This is one of Mingus' best albums and is unusual in several respects. Most notably Mingus plays piano, and the roaring insistent passages as well as soft comping are hugely effective. The three horns (Booker Ervin and Roland Kirk on sax, Jimmy Knepper on trombone) are powerful and soul stirring. In addition, Mingus' singing/vocalizing punctuate the sounds in a manner similar to drums and bass. For example, the opening "Hog Callin' Blues" begins with a righteously vocalized bop riff by Mingus, and is accompanied by fiery, sometimes dissonant sax work by the great Roland Kirk. The blues similarly colors many songs, but really, Mingus adds his imprimatur to all musical influences.
Ecclusiastics is a blues (well, a Mingus blues) with Mingus' prayer-like bop vocals and piano adding a spiritual dimension. This song is simply beautiful; I'd love to hear this sometime as an orchestral piece! The group shifts from soothing, Ellingtonian strains to buoyant noise in seconds; it is a beautifully realized composition.
"Oh Lord, Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me" is another musical prayer (with Mingus' famous line "don't let them drop it, stop it, bebop it"). And "Eat that Chicken" is, well, unlike anything: A rollicking song about "eating chicken," which is both farcical and a deeply felt appreciation of appetitive delights. It's a different number alright, but essentially spiritual and akin to a joyous gospel. Passions of a Man is a total surrealistic delight, with Mingus intoning Spanish (or is it a mixture of Spanish and Mingus-ese?) and shouts of "Viva!" set against the group's abstract "Latin." I don't know with what it compares, but it is a daring delight! The Atlantic re-release adds three songs from the 1964 "Tonight at Noon." These are very good, particularly the noirish "Invisible Lady, and are more on the Ellington side of the spectrum, featuring lush arrangements and excellent (but relatively more conventional) sax solos. If you can't get the re-release, you'll still have the essentials of "Oh Yeah."
I highly recommend this to all jazz fans, but it's an essential addition for Mingus fans. The bebop, blues, and spiritual idioms, Mingus' vocal and pianistic efforts, and the brash raucous notes alternating with orchestral statements are combined in an inspired, inspiring masterpiece.