I do not believe there is a "best" Shakti album. All of them are brilliant and exhilarating and essential like chapters in a book. _Natural Elements_ does, however, stand out as the most lyrical and beautiful of Shakti's albums from the 70s, in my opinion. Shakti is a pluralistic group adapting some Western jazz idioms with an Indian environment, and here they also capture the widest range of moods. John McLaughlin straddles the line dividing Western and Eastern musical traditions, bridging the two with his guitar as his soul burns along the fretboard. Such is evident enough from the get-go, with "Mind Ecology", a fast-paced opener penned by McLaughlin, tearing along the pattering gallop of earthen percussion. But to celebrate their virtuosity as an end in itself would be a dishonor. "Mind Ecology", for all its speed and wild playing, exemplifies the "hidden" allure of Shakti -- the incredible virtuosity of these musicians is just a means to an end. The end of course being the articulation of an thrillingly joyful disposition, infectiously spiritual and focused. "Baby Baby Come Dance With Me" and "Happiness Is Being Together" are merry, vivacious jewels sparkling in the desert sands. The heavenly "Face to Face" and "Bridge of Sighs" slow that Shakti is just as engrossing when softened and calm. "Peace of Mind" is a spare beauty (that is unfortunately short) written by McLaughlin, where Shankar's violin renders a rapturously crying melody over gentle strumming. Definitely one of the most lovely moments in Shakti's discography. "The Daffodil and the Eagle" is exquisite, charged with the clairvoyant interplay that is typical of this group, with lead instruments and percussion entwining magnificently. Hearing them live would be the most prime way to experience the group's sheer acumen and togetherness, but for the diasporal Shakti, _Natural Elements_ is definitely essential. If you've never heard Shakti, this is as good an introduction as any.