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10 Albums That Changed My Life: John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin, one of the most influential guitarists of all time, provides Goldmine with the 10 albums that changed his life.
John McLaughlin performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Publicity image.

John McLaughlin performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Publicity image.

John McLaughlin is one of the most influential guitarists of all time. In the '70s, he practically invented the template for jazz-rock fusion with the group Mahavisnu Orchestra. Besides that, he collaborated with the likes of Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Carlos Santana and other extremely gifted musicians. 

McLaughlin remains very prolific and enjoys performing (pandemic permitting). He has released John McLaughlin: The Montreux Years (a collection of his finest performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival between 1978 and 2016) and his most recent studio album, Liberation Timehas a brilliant mix of piano to go with his luxurious guitar playing, mostly recorded with his current ensemble, the 4th Dimension.  

McLaughlin told Goldmine: "This album took me back to the 1960s when my heroes were Miles and Coltrane. I'm old school, so whether we sell records or not, I just keep making them."

And with that, McLaughlin provided Goldmine with the 10 albums that changed his life.

— Patrick Prince


Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony

Schubert, The Unfinished Symphony

My first clear memory of an album is without doubt Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. My mother was a violinist and it was one of her favorite works. I would have been about five years old when I really "listened" to music for the first time. This recording certainly changed my musical life since years later I wrote two pieces for guitar and Orchestra.


best of muddy waters

Muddy Waters, The Best of Muddy Waters

By 1953 I’d begun playing guitar and I heard Muddy Waters with Little Walter. It might have been called "The Best Of." Having grown up with classical music, hearing Muddy Waters play acoustic slide guitar introduced me to the real Blues that changed me forever.


Flamencan Guitar Solos from Sabicas

Sabicas, Flamencan Guitar Solos

Around 1955 I heard Flamencan Guitar Solos from Sabicas which blew me away. I fell in love with Flamenco, the whole atmosphere and especially the guitarists. This also changed my life forever and was the foundation behind my subsequent collaboration with the great Paco de Lucia.


Quintette du Hot Club De France

Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelly, Quintette du Hot Club De France

Around 1956 I heard guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelly in Quintette du Hot Club De France. My first Jazz recording and Django blew me away. He was, and still is today, a phenomenon. I have to underline the impact of violinist Stephane Grappelly because he played my mother’s instrument. It’s not a coincidence that my first choice of another lead instrument in the Mahavishnu Orchestra was the violin.


birth of the cool

Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool

In 1957 I heard Miles Davis for the first time on Birth of the Cool. This was a new Jazz and even though I didn’t understand it I was fascinated by Miles and his playing.



Miles Davis, Milestones

In 1958 Miles Davis recorded Milestones featuring John Coltrane. This recording is a true milestone in Jazz. It changed me forever. I have to include here the 1959 Miles Davis recording Kind of Blue. This recording is to me “La Gioconda" of Jazz because it is an eternal music partly thanks to the inclusion of pianist Bill Evans who went on to change my musical perception permanently.


Thelonious Monk at Town Hall

Thelonious Monk, Thelonious Monk at Town Hall

In 1960 I heard Thelonious Monk at Town Hall. This recording was an earth shaker for me. I was fascinated by the Monk’s compositions particularly in his use of melodic arpeggios. He had a direct effect on my own composing from that point and his influence can be heard even on the Mahavishnu Orchestra recordings.


John Coltrane, A Love Supreme

John Coltrane, A Love Supreme

In 1965 John Coltrane released A Love Supreme. I had been following his music since hearing him with Miles Davis in 1958 and 1959, but I cannot overestimate the impact this recording had on my musical and personal life. I became forever changed with this recording.


Sundaram Balachander – La Vina de S. Balachander

Sundaram Balachander, La Vina de S. Balachander

In 1966 I heard master Vina player S. Balachander. Shortly after I became under the influence of the philosophy of Indian Culture and the music was an inseparable part of that experience. I began practicing meditation and Yoga and within a few years I’d become an extra-curricular student of Vina master Dr. S. Ramanathan and also an extra-curricular student of Pandit Ravi Shankar. I cannot overstate the impact this experience had on my musical and personal life and musical impact can be heard on all subsequent Shakti recordings.


In a Silent Way

Miles Davis, In a Silent Way

In 1969 I arrived in New York at the invitation of drummer Tony Williams to form his trio with the Hammond Organist Khalid Yaseen, (Larry Young). As luck would have it I met Miles Davis the same day and without even knowing how I played, he invited me to join him at the CBS studio the next morning. The recording was In a Silent Way. This was a true baptism of fire. Somehow, I emerged from this recording unscathed and from that point began a collaboration with Miles that lasted until our final concert together in Paris in 1991. Words fail me...


Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced

I know very well that I’m allowed only 10, but I have to include the album Are You Experienced from Jimi Hendrix around 1967. A true revolutionary!