My title may not explain how I feel about this particular CD but of how I feel about Alice Coltrane's work in general. My first experience with Alice Coltrane's music was listening to a beat up copy of Universal Consciousness. After that I nearly bought her entire collection of CDs and I am still waiting for more to be reissued. Therefore, "always at her best" is definitely my impression of her creativity.
So here we are, with a newly remastered edition of Universal Consciousness. . hum, and kind of surprising too. I was about ready to burn a copy from that old beat up record I mentioned above. It took a long time for Impulse to finally get this re-released, and I'm considerably satisfied.
The music itself is one of a kind. Ornette Coleman must have had a fun time transcribing the string arrangements, as mention in the notes. The first time you put this on the listener will want to turn it off, yes I know it sounds like a dis but it's not. This music is not happy-go-lucky, laid back Kerouac at the typewriter music. This is intense listening, made for people who turn on the college stations noise hour and listen to Merzbah. The first time I heard it I couldn't handle it, especially the first track. Now, after many listens, I can play the album while reading a book, or at the typewriter. Not for casual listeners but if you are this album may eventually grow on you.
The remastered CD sounds similar to the record but much brighter. To elaborate on that, as a CD it works well. I can here some things that I didn't hear on the record (like that tinny reggae drum in the first half of "Universal Consciousness") and on some tracks the compositional tone is well rounded out ---plus no crackles and skips. In short, the CD remastering beats me recording and filtering/dehissing my record on Roxio. Plus the production job is pure mastery.
My only complaint is the packaging. I prefer the standardized Impulse cardboard cases, the ones with the gatefold/ insert sleeve and annotated or biography booklet. The package here is (as mentioned by another reviewer) a miniscule version of the original record sleeve which includes a very cool poster, but barely readable liner notes. In addition, it would be impossible to slide it into a standard CD slot since it is bigger than the usual CD jewel case. I understand that this is a unique idea but isn't it more susceptible to wear and tear. Consider this a limited edition as the tagline says.
Music Listeners, give this a try. Like I said it's intense but soon you'll enjoy it. If you like these recordings also check out Ornette Coleman's Skies of America, which has similar string arrangements and time signatures. An abstract masterpiece.