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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely essential free/avante garde jazz compilation., 11 Sep 2001
By 
T. Clark (Sunny Southend) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jazzactuel (Audio CD)
This 3 c.d. box contains an incredible wealth of jazz treasures. All recorded for the b.y.g. label around '69,'70 these recordings capture the brightest talents of the free jazz world coming to terms with the demands of the era, when the traditional jazz forms had been taken as far as they could go by miles/coltrane et al. This is the sound of young men determined their music would be more than a footnote to the sonic adventurers who had gone before. Still using acoustic instruments they take the music to extraordinary levels of invention and intensity. The tracks are chosen from the 52 albums recorded for the label and offer a wonderful range of unheard talent amongst the established stars of the scene such as Sun Ra and Don Cherry. An endlessly fascinating document of this brief period in the music's history, the only shame is that Charly haven't reissued more of the original albums.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mummy! Stop that horrible noise!, 7 Jun 2013
By 
Runmentionable "Why Be A Raisin When You Can ... (Exiled Mackem) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jazzactuel (Audio CD)
Let's face facts. A 3-CD set of (mostly) free jazz that ends with a twenty-minute freakout from an ensemble nattily named the Celestial Communication Orchestra isn't going to be everybody's bag. If, however, you're up for that, you're going to have a great time with this anthology, and it's historically important as well as a great, if inevitably bracing, listen.

BYG Records could only have happened in the sixties. Its founders had the artistically admirable but commercially catastrophic idea that they should flood the record shops with dozens of free jazz albums (plus a smattering of electronica and psychedelia) from the many Afro-American musicians who'd drifted to France in 1969, seeking respite from the pressures of what used to be called Nixon's Americka.

It was an interesting period for free jazz as most of the original figureheads were dead (Coltrane, Dolphy), kind of selling out (Ayler, soon to be dead himself) or temporarily out of the public eye (Coleman, Taylor). Only Sun Ra, as productive as ever (and represented here), was still relatively high profile. The focus thus shifted to trusted lieutenants (such as Shepp, Murray and Cherry) or the newer generation, particularly the AACM school from the mid-west. All of these were recorded in depth by BYG and are present in this generous and eclectic compilation, along with permanent mavericks like Steve Lacy and Paul Bley, and a number of less well-known but equally interesting players.

If your only idea of free jazz is what Lester Bangs used to call "skronk", you'll be surprised by the diversity of music here, which isn't all loud, intense wailing, with much of it being reflective, or making use of African and Asian musical ideas. None of it is what you could call easy listening, and chewns are at a premium, but it's not quite the high-energy onslaught you might be expecting. It's probably best approached incrementally, rather than as a whole, but for open-minded listeners there's loads to enjoy - yup, enjoy - here.

The packaging does let things down slightly. The individual CD sleeves, in sympathy with the musicians, reject the oppressive conventions of what The Man expects from glue, and keep falling apart. And worst of all, the liner note booklet (which contains some genuinely engaging and informative writing from compilers Thurston Moore and Byron Coley) has been given to one of those self-consciously hip graphic designers who think text is only there to fill up space in a pretty way. He's thus had the brilliant idea of putting everything in lower case, fully blocking the text on both margins and dropping the spaces after the full stops. It makes the booklet virtually unreadable, and it's a real shame, because it's genuinely worth reading. Other reviewers might drop a star for something so egregious. Don't think I wasn't tempted. However, in the spirit of the times in which this music was created, I'll stick with five.

PS an earlier reviewer felt disappointed that Charly Records hadn't reissued more of the original BYG albums. I think the reason for that may be something to do with BYG co-founder Jean-Luc Young (he's the "Y" in BYG), who saw his label go bust after about four years. He then went on to found a comparatively mainstream reissue label which is still going strong after nearly forty years. It's called Charly Records.
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Jazzactuel
Jazzactuel by Various (Audio CD - 2001)
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