Alone among the first eight albums of the ECM Rarum series, the Art Ensemble of Chicago edition is a group effort, with surviving members Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Favors, and Don Moye offering only a brief greeting in the booklet. There were only four Art Ensemble of Chicago albums over only a half-dozen years (1978-1984), so listeners get two tracks from the initial offering, "Nice Guys" and "Full Force," and one apiece from Urban Bushmen and The Third Decade. The nearly 20-minutes-long "Megg Zelma" and 11-minute "Folkus" have an abundance of the free abstract playing, Dada theater, percussion circuses, sound effects, and freaky humor that might be part of a live Art Ensemble of Chicago concert -- recorded with breathtaking clarity and sounding sharper than ever in the 96khz/24-bit digital remastering. Yet there is also a sample of the more ethereal side of the Art Ensemble of Chicago in "Prayer for Jimbo Kwesi," with flutes, trumpet, and soprano sax repeating a haunting modal tune in triple meter. To fill out the CD, ECM includes a fine 1981 Latin-flavored Lester Bowie solo track, "Rios Negroes" (the Bowie ECM solo discography is actually the same size as that of the Art Ensemble's) and reaches all the way to 1997 for a chaotic Roscoe Mitchell free-form solo session, "Nine to Get Ready." Despite the cool, genteel ECM image, the Art Ensemble of Chicago's renegade madness comes through in this reissue in full force -- with great sound to match -- so it can be recommended as an introduction to their freewheeling soundworld.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell