but this is America so we already knew that, right?) and even God (He gives us all His love... well, not really) -- and each and every song carries with it an ultimate balance between wit, realism and humanity that's a supreme rarity with the often sensitive topics upon which he has ruminated over the course of a nearly 50-year career.
Someone to be very thankful for indeed... and to add to the sense of Gratitude in the air this day, here we have perhaps the definitive as-yet-unreleased concert recording of the man in action. It's a unique one in that it's one of the only live performances in his career for which he has been backed by a full orchestra. This breathtaking set alternates between the sublimely sympathetic symphonic accompaniment behind him at the piano and, naturally, Randy doing what he's famous for: singing solo in his inimitable style, for which he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. I don't know about you, but I'm hoping his next record will feature a song about just what a crock of sh*t the R&RHoF is. Maybe that will just be the whole album... some of his best LPs (Good Old Boys and Born Again especially) are concept albums, after all.
Randy Newman
Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest
Roelof van Driesten, conductor
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
24 August 1979

01 Birmingham
02 Linda
3. Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Albert Einstein in America
04 Cowboy
05 He Gives Us All His Love
06 It's Money that I Love
07 Yellow Man
08 In Germany Before the War
09 Short People
10 Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear
11 Guilty
12 The Story of a Rock & Roll Band
13 I Think It's Going to Rain Today
14 Sail Away
15 Kingfish
16 Louisiana 1927
17 The Girls In My Life (part 1)
18 Rednecks
19 Rider In the Rain
20 Lonely At the Top
21 God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)
22 Mr. Sheep
23 Political Science
24 Marie
25 Texas Girl At the Funeral of Her Father
26 Davy the Fat Boy

Total time: 1:18:18

Randy Newman - vocals, piano
Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest conducted by Roelof van Driesten

FM master reel, remastered by the taper
All right, enjoy this one and try not to consume too much tryptophan today, lest it put you to sleep prematurely this evening. And of course the very best to you for the Holiday Season that begins today :) --J.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Astro Man: November 27, 1942 - September 18, 1970

There isn't a whole helluva lot to say, is there? What do you say about perhaps the singlemost influential musician of our lifetimes? I could go on about virtuosity and innovation and so forth. I could describe, in minute detail, why it's easy and absolutely factual to say that there was music before him, and music after him, and that those are two entirely different things that may as well have existed on entirely separate planets.
It doesn't much matter what I say, because most if not all of it has been said many times over, by writers far more expressive than I, for decades now. If I were to add anything, it might be that I'm a Hendrix heretic of sorts, preferring as I do his Band of Gypsys era stuff with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, to the more widely acknowledged (and deservedly revered) J.H. Experience with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding. But that's just me, so who cares? Saying you prefer B.O.G. Hendrix to the Experience is like me saying I prefer Picasso to Magritte anyway... when both are undeniably indispensable contributions to the continuum of human expression.
So instead, let's tone down the rhetoric and turn up the music, because whatever you prefer you know beyond doubt that this man produced sounds so sublime that his influence will go on as long as there are human beings alive on this Earth. There's no one else I can really think of (maybe Nick Drake?) who managed to cram 27 lifetimes into a mere four years of recording. And poor Nick, not a soul knew who he was until many years after he died... like Jimi, obscenely young. Hendrix didn't suffer from obscurity once he broke in mid-1967 upon his return from the UK to America for the Monterey Pop Festival... much the opposite, he was hounded by assholes, profiteers, and downright evil management to an early grave, but died being considered, by and large, the best guitar player in the world. Many feel he is still on top and no one will ever surpass him. Who am I to disagree?
Better that I save the redundant hyperbole and sit here all day and night making this compilation of a bunch of my personal favorites, which I assembled from all kinds of places, spanning official releases (of tracks that were never put on albums while JH was alive) and as-yet-unissued Hendrix studio performances and jams. I was meticulous with the bootleg-type material to scavenge my archives for the best possible sounding sources... so there isn't much of a noticeable dropoff. Honestly, the idea that several of these cuts remain unreleased just makes you scratch your head, given that some of them (the sitar version of Cherokee Mist, the 23+ minute excursion down the Highway of Desire, the take of Calling All Devil's Children with the phony, hilarious "drug bust" at the end, etc.) stand among his finest and most intense. Especially as per the Shit-Hot Guitar quotient that was the bedrock of his fame.
My advice is just to grab the music with both ears and dig it like the man himself always claimed was all he wanted you to do. I tried to make it all sound like one thing, despite being cobbled together from so many different locations, so forgive me if it all sounds a little disjointed and all over the place. Someday there will be a 700-disc box set that contains every note the guy ever played on every Stratocaster he ever strangled, all mastered impeccably with the care, concern and attention the material and its ongoing impact merit, but until then this may be the best we can do. Regardless, it's all essential music that will never even go to sleep, much less pass away.
Jimi Hendrix
Calling All Devil's Children
in the studio, 1968-70

