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Customer Review

on 6 June 2002
The rarum series are the second collection of compilations that ECM has done. The first occasion was in 1984 when the label wanted to demonstrate, to fans and novices alike, how much better the music sounded on CD. But the arrival of signalled the diminution of ECM's competitive advantage, which had been predicated on chamber-like recording quality, consistent album cover design and layout, and the use of better, thicker vinyl. With CD, ECM sounded much the same as all the other jazz labels.
Now with rarum we have the chance to hear what ECM recordings are like in 24-bit remastered format. The sound is dangerously good: percussion and acoustic stringed instruments come out particularly well. I worry how much my bank balance will suffer if ECM decide to remaster my old favourites.
For much of ECM's glory days, its bestselling artists were Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny. Garbarek was thrust to the fore when Metheny left the label for Warner Music. One of the first albums Garbarek recorded after that event, the rock-oriented I TOOK UP THE RUNES, reached a wide audience, and we can listen to one track here.
I don't like to complain about high-quality, good-value CDs, but there are two problems with the selection of tracks on this album. First, more music could have been squeezed on -- there's only 70 minutes' worth on the first CD, whereas the first rarum CD by Keith Jarrett exceeds 80 minutes. And second, the track selection has been somewhat lazy, picking the first tracks (not the best tracks) from each of I TOOK UP THE RUNES, VISIBLE WORLD and TWELVE MOONS.
But Garbarek ought to be much better known in the States, and this could be the album that breaks open the market for him. People need to know that he has recorded so much more than the cute OFFICIUM classical crossover CD.
This is the second-best of the rarum collection (Keith Jarrett gets my top vote), but it is strongly recommended nonetheless.
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