Found dead in New York in 1970. Albert Ayler remains the essential “fire musician”, his blowing at once profoundly charged with spiritual electricity and a revolutionary ardour that chimed with the late-’60s civil rights movement. He saw visions of approaching apocalypse and tried to transport himself through music to the Utopian era he believed lay beyond.
You need to dig deep before you actually get to the music in the sumptuous plastic “spirit box” that houses this collection of newly archived live recordings, studio dates and interview tapes.
First, there are several strata to unearth: a cloth-bound book, facsimile pamphlets, flyers and posters, even a dried flower fresh from a rifle barrel, before the music is revealed in nine crisp wallets.
The recordings span his whole career, but most remarkable are the later nuggets: a miraculously retrieved recording from John Coltrane’s 1967 funeral; and probably the last music he ever made, reflective blues giving way to torrid sound-squalls of the kind that perked up Lester Bangs’ ears.
Two interview discs reveal Ayler as one truly spooked cove. Whether or not you choose to buy into the mystical elements, Holy Ghost, trimmings and all, is a most collectable memorial, and one of the phonographic events of the year.