01 Beginnings
02 Valleys of Neptune (alternate take)
03 Jimi-Jimmy Jam (2nd guitar: Jim McCarty)
04 Power of Soul (rehearsal)
05 Ships Passing In the Night (trumpet version)
06 Calling All Devil's Children ("drug bust" version)
 07 Drifting
08 Pali Gap
 09 Burning Desire (rehearsal)
10 South Saturn Delta (horns: Michael & Randy Brecker)
11 Freedom Jam/Highway of Desire/Seven Dollars In My Pocket

Total time: 1:19:43

01 Country Blues/Astro Man (full take)
02 Come Down Hard On Me
03 Crash Landing (original mix)
04 Peace In Mississippi (full take)
05 Izabella (single mix)
06 Drone Blues
07 Cherokee Mist (sitar version)
 08 Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)
 09 Young-Hendrix (featuring Larry Young, organ)
 10 Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne (extended version)
11 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) (acoustic take)

Total time: 1:19:21 

various master reels and first-generation copies
As tragic as it was that Jimi Hendrix -- in many ways unjustly a prisoner of his own notoriety while he lived -- left this plane so soon, we still have the music and he gave us a whole lot of it for someone who did not live to see 28. Every song, from the loosest and most exploratorily sloppy jam session to the most overdubbed and slavered-over master take, comes with a sincerity and passionate, overflowing sense of abandon and vibrational immersion... a quality sadly and glaringly lacking in too much of today's music, the people that make it, and the faceless and dispassionate corporations that mass-produce it. It wasn't always this way. You are welcome to grab these discs I just threw together and see, hear and feel how it once was... oh yeah, and Happy 71st Birthday, James Marshall Hendrix!  --J.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2Hg: 5 September 1946 - 24 November 1991

 On this day, 22 years ago, Freddie Mercury died.
 He is held by many to be the single greatest singer in the history of Rock music. 
He was gay -- sometimes flamboyantly so -- in an era that accommodated such expressions with far less tolerance than today. 
He went so far as to call his band Queen. It remains one of the most revered that will ever exist. 
While he lived he brought tremendous joy to millions upon tens of millions of people, and his place in the pantheon of his chosen art form is assured for all eternity.
People will still enjoy his music thousands of years from this moment. It is a permanent, essential and timeless part of the human cultural landscape.
There were tears in my eyes when I wrote this, because there are few people who could make me feel more proud to be who I am than Freddie Mercury.
 May his spirit know perfect peace, forever and ever.
Tokyo, Japan
25 April 1979

01 Intro 
02 We Will Rock You (fast) 
03 Let Me Entertain You 
04 Killer Queen 
05 Bicycle Race 
06 I'm In Love With My Car 
07 Teo Torriate 
08 Keep Yourself Alive 
09 Don't Stop Me Now 
10 Bohemian Rhapsody 
11 We Will Rock You 
12 We Are the Champions

Total time: 32:21

Freddie Mercury - vocals and piano
Brian May - guitars and vocals
Roger Taylor - drums and vocals
John Deacon - bass and vocals

Japan TV broadcast remastered by Chief Mouse

Saturday, November 23, 2013

If I Only Could Be Running Up that Hill: Dead Kennedys, 1963/1980

Watching all this JFK assassination anniversary coverage, it struck me how hard the corporate media simulacra factory works to convince us that we didn't really see what we saw in whatever footage of whatever event they are showing us... usually while the mind-altering, syrupy triumpho-serious music plays in the background to further enhance the illusion of credibility. For fifty years, and with ever-more bombastic and maudlin background music, they have been saying the ball you saw with your own eyes go over the left field fence indeed went over the right field fence... and you know that isn't what happened. We need Occam's Razor to touch up our mustache.

What about those drapes? Damn.
So you strip all of it away -- every bit of commentary on both sides of the "conspiracy-or-lone-nut" equation that's been whacked around like a warped badminton shuttlecock for a half century -- and you WATCH THE GAME ON THE FIELD. When dude's head snaps back and blows up like an 8mm Wes Craven film, everyone (almost everyone) on the grass and around the kill spot goes running and pointing... where? Towards precisely that same direction... the direction from which that money shot came, duh. Picket fence. Mystery over. Watch the fielders, not the baseball itself. They will always give you a clearer idea of where the action will be.

For these high-impact historical moments (the ones where I wasn't there) and their aftermaths, I've learned to trust the unfiltered reactions of the people you see in those films -- in the cases where there are films or recordings, anyway -- and NOTHING ELSE. And that is true for any circumstance about which we have been propagandized during the course of our lifetimes. Watch the game, mute the commentators whose careers depend upon their hyper-dramatized opinions being louder in their defense either of the status quo or its perceived alternatives than the next guy's, and draw conclusions based on the most pure observations of the event -- decluttered of the decades of babble pro and con -- available. In this case, you absorb all the angles of the murder and its aftermath. All the footage and photos from Zapruder to the others and back... and you see that's what they show, so despite all the blather that must be what really went on.

I'm not saying I know the intimate details of "what happened" like so many claim to... all I know is that John Kennedy is long dead, and it isn't like there wasn't a laundry list as long as your arm of people and organizations (Joint Chiefs, CIA cold warrior freaks, Castro-hating Cuban exiles, Birchers, the Mob, the list goes on forever) that wouldn't have fought to the death over a deli-counter-style numbered ticket stub to be first in line to take a shot at the man. Nor am I saying the smug little Mr. McSmirky, "I'm just a patsy!" Wannabe Intelligence Douche they pinned it on didn't have some significant hand in it, not at all. You just have to forget everything -- as involving as they may be, forget all of those associations and that these intervening fifty years ever happened and watch the game -- and let the absence of that pollution and corruption of the chain of evidence leave the opportunity open to just watch (and listen) to the footage from the many angles from which it was filmed and recorded. And don't even look at the limos anymore, watch the onlookers. I trust them as the honest arbiters of the moment because they were there and we weren't, and in the amplified state of sensitized you get into when there's gunshots and blood and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, you might die.

