John Coltrane: His Greatest Years, Vol. 3 (1974)

This is the last in a three-volume set from ABC that collects the best songs from Coltrane’s albums on the Impulse label with Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner. At the time, His Greatest Years was probably the most exhaustive retrospective of his work, although it’s confined to a handful of years (1963 to 1967) during Coltrane’s deliberately difficult avant-garde phase. Despite the relatively small sampling of time, Coltrane (as we know) defied time, space and most other dimensions when he played, so the music collected here is remarkably varied. There are the perfect love songs where Coltrane blows aces (“Dedicated To You,” “Dear Lord”), the frenzied marathons where Coltrane literally spends his saxophone until there’s nothing left ( “Chasin’ The Trane,” “Cosmos”) and the glissandoing magic of his later works (“Expression,” “Welcome”). Also included here as an added bonus for collectors is a live version of “Nature Boy” recorded at NYC’s Village Gate on March 28, 1965 that originally appeared on the Impulse compilation, The New Wave In Jazz, and no doubt left both player and audience exhausted. The album ends on a risky note with “Living Space,” part of Alice Coltrane’s daring re-vision of her husband’s last recordings that appeared on the posthumous Infinity. In retrospect, “Living Space” is a prescient work that prefigures much of the avant-garde, multicultural and minimalist music to come; kudos to ABC for coming to Infinity’s defense so quickly. In 1980, after MCA acquired the ABC catalog, they reissued the three-volume series with its original cover artwork and simply stamped a new number on top of it.

The Songs
Record One
1. Dear Lord (5:31)
2. Chasin’ The Trane (live at the Village Vanguard 1961) (16:02)
3. Up ‘Gainst The Wall (3:11)
4. Crescent (8:41)
5. Nature Boy (live at the Village Gate 1965) (Eden Ahbez) (7:54)

Record Two
1. Welcome (5:24)
2. Cosmos (live at the Penthouse 1965) (10:46)
3. Dedicated To You (Sammy Cahn/Saul Chaplin) (5:30)
4. Expression (10:49)
5. Living Space (10:26)

All songs written by John Coltrane unless noted.

The Players
John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Elvin Jones (drums), McCoy Tyner (piano) with Rashied Ali (drums on 2.4), Joan Chapman (tamboura on 2.5), Alice Coltrane (piano on 2.4, harp and tamboura on 2.5), Oran Coltrane (bells on 2.5), Donald Garrett (bass clarinet on 2.2), Johnny Hartman (vocal on 2.3), Pharoah Sanders (saxophone on 2.2), Reggie Workman (bass on 1.2). Original tracks produced by Bob Thiele and/or John Coltrane, track 25 produced by Ed Michel and Alice Coltrane. Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder, track 2.2 engineered by Jan Kurtis with Paul Whalen, track 2.5 engineered by Baker Bigsby.

The Plastic
Compilation released on 2LP in 1974 in the US (ABC/Impulse!, ASH-9278-2) with gatefold cover. Re-released on 2LP in 1980 in the US (MCA/Impulse!, 2-4133) with gatefold cover.

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