Most helpful positive review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
More mysterious than the Holy Grail.
on 7 July 2008
Forgive the tital, but how exactly do I define an album such as this, or indeed an artist like Mingus? This is the most undoubted five-star I have ever given, because, unlike most art, which either seems clear and gives you a good impression, or seems clear but gives you a banal impression, this does not seem clear ( in any of the multiple meanings of the term) , but gives you a transcendentally impressed feeling afterwards.
Certainly, it does seem quite gloomy. The title makes me think of some sort of lost scripture, with depressing implications for the fate of mankind, and the music is a series of movements circulating around the theme of damnation and torture in chains. The sounds which emerge: thundering, percussive drums, screaming brass, heavy piano, and frankly tempestuous bass from Mingus. The one sound that redeems: the guitar. We feel as if this one voice holds the key to the redemption of the Black Saint and his Sinner Lady, and yet somehow he is still bound down in chains by a clever clash between the alternating keys of the two sections- the guitar and the rest of the orchestra.
If I gave you one reason to buy it, i would say that it is the centre of Mingus's canon, and indeed, the rest of the over 17000 LPs that Impulse released in its lifetime. In its cryptic quality, it fulfils some essentia l sensory longing for coherence. In 1966, when this was recorded, Charles Mingus was undergoing, according to his Biography, some more extensive therapy for his nervous disorder. I assure you that his genius has never been as apparent as on this record, where he fights against the worldly oppression which at the same time represents his natural condition. And yet, one feels that this is the unfulfilment of his wishes.
A final note, and one which every reviewer notes when dealing with this album: his psychiatrist wrote the liner notes. I think just that fact does not need explaining, and neither ( although I have hypocritically attempted to do so!) does his music. "Listen and behold the beautiful Black Mirical". Rahsaan Roland Kirk.