Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Charlie Haden

  • Liberation Music Orchestra [Impulse, 1970] C+
  • The Ballad of the Fallen [ECM, 1983] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Liberation Music Orchestra [Impulse, 1970]
Haden is a man of great personal courage and political insight, and he has played some of the best jazz bass I've ever heard, but this record--despite all those nice reviews--is competent Jazz Composer's Orchestra style ensemble jazz, full of nice dissonances and not much more. I've listened to it many times, always giving it one more chance, but I doubt I'll ever play it again, and no one I've ever played it for has come back to request it. C+

The Ballad of the Fallen [ECM, 1983]
Voicing the great Spanish and Latin American revolutionary themes that Carla Bley has arranged for a norteamericano liberation orchestra, this testifies to the inestimable beauty and value of cultural autonomy, and by extension cultural cross-fertilization. It's assured but never immodest, elegiac but never maudlin, and Haden's two originals partake of the spirit. Bley's seem inconsequential, though, and the freestyle improvisations (kept in check until side two) generate little pleasure or meaning--except unintended questions about the ultimate relevance of late-capitalist avant-gardism to anti-imperialist struggle, not to mention disparate meanings of freedom in vastly disparate economic situations. A-