In my experience, in all these things it's really important to retain a distance and an unwillingness to say definitively what happened as if you were there and that's the last word... when you see people doing that it's almost always to make money from a book or a film, or they've some perspective that's being narrowed/distorted by a personal enmity or favor towards some element or personality within the subject matter. We'll likely never know what really happened in this particular case, but if we are to glean any sort of rational, objective idea beyond the speculation that surrounds it, the only way is through consideration of the film and sound footage of the moment and its immediate aftermath, with all other associations, theories and whatnot set aside. And preferably with a focus on the reactions to the event in the moment by the onlookers and not even the event, or what we've come to know as the event, graphic and disturbing as it is. 
Remember the famous picture of Dr. King's aides in the seconds after he got shot? How they are all pointing across the way to where the shot was later proven to have come from? That's because it's in the moment -- there's gunfire and their friend just got blown to bits and shit just got real. No poses, no time to react in any other way than in what the raw, unfiltered moment demands when there's chaos, danger, mayhem and death happening all around you in three dimensions. Truth.
This is why I suggest that we STOP looking at the cars and the motorcade and the big money snuff shot (if it bleeds, it leads) where the man from Massachusetts takes it large in the dome and START looking at the reactions of the people right as it happens and the various civilian cameras (the cell phones of their day) are rolling. What do they do? Where do a big old bunch of them -- in direct contravention of their own safety for all we know, as rifle and possibly semi-automatic weapons fire from somewhere very nearby has just caused their president's head to explode, like a watermelon at the hand of Gallagher, right in front of their astonished eyes -- go running and pointing towards? They sure aren't going running for the book building... not that fire didn't come from there, but that isn't where their gut reactions -- in their heightened state of awareness only visceral danger and peril can evoke -- take them.
A case in my point is this Dallas radio reporter (forget his name but he was all over the TV yesterday) that was the closest to the event... you always hear his frantic little snippet "It appears as if something has happened in the motorcade....". Well on the big anniversaries like yesterday is I guess when they break out the cats (and ladies) behind the snippets, so to say... so they have this guy in the studio now and they play his whole spiel in the moment, as the thing was happening in front of his face, and then he recollects it for the cameras. And while the original sequence rolls, they play the different footages and you hear him get all adamant on the tape (in his ultra-real, genuine crisis moment voice that cannot be faked or obfuscated) that people and cops are running "up the hill" towards the area where the infamous picket fence and the Stemmons Freeway overpass look like they meet... as the pictures and film are showing, well shucks, exactly that.
Whatever the truth about this particular event is, rest assured it's the birth -- the absolute alpha and omega moment -- of what Naomi Klein refers to as The Shock Doctrine. They (mass media of all ideological persuasions) show that big ugly horrifying Zapruder film of Captain Kennedy meeting his (gruesome, uncalled for, not cool) end in the moment all the time and twice on Sunday, not even out of some "conspiracy" or untoward impulse to "conceal" the "truth" but because like I said, if it bleeds it leads, and it's become part of a culture of self-imposed Shock Doctrine bloodlust-gratification in a lot of ways since 50 years ago. The "Faces of Death," reality-TV shockfest meets the national security state at the corner of Stockholm and Syndrome. But only on days like yesterday do they sort of break out the more complete thing and the other, less well-known film and sound sequences from that day, and it's in those lesser-viewed and heard ones that you can get more angles of the instant replay and perhaps start to move towards efficacy -- maybe not in figuring out what happened and who did it (that will never be known, which is sad but it is what it is), but at least in seeing what fence the ball went over, to use my earlier metaphor.
All that said, for any further avenues to travel in seeking to attempt to accurately discern who may have done it and why, I'd right now recommend the recent book "Mary's Mosaic" about JFK's mistress Mary Pinchot Meyer and what the two of them were doing in the years and months leading up to his demise. Very big keys to the real story are contained in that book, IMO. The name Cord Meyer looms large in so much post-WWII skullduggery and this JFK-stars-in-the-world's-first-instant-snuff-film mess of 50 years ago is no exception to that rule of thumb.
I'm going to try and keep political-type stuff off this page as a rule, but I'll conclude my little rant with the assertion that all of this is part and parcel of what Jello Biafra means when he says to the audience at the very end of this stunning SF Mabuhay Gardens Dead Kennedys set from late 1980: that it's time to "make America stupid again." This performance, from what I can gather from web research, was their very first after another of history's real facepalm headshakers: the 1980 election. I think it marks the first show in which they ever morphed "California Über Alles" into "We've Got a Bigger Problem Now" and changed its subject from Jerry Brown to Ronnie Raygun.
Dead Kennedys
Mabuhay Gardens
San Francisco, CA
12 December 1980

01 Bleed for Me
02 In-Sight
03 When Ya Get Drafted
04 Let's Lynch the Landlord
05 Saturday Night Holocaust
06 Chemical Warfare
07 Too Drunk to Fuck
08 Kill the Poor
09 Holiday In Cambodia
10 Police Truck
11 We've Got a Bigger Problem Now

Total time: 42:36

The Dead Kennedys:
East Bay Ray - guitar
Klaus Flouride - bass
D.H. Peligro - drums
Jello Biafra - vocals

1st generation soundboard cassette recording

Some people go insufferably on about what a tasteless name Dead Kennedys is. But I don't think a hardcore leftist punk band whose songs are all about the disaffection and grassroots-level horror wrought by the complete collapse of the social construct -- formerly known as "the common good" -- that we've witnessed in the period of time since the events described above should... could, even... be called anything but.  

