17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2005
In some ways it's almost silly to comment on the content of this set. Those who are Trane fans will understand immediately the import of this collection; those who are casual fans will likely not want to bear the expense of making the purchase. I found myself in a different area. I had nearly all of the material on vinyl. Since I'd played much of it heavily, this release was a welcome way to upgrade at one fell swoop. Despite my familiarity with the material, I found the package was very well put together.
I understand the criticism that live material from the Birdland and Village Vanguard lps are not included, but I think the criticism is invalid. First of all, the notes make clear up front that this is a release dedicated exlusively to the quartet of Trane, Tyner, Garrison and Jones, and those live recordings featured Roy Haynes on drums, in the first case, and Eric Dolphy on reeds in the second.
In addition, Impulse has released the Vanguard sessions in a multidisc set and points out that that session is an essential companion to this release.
The decision to arrange the tracks in chronological order bothers me not one whit, and this is where the preference of the individual listener comes particularly into play. I am so familiar with the original ordering of tracks and the tunes themselves that I find it informative to listen to the tunes in the order that they were conceived -- at least from a recording perspective.
The ordering, for me, is in fact one of the strongest features of the release. More than any other artist that I know of, Coltrane was driven by change. Hearing the tracks in chronological order offers a revealing insight into his creative process.
The key to approaching this set lies, in my opinion, in closely reading and following the fine liner notes provided by Bob Blumenthal and by the discography. Blumenthal offers insightful comments about the quartet and the tunes and also mentions programming changes the listener can make for comparisons or if he or she wants to listen to tracks in the order they were originally released.
As for the music, well, as I said, if you are a fan, you don't need me to tell you the richness that is contained within this set. To review the music would require more space than is permitted. If you are not prepared for more than eight hours of very intense, probing music, don't bother.
Still, for a revealing look at the complexity of Coltrane's approach, I recommend in particular discs 1, 2 and 5. The first two show his ability to handle ballads in the midst of exploring what were then the outer reaches of jazz. The fifth -- although this could be said of discs 6 and 7 as well -- demonstrate, for the listener willing to engage his journey, that the most challenging of sounds can be accessible for those willing to open their minds to new sounds.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2005
The music on this 8 CD set is beyond praise, containing all of the material that Coltrane recorded in the studio for Impulse, though not anything that included any additional horns. The Dolphy cuts, which were mostly live, are not included, and neither are the albums with Ellington or Johnny Hartman. But otherwise, this is representative of Coltrane at his most influential. Included are the complete sessions that would become the albums; Coltrane, Ballads, Cresent, A Love Supreme, The John Coltrane Quartet Plays, Transition, Sunship, Infinity, and First Meditations, along with cuts from some of the other albums that are primarily live, such as Impressions or Live at Birdland. This music can arguably be considered the most important music of the last 40 years, as the Classic Quartet probably had more influence on the course of jazz and rock than any other single group in the history of American popular music.
So the crux of the review here is on packaging. The CDs are presented in a bound, book-style case with an extensive liner booklet. The whole is then encased in a rather ugly metal framing. Gone are any references to the distinctive original artwork of the Impulse albums. However, the book style case does have the advantage of keeping the individual CDs together, making it harder to lose them.
The cuts themselves are not presented as albums but rather in the order they originally were recorded. This has the advantage of allowing you to hear the story of the group's growth, from the first rather conservative albums Trane made to the brink of his late style on albums like Sunship. Fortunately, both the suites A Love Supreme and First Meditations were recorded in sequence and are presented as such, but to experience any of the other albums as they were first released requires extensive reprogramming.
The final disc in the set consists of alternative takes of many of the studio sessions. I do appreciate that fact that the producers put these alternative takes on a separate CD rather than interspersing them with the other material. These takes are interesting for documentary purposes, and it helps that they are separate from the issued material.
The question is really, is this worth the money? Yes, it is. In fact, if you are just delving into Coltrane for the first time, don't buy a simple one off album, with Trane more than anyone else, there is no definitive album. So save up a little money, and start here. You may SAVE a lot of money by starting with this.
Having had this set for many months, I thought I would add my opinion to the list. This is a bargain to have all the Impulse albums plus bonus tracks on 8 amazing CDs. It is pointless to review the music again, however, I will say that the recordings sound crisp and immediate - a brilliant job has been done. The basic packaging in a leather fold out "wallet" is novel, and the metal "slipcase" that slides over it is a bit annoying at first. I have found that it has loosened up, but although difficult to remove at first - no damage has occurred to the "wallet" as reported by another reviewer.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is an awesome boxed set. 18 albums condensed into 8 CDs. It's an absolute delight from beginning to end. Even the packaging is superior. Coltrane was a uniquely gifted talent and this album plots his Impulse career allowing the listener to hear the development of his style and ideas over that period. An ideal gift for any serious jazz fan. But, hey, why wait for a gift - treat yourself!!!!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2008
I can't dissent with any of the reviewers regarding the quality of this music. I must say though, the design of the box shows lack of forethought. The metal which encases the leather was a pretty injudicious move, as it's almost impossible to get on and off without scuffing the cover. If you order this box set, my advice would be to carefully remove the metal on receipt, and leave it off.