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With the success that Blue Note has had in eliciting the services of the legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder in remastering the past glories of one of the most revered record labels in all of jazz, it’s no surprise that Impulse would eventually follow suit and ask Van Gelder to do the same handiwork for releases from that label’s archives. So the story goes, producer Bob Thiele would often have Van Gelder run extra copies of Coltrane recording sessions of which Thiele later maintained possession. Just recently these tapes in their pure unadulterated form were turned over to Van Gelder to use in remastering and reexamining the contents of two Coltrane classics, Ballads and Coltrane.
Now presented in 24-bit sound and in deluxe two-disc digipak fashion, the entire output from sessions in December of 1961, and September and November of 1962 can be heard on this new version of Ballads. The first disc presents the eight master takes as originally released, with the second CD picking up the extra material. A duo performance of “They Say It’s Wonderful” by Coltrane and McCoy Tyner is short and sweet, as are the six takes on “Greensleeves,” with all but two clocking in at just a tad beyond four minutes. Rounding out the disc is one additional take on “All Or Nothing At All” and seven alternates of “It’s Easy To Remember.”
So the question here is do we really need all this extra material? The answer depends on your perspective. Each alternate does seem to speak in its own unique way, but then the inflated price of a two-disc set could seem to be a marketing ploy to those who already own copies. In the end, I will say that the sound remastering is far superior to any version of previous vintage, making it well worth the purchase price in order to upgrade to Van Gelder sound.
Disc 1: Say It (Over and Over Again), You Don't Know What Love Is, Too Young to Go Steady, All or Nothing at All, I Wish I Knew, What's New?, It's Easy to Remember, Nancy (With the Laughing Face)
Disc 2: They Say It's Wonderful, All Or Nothing At All, Greensleeves, Greensleeves, Greensleeves, Greensleeves (45-rpm take), Greensleeves, It's Easy To Remember, It's Easy To Remember, It's Easy To Remember, It's Easy To Remember, It's Easy To Remember, It's Easy To Remember, It's Easy To Remember
Personnel: John Coltrane (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone), McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)