Enjoy the show and thanx for reading... --J.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wax Mundi: As the Turns Whirled

Welcome to November 21st, which means that on this day in 1877, inventor extraordinaire Thomas A. Edison announced his invention of the phonograph. Not to be outdone, rival Nikola Tesla would pioneer the art of record-scratching four years later, DJ'ing a house party in Budapest... an equally-as-Planet-Rocking feat which went largely unnoticed until his innovations were taken to the next level in The (Boogie Down) Bronx, New York, a century or so down the unwinding coil of time.
Too bad, but that kick in the shindig found Tesla -- always a man far ahead of his time -- situated 90 years too soon in the temporal/spatial continuum to luup up some of the headnoddic drum breaks emanating from this slab of vinyl, released in 1971 on the Douglas label and as-yet-unreissued on CD. It's sort of a post-soundtrack to the legendary Alejandro Jodorowsky's epic, lysergically hypnagogic diamond desert dreamscape "El Topo," with Latin-jazzier, funkified interpretations of some of the (visionary, inspiring) director's musical motifs from the original movie.
The band is made up of a stellar cast of San Francisco Bay Area musicians, including trumpet deity Luis Gasca and reeds-and-winds whiz Martin Fierro. Hadley Caliman handles a good deal of the tenor sax and blows his socks off in the process. This excellent transfer was done by a friend of a friend of mine and you can even dance to it completely naked, in honor of the state of undress in which many of the characters spend much of the film.
Shades of Joy
Music of El Topo

01 The Desert Is a Circle
02 Man of Seven Years 
03 Flute In a Quarry
04 Together 
05 El Topo's Dream
06 Slowest & Saddest Waltz  
07 Freakout #1

Total time: 38:42

Martin Fierro - flute, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, percussion, cowbell
Frank Morin - flute, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, maracas
Hadley Caliman - flute, tenor saxophone
Mel Martin - flute, tenor saxophone
Howard Wales - organ, electric piano
Jymm Young - piano
Luis Gasca - trumpet, tambourine
Ken Balzell - trumpet, trombone, tambourine, maracas
Eddie Adams - acoustic bass, electric upright bass, tambourine, cowbell
Peter Walsh - acoustic 12-string guitar, rhythm guitar
Jackie King - acoustic guitar, lead guitar
Ivory Smylie - congas, triangle
Jerry Love - drums
Jack Dorsey - drums, percussion
Roger "Jellyroll" Troy - electric 6-string bass, Fender bass
Engineer [Mixing] – George Engfer
Engineer [Recording] – Glen Kolotkin

Produced by Alan Douglas & Doris Dynamite

Arranged & Conducted by Martin Fierro
Composed by Alejandro Jodorowsky

Recorded and mixed at CBS Studios, San Francisco, California, 1971

LP transfer, declicked by EN
245 MB FLAC/November 2013 archive link
Enjoy, and a toot of the horn to celebrate the advent of the ancestor of the modern turntable, a tale that began its culturally transformative spin cycle only 136 years ago today...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Together, the Parts Make a Giant: The Advent of GG

