John Coltrane

His Greatest Years, Vol. 3: The Best of John Coltrane

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John Coltrane released over two dozen albums during his tenure with Impulse!, so the double-album His Greatest Years samplers serve as a helpful compass through the artist's extensive catalog. This, the third and final installment in the series shows in miniature the maddening pace at which John Coltrane embraced and exhausted new sounds during the '60s. Sophisticated, soulful songs like "Dear Lord" and "Up 'Gainst the Wall" share space with strident experiments like "Cosmos" and "Expression." Finding music that could be called quintessential Coltrane is as difficult as defining his style, thus the distinction between greatest hits and greatest years. That said, his greatness is evident on every song here: the sheer endurance of "Chasin' the Trane," the masterful ballad "Dedicated to You" (recorded with Johnny Hartman, whose lovely voice matches Coltrane stride for stride), and the exotic and otherwordly "Living Space." Most of the cuts feature the John Coltrane Quartet, which included McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones. This trio could play the tireless rhythm section or follow the tenor saxophonist into softer terrain, as on the sleepy and unfolding ballad "Welcome." As vinyl goes, the sound quality of the double album is excellent. MCA, which acquired the ABC label (and Impulse! along with it), re-released His Greatest Years, Vol. 3 in 1980, using the original gatefold cover. The innovation, the communication, the raw energy that exude from this music are still spellbinding. Picking up the three double albums in this series would provide a good foundation for any Coltrane collection.