Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ornette Coleman and Prime Time

  • Opening the Caravan of Dreams [Caravan of Dreams, 1986] A-
  • Virgin Beauty [Portrait, 1988] A

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Opening the Caravan of Dreams [Caravan of Dreams, 1986]
Only the second LP by the harmolodic funk originators, this was recorded live at the well-appointed Fort Worth avant-garde emporium in 1985, and it's a live album for sure--it lacks the studio-engendered beginning-middle-end that focuses Of Human Feelings and for that matter Metheny/Coleman's Song X. When it threatens to break altogether "free," its risks seem more like entropy than thrills and chills. But it's a live album showcasing one of the great improvisers, as well as musicians who never sound more authoritative than when following his orders. A-

Virgin Beauty [Portrait, 1988]
If the quietest of the Prime Time records--lyrical, sublimely reflective, autumnal at times, even Milesish when Ornette picks up his trumpet--ain't rock and roll, that doesn't mean it isn't "rock." The pulse pulses, and Jerry Garcia, never exactly King Kickass, fits right in. The tuneful themes show off Ornette's pop feel, and while Garcia has rarely comped or noodled more purposefully, it's the unsung Charlee Ellerbee or the equally unsung Bern Nix who does the tighten-up beneath "Bourgeois Boogie." In and around the themes Ornette improvises a whole lot of saxophone without once showing off. He's beyond that now. A