Let's all prog our knee-high argyle socks right off to this mixtape I did a long time ago, featuring the only band ever to make François Rabelais into a rock star. Who else could have you singing along to the epic mythologies of Gargantua? Who else would dare announce these words on an album sleeve as a band manifesto, even in 1970? 
"Acquiring the taste is the second phase of sensory pleasure. If you've gorged yourself on our first album, then relish the finer flavours (we hope) of this, our second offering. It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary music at the risk of being very unpopular. We have recorded each composition with the one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous, and fascinating. It has taken every shred of our combined musical and technical knowledge to achieve this. From the outset we have abandoned all preconceived thoughts on blatant commercialism. Instead we hope to give you something far more substantial and fulfilling. All you need to do is sit back, and acquire the taste."
You hear that? Don't push us or we'll start setting R.D. Laing books to contrapuntal four-part harmony and bringing several varieties of cello onstage with us. As for me, I always liked the GG period when Phil Shulman was there; I think the horns make for a warmer vibe when it comes to these guys. I admire their later albums, I just think they sound so cold and technical without the jazzier, freer element the reeds and such brought. Anyway, this CD contains two totally unique edits by me, one of which may be the most difficult and time-consuming one I've ever attempted. Where did that drum solo in the middle of "Nothing At All" go, anyways?
Gentle Giant
together, the parts make a Giant
the Vertigo Years, vol.1

01 Plain Truth
02 Giant
03 Funny Ways
04 The Advent of Panurge
05 Working All Day
 06 Nothing At All (EN single edit)
07 Alucard (EN instrumental edit)
08 Pantagruel's Nativity
09 Knots
10 Wreck
11 Mister Class And Quality
12 Three Friends
13 The Moon Is Down
14 Isn't It Quiet and Cold?
15 Black Cat
16 River

Total time: 1:18:37

Gentle Giant, 1970-72:
Phil Shulman: vocals, clarinet, saxophones, trumpet
Derek Shulman: vocals, saxophone, recorder
Ray Shulman: bass, violin, trumpet, recorder, vocals
Kerry Minnear: keyboards, vibraphone, cello, recorder, vocals
Gary Green: guitars, recorder, vocals
Martin Smith: drums (1970-71)
Malcolm Mortimore: drums (1971-72)

John Weathers: drums, percussion, vibraphone, vocals (1972)

Little known fun fact: Derek Shulman became an A&R representative for various labels after Gentle Giant ended in 1980, and went on to sign bands such as Tears for Fears, Bon Jovi, Pantera and Dream Theater to their very first major deals.
enjoy and don't hurt yourselves progging! --J.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Before Nastiness and Uncertainty: TMO in the USA, 1972-73

What do you say sitting here listening to these concerts? These guys weren't, at the time of these recordings, considered by many to be the Greatest Band In the World for no reason. They didn't just "fuse" jazz and rock or whatever the generality is thought to be; they made a molecular integration of the most vital aspects of both and Music in general and Fusion in particular were never the same after their advent. TMO pioneered an almost religious/devotional/ecstatic territory of aural assault, something essential of which still survives and that bands and artists still strive to capture today. To say that this music burns with the white hot intensity of ten million suns would be like intimating that ol' Joshy Bones here is a man given to occasionally passionate hyperbole. And that's no exaggeration, my friends  :-&

In another in a series of 43 gajillion instances where the oxymoronic "music industry" -- and let's face it, it's effectively concerned with neither music or ethical industry, only profit with minimal effort or attention to the Great Art it is in large part mindlessly butchering -- has in one way or another dropped the ball on its bloated, clay feet in however many decades of rampant abuse of artists and musicians, the first of these shows (and likely other TMO concerts of the era) were recorded by Columbia themselves. Using a 16-track mobile studio truck and everything. This, to accumulate material for a proposed official live album... but for a whole 18 months nothing ever became of the idea until they issued "Between Nothingness and Eternity" (recorded in NYC's Central Park in August 1973) and by then, the original version of Mahavishnu was weeks from splitting up in not-the-friendliest (i.e., a pretty darn acrimonious) manner.
classic Jan Hammer (2nd from left) Stinkeye of Doom, circa late 1973. John McLaughlin (in the middle, but Jan's pissed because J-Mac is likewise in the center) is the recipient.
The story goes that Columbia was seriously considering issuing the Cleveland concert (which became, as sourced from a comparatively crappy DAT with swishy issues in the high end, known as the bootleg CD "Wild Strings") in the 1990s, but were only offering the five band members scale wages (a whopping $250 each!!!!!) for the rights to issue it. Needless to say, the insult outweighed the injury until you start to consider just how balls-out b-l-a-z-i-n-g the music in this entire little Maha "Bootleg Box" really is, and how we'd all sell our internal organs for officially mastered and issued permutations of any of it. But sadly that ended that for the official release of the Cleveland set forever. I doubt there will ever be an official live TMO box set comprising recordings made during this period by Columbia, but at least we can hear what's here, even if it's just a tantalizing tidbit or two that have leaked out over the years.
an ad from 1973

