With his breakthrough appearances on Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, UK guitarist John McLaughlin was poised to become one of the giants of jazz fusion. But just months before the November ’71 debut of his era-defining Mahavishnu Orchestra (The Inner Mounting Flame), he offered My Goal’s Beyond, a veritable bible of solo acoustic guitar playing that set the stage for related bodies of work by Larry Coryell, Ralph Towner, and Bill Connors, among others.
There are two full-band tracks, “Peace One” and “Peace Two,” that fill up an album side and find Mahavishnu violinist Jerry Goodman and drummer Billy Cobham in the company of Charlie Haden, Dave Liebman, and more. But the acoustic side is where McLaughlin’s virtuosity and unbound imagination run free. With some judicious overdubbing, he presents three originals (“Phillip Lane,” “Follow Your Heart,” “Song for My Mother”), along with immersive renderings of Charles Mingus’ classic angular ballad “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Chick Corea’s dark and shadowy “Waltz for Bill Evans” (aka “Song of the Wind”), Theodore Moses Tobani’s gorgeous “Hearts and Flowers,” and Dave Herman’s multi-layered “Something Spiritual.” Saving it for the end, McLaughlin nods to Miles Davis (and Bill Evans) with “Blue in Green,” making this enigmatic tune from Kind of Blue his own (and foreshadowing, in a way, his 1993 release, Time Remembered: John McLaughlin Plays Bill Evans).