John Coltrane, “Both Directions at Once: The Lost Tapes” (Impulse!/Verve)
On March 6, 1963, at Rudy Van Gelder’s New Jersey studio, saxophonist John Coltrane — quickly moving forward from the sharp harmonies of his immediate past to a deeper, spiritualized sense of improvisation — recorded an album capturing his richly incendiary, live quartet dynamic; the intuitive force he shared with bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Elvin Jones and Philly pianist McCoy Tyner.
Then, everyone put away, and forgot about, the tapes. Until now.
The release of “The Lost Tapes” — which just gave Coltrane his highest-ever Billboard Top 200 Album Chart position at No. 21 — represents more than Trane’s transitions. It’s fresh and alive — a frenetic, moody set of seven modern full-fledged compositions that cast new fiery light on the Coltrane canon. Most potent are the frisky bop of “Nature Boy,” the sensualist swing of “Untitled Original 11386,” and the snake-charming invocation “Slow Blues,” and its pulsing, improvisational flow. Most thought-provoking, however, is “Impressions,” of both standard and deluxe editions, with its ever-so-slightly varied versions.
With the impeccability of “Lost Tapes,” here’s hoping Coltrane’s crew digs for additional treasure.
A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
Deafheaven, “Ordinary Corrupt Human Love” (Anti)
Deafheaven has never fit neatly into one genre. The California quintet adopts some of the sonic signifiers of black metal, but they also incorporate ballads, acoustic instruments and introspective lyrics. That boundary-free approach makes the band’s fourth album both a divisive and energizing listen. Metal purists may cringe at the vulnerability, but singer George Clarke and the band’s co-founder, guitarist Kerry McCoy, are in the catharsis business.
At times Deafheaven’s embrace of melodrama verges on malpractice. There’s the bright piano melody and the sound of the sea rolling in at the top of “You Without End,” and actress Nadia Kury reading earnestly from a short story. On its way to Broadway the song unfolds into something straight out of a Queen or Boston album, with a guitar solo riding major piano chords into Valhalla, or something. Also misplaced is “Night People,” a goth ballad in which Clarke sings tenderly alongside Chelsea Wolfe, as if auditioning for a slot on an “American Horror Story” soundtrack.
The album also delivers four epic tracks. The roller-coaster “Honeycomb” piles on the guitars over strafing drums. And “Honeycomb” is a tour de force for guitarists McCoy and Shiv Mehra, culminating in a strangely moving closing chant.
The album draws its title from a passage in Graham Greene’s “The End of the Affair,” and like the 1951 novel, many of the characters in Clarke’s songs are seeking closure that never quite arrives. Regret underlines “Worthless Animal” and “Glint,” with Clarke imagining a world where a lost loved one is “surrounded by your children and children’s children.”
That image is beautifully set up by “Near,” a stripped-down arrangement that turns a couple of lines into a wistful chant, repeating in the distance behind shimmering guitars. There’s nothing overwrought about these five minutes of music, just the raw ache of what might have been.
GREG KOT, Chicago Tribune
• Kenny Chesney, “Songs for the Saints”
• Boz Scaggs, “Out of the Blues”
• Tony Molina, “Kill the Lights”
• Dee Snider, “For the Love of Metal”