None of this really and truly matters, because this set as a whole is definitely not that far below official-issue quality, considering at least one of these gigs was professionally recorded and it and several others may at one time and in some configuration have been under consideration for proper release anyway. The Northern California portion was stunningly and quite professionally recorded by a large local radio station, so it is indistinguishable from an official release in most of the significant ways. The third segment, not noticeably much below the sonic standard of the first two, is made up of pre-FM & soundboard-feed mixes, chosen by me, from various northeast US shows in January-July of 1973. The Cleveland segment of the set -- which had erroneously circulated for years as being from Case Western University in Ohio in the Spring of 1972, until it was discovered the Orchestra never played there until 1973 and the wheres and whens were cleared up -- is mine and the legendary Professor Goody's 2008 remaster of what sounds like a first generation DAT of the mix Gregg Bendian made in 1998 for Columbia of the concert, which leaked out with clipping issues in the kick drum that I managed to scrub away with Sound Forge 7 back a few years ago. In addition, somehow the original transfer to the DAT had been slightly slow and the good Prof. G (a true chiropractor of sound) put it back into exact alignment, as he is deservedly renowned for doing.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra
Vital Transformation: live in the USA, 1972-73

Music Hall
Cleveland, OH
EN/goody remaster

 01 introduction
02 Meeting of the Spirits
03 You Know You Know
04 The Dance of Maya
05 The Noonward Race

mobile feed recording mixed by Gregg Bendian for an unissued live LP, remastered by EN and prof. goody
Total time: 1:00:17

Berkeley Community Theater
Berkeley, CA
tom phillips remaster, v.2

01 Birds of Fire
02 Miles Beyond 
03 You Know, You Know
04 Dream
01 One Word
02 The Dance of Maya
03 Sanctuary
04 A Lotus on Irish Streams
05 Vital Transformation

master pre-FM KPFA reels, remastered by tom phillips
Total time: 2:05:42

NY+NE 1973
various locations
New York & New England, USA
early 1973

01 Hope/Celestial Terrestrial Commuters (Century Theater, Buffalo NY 1.27.73)
02 Dawn (Century Theater, Buffalo NY 1.27.73)
03 Trilogy (Yale University, New Haven CT 1.19.73)
04 Awakening (Orpheum Theater, Boston MA 3.11.73)
05 Steppings Tones>Sister Andrea (Music Inn, Lenox MA 7.21.73)

SBD + broadcast mixes, compiled + remastered by EN
Total time: 1:16:32

The Mahavishnu Orchestra:

 John McLaughlin - guitar
Jan Hammer - keyboards
Jerry Goodman - violin
Rick Laird - bass
Billy Cobham - drums

all 3 shows zipped together
1.47 GB FLAC/November 2013 archive link
Did I fail to mention that the Berkeley show presented here, so meticulously and fantastically remastered from the original KPFA-FM radio pre-broadcast reels (digital transfers of them anyhow) by my old friend Tom Phillips, happened 41 years ago last week and not even three miles from where I type this? 
In an even more appropriate symmetry, TMO played the same venue exactly 40 years ago today, on November 16, 1973, but sadly no recording is thought to exist of that event, and certainly not one to rival the high-quality sonics of the previous year's show presented here. So here we are with one (slightly belated but still consummately Orchestrated) anniversary to be celebrated, and another that marks an even four decades of passing time nearly to the moment. Either way, I trust you'll enjoy this fire-forged and famously formative foray into the feistiest Fusion and will join me in a fabulous feast for your ears :)