Interest declared: I'm the author, and I'm grateful to anyone who takes the time to read any or all of the above book and post a review!
I just thought it would be helpful if I underlined here, in case there are misunderstandings, that 'Bathed In Lightning' is NOT 500 pages about the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Walter Kolosky's 'Power, Passion & Beauty' (Abstract Logix) covers the MO wonderfully, with comprehensive retrospective interviews from all five MO1 members and their crew plus some members of MO2. The coverage of MO1 in my book is partly constructed to complement Walter's - it's around 12,000 words/one chapter of a 215,000 word book, and that chapter is deliberately based on a mining of extensive primary print coverage (with retrospective comments from one or two associates). It's a sort of reconstruction of MO1 'as it happened'.
The coverage of MO2 (hitherto less well-known and documented than its predecessor) is two chapters in the print edition of 'Bathed In Lightning', but with several bonus chapters of material in the eBook edition. I was privileged to interview most of the alumni of MO2 and while the print edition chapters focus on John McLaughlin's journey with that band across 1974-75, the eBook chapters allow much more to be heard from the other members. It was as much their adventure as it was John's, and for many of them it happened at a very formative time in their lives.
The reason the eBook version carries more content, incidentally, is nothing to do with publisher greed: it was simply that a longer print edition was commercially and physically less viable. The publishers very graciously agreed not only to bonus chapters and appendices in the standard eBook edition but also to something which, I think, is a little unusual: making the 100,000-odd words of bonus content available at a very small cost as a stand-alone mini-eBook. Not sure about amazon.com but this is certainly available at amazon.co.uk.
The central point I wanted to make, though, was that the book's subtitle is hugely important as a content descriptor: 'John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond'.
Choosing subtitles is tricky. They have to be pithy, it helps if they stick in the mind but above all you want them to give an accurate impression of what the content is. There are three nouns/subjects in there: John McLaughlin (the central figure in the book), the 60s (a whole decade, a time of amazing creativity and impact in popular music, hugely resonant in culture to this day), and the 'Emerald Beyond' (intended as a poetic representation of the MO era).
The 60s is a major part of that subtitle - and a major part of the book - and I'm sorry if it hasn't quite communicated strongly enough, ahead of purchase, to some purchasers.
John was a professional musician from 1958, for 11 years prior to arriving in New York, recording with Miles Davis, Lifetime and then onwards to the Mahavishnu Orchestra et al. From his many interviews over the years, and from the third party coverage that being a successful or prominent musician generates, John's story from 1969 onwards is pretty well-known. It seemed to me that it was remarkable that he had traversed the 1960s - the most impactful and creative decade in popular music - at the global heart of that cultural boom (London) and yet seemed to do so without leaving many footprints. He is, arguably, the most important 1960s musician whose 1960s experience has been all but unknown.
Consequently, 'Bathed In Lightning' looks at John within the context of his time and place, and with the testimony of many musicians who worked with him in bands and on recordings. And yes, there are a remarkable number of recordings involving John from this era - not only as a hired session man but as a full creative participant. The chapter centred around Duffy Power, for example, chronicles a creative relationship which lasted around 14 months yielded at least five co-written songs, eight recording sessions, a UK single and French EP as a band 'Duffy's Nucleus' (with the rhythm sections from Cream and the Pentangle joining John and Duffy), and several gigs before Duffy's illness derailed it and John moved on. Many further recordings of John with Duffy have been released subsequently.
Another chapter - a bonus one in the eBook - looks at the Tony Meehan Combo, a short-lived band which John has never once mentioned in interview to my knowledge and yet the band within which John would enjoy his first released record, his first hit (albeit a UK No.39!) and first TV appearances. The band, in a way, represented the last hurrah for a kind of instrumental British rock music which all but disappeared in the wake of the Beatles. John was not a creative participant, he was a hired player - but it would be one of many worlds through which he passed as the decade went along.
In a way, John McLaughlin's career from 1958-69 in Britain acts as a prism through which to glimpse, unearth or celebrate the worlds of British rock'n'roll, British R&B, British jazz, British soul, 'free improvisation' and the London-based pop sessions industry. It is all peculiarly British - a cabinet of curiosities, but one which birthed occasional monsters on the world stage (such as Cream, Zeppelin etc). John was 'in and around' all of this. Now and again, if you look hard enough, his name even appears (usually misspelt) in the pages of British music journals of the time...
In a nutshell, there's around 150 pages covering John's NYC period 1969-75 and around 325 covering his period in Britain 1942-69. Or, two thirds 60s, one third Emerald Beyond!
I've given the book only three stars, to be neutral. I'd be an idiot to give my own book zero stars and hubristic to give it five - but the mechanism here means I have to give it something!
I sincerely hope people enjoy the book - it's John McLaughlin in the context of his time and place, London in the 60s and then New York in the early 70s.