Top critical review
Essential for completists, but not a great John Coltrane album.
8 August 2018
At the end of 1960 and through 1961 John Coltrane was producing some startlingly innovative music, as he found imaginative ways to extend the modal approach to improvisation that he had helped Miles Davis to codify on the landmark 'Kind Of Blue' album. Tracks like 'My Favourite Things', 'India', and 'Impressions', together with the whole of the 'Africa/Brass' album were thrilling new departures, sounding like nobody else in jazz. As though temporarily exhausted, the music that Coltrane delivered immediately afterwards was altogether more conservative. He played with Duke Ellington, being careful not to upset the older musician's sensibilities, and he even recorded an album of low-key ballads with a torch singer (Johnny Hartman), music that steered perilously close to easy-listening. It is in this context that we must listen to the music comprising a "lost album" from the same period. With studio versions of 'Impressions' that entirely fail to capture the energy of the live performance recorded eighteen months earlier and with some blues playing that by Coltrane standards is little better than routine, it is entirely clear why the original 'Both Directions At Once' album was conveniently forgotten. The 'Impressions' album that emerged in its place, with the earlier live recording well earning its status as the title track, was an altogether stronger proposition. Of course, we know that Coltrane was very soon able to rediscover his muse and deliver the unforgettable music that makes up his best-known album, 'A Love Supreme' . For John Coltrane completists, the 'Lost Album' is undoubtedly an essential purchase. By comparison with other saxophonists of the time, the music stands up well and it will bear repeated listening. It is by no means a great album, however, and definitely not a great John Coltrane album. He had set some very high standards and this music does not reach them. It comes nowhere near justifying Sonny Rollins' inflated hyperbole, comparing the discovery of this music to finding a new room in the Great Pyramid.