RECORDS: Skunk Anansie: Paranoid and Sunburnt
John Coltrane: The Heavyweight Champion - The Complete Atlantic Recordings (Rhino/Atlantic Jazz Gallery, seven-CD box set). Trane's "Giant Steps" is one of the canonical texts of jazz modernism, and mastering its tricky changes is an essential rite of passage for all aspiring saxophone players - some students have even learnt to play it backwards and found that it still sounds right. With nine versions of the track in this completist box (including seven false starts and incomplete takes consigned to the final "out-takes" CD), you'd think that the tune would begin to pall; but, astonishingly, it still commands your attention. As do the seven versions of "Naima", one of the most beautiful ballads ever recorded. The inclusion of alternative versions as part of the unfolding narrative of the master's two-and-a-bit years at Atlantic, disturbs the eternal verities of the listening experience quite a lot, but in a labour of love this intensive (with gorgeous pictures, facts and info in the accompanying booklet) most people who buy it will be happy at the trainspotter's fetish for detail. And the inclusion of relative rarities, such as the versions of Ornette Coleman's "Focus on Sanity" and "The Invisible" (with Don Cherry on trumpet and Ed Blackwell on drums), as well as the first, classic recording of "My Favourite Things", with McCoy Tyner on piano and Elvin Jones on drums, takes this box set to the top of any serious jazz fan's Christmas-present list. Phil Johnson
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