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on August 21, 2007
The Unheard Music series and Atavisitc Records have done well by releasing Peter Brotzmann's MACHINE GUN, a landmark in European Improv. Originally released in 1968, it was until now only available on CD as a pricey German import on FMP Records.

Titled after Don Cherry's nickname for Brotzmann, the title track was inspired by Lionel Hampton's horn section on "Flying Home." This phenomenal wall of noisecraft now comes with new liner notes by Brotzmann and Down Beat Magazine staff writer and free jazz enthusiast John Corbett. Included are the original 1968 BRO Records tracks ("Machine Gun," "Responsible /For Jan Van De Ven," "Music For Han Bennink"), followed by alternate takes on "Machine Gun" and "Responsible..." and the only live version of "Machine Gun" ever recorded (from the 1968 Frankfurt Jazz Festival).

The personnel on this CD are the following:

Peter Brotzmann (tenor & baritone saxophone)
Willem Breuker (tenor saxophone & bass clarinet)
Evan Parker (tenor saxophone)
Gerd Dudek (tenor saxophone on track 6 only)
Fred Van Hove (piano)
Peter Kowald (bass)
Buschi Niebergall (bass)
Han Bennink (drums)
Sven-Ake Johansson (drums)
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on January 18, 2008
The reviews below me are right all the way. I just want to add one thing. If you are worried that the cover of this is totally different from the other edition, rest easy. The "South Park"-y cover you see above is a slip case. The original album art is reproduced in the CD booklet (in a very bright silkscreen).

Post script November 2014 - HA HA! You people shoulda bought this when it got reissued. Nyah Nyah! Man, this out of print price is ridiculous! Glad I bought mine years ago...
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on May 14, 2008
There are many "desert island" albums, and this one may be one that even the desert island doesn't want. This is really f***ing intense free jazz/free music, some of the most intense I've ever heard (and I've got a lot of Coltrane and Coleman). My friends at Amazon recommended this album, and Peter Brotzmann is really awesome. This, as the title says, are the complete Maching Gun Sessions. This stuff is the strongest free jazz yet. Peter and his Octet really lets his passion flow. There's nothing hindering him at all. This stuff is light years beyond Ornette. Its true chaos, and that's a good thing. There's no spirituality like there is in Coltrane's and Ayler's work, but this music is some of the most blistering music I've ever heard.

This CD has the original album, 2 alternate takes, and a live version of Machine Gun. What is amazing is that despite having 3 takes of Machine Gun (two studio versions and a live version), they all sound different. They are all sonically fascinating. The live version is especially crazy, with the audience hollering at key moments and obviously enjoying themselves. The two studio takes of Responsible/For Jan Van de Ven are completely different as well. The recording here isn't the clearest, but it actually helps it. It reminds me of the way The Velvet Underground's Sister Ray sounds. Its fuzzy, distorted recording actually helps the material, and the same effect (unintentional though) is here too. This album gets better everytime I hear it. It's really blistering, amazing stuff.

And as someone has said, the cover (which is reminiscent of South Park) is not the real cover. It's a jacket, and the original cover art is in the jewel box.
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on August 23, 2007
If this new Atavistic reissue finds new listeners for MACHINE GUN, that's fantastic -- it is an indisputable classic of free music, and one of the cornerstones of the entire European free improv movement. The title is potentially misleading, though. When FMP first issued MACHINE GUN on CD in 1990, they put out the "complete sessions," though they didn't give it that title. It included both studio versions of MACHINE GUN, and three other tracks, all of which are also found on the new Atavistic disc, the only change being the track order, which restores the original vinyl sequence. Of course, with CDs, you can program the order anyway, so this is not a significant change. In other words, the expansion of MACHINE GUN from partial to complete studio sessions took place with the shift from vinyl to CD in 1990, not in 2007.

The only thing this new reissue adds is a live recording of MACHINE GUN from two months before the studio sessions, and that live recording has previously been issued on (F*** de Boere (Dedicated to Johnny Dyani)) -- see my review. So for anyone who already owns the FMP disc, that is what you're getting that's new, not any additional studio sessions, and it's not even new if you have the FdB disc. (That FMP disc, by the way, has been available all along from Cadence for a lot less than some outlets charge.)

Thanks to John Corbett and Atavistic for their ongoing Unheard Music Series, making available lost, neglected, or never before heard gems from the European free improv movement!
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VINE VOICEon January 2, 2009
Not that I was even born when this came out (studio tracks recorded in 5/68, live one [Track 6] on 3/24/68) but I consider the first 3 tracks to be 37ish minutes of some of the most important music recorded in the past 50 years. This is one of those albums where I assume maybe 80 people initially bought it but it changed the lives of darn near all of them, and it grew from there. I say the first 3 tracks only because those would have been the 3 tracks people knew back then. The rest were released later.

While certainly dissonant as all hell, this is not "chaos" as one reviewer wrote. Machine Gun is a composition. There are orchestrated/arranged movements, sub-groupings and voicings working in, out and around each other. Wait, that's inaccurate. It's more like tank movements driving through and over each other, but magnificently. I just want to make sure it's clear that this is not a bunch of losers all blowing and shrieking (without listening) at the same time and thinking they're the next Albert Ayler or '66 Coltrane. Still, I get the "chaos" comment purely in terms of the emotional effect upon the listener. You listen to this in the right circumstances and you might think the universe is attacking you... but if you survive the initial onslaught, you'll see a rainbow at the end.

As for the Evan Parker connection, if you're accustomed to his solo soprano work of braiding multiple alien melodies (at the same time) around warped, utterly beautiful expansions upon various African rhythms, this isn't like that. This is largely raw, primal, blitzkrieg music, though Van Hove does have quiter passages of delicate beauty.

Short, compressed mp3 samples/clips will never impart any of this music to a listener. There's nothing in any 15 second clip that hints at what's happening, or the TONE POWER through which it's being conveyed throughout the 8 - 17 minute lengths of each track. Also be sure to read previous reviews to make sure you're not buying a whole disc of repeats from your collection.

Though Brotzmann is often in smaller groups than this now, he isn't always. Don't go any longer than you have to without getting the Brotzmann Chicago Tentet album, Stone/Water (I reviewed it on this site but for some reason it won't product-link). That is phenomenal. It's even better than this, just much more recent. It's still available via the Okka Disk site.
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on March 28, 2009
Machine Gun, from 1968, and released here with two alternate takes and a live version of the title track, is truly ahead of its time. That's not to say there's no precedent for it, for you can here Coltrane and Ayler all over it, but they were ahead of their time, too, and still are. Machine Gun is emotional, and righteously angry, and is played by a group of musicians who are willing to explore all of these emotions. When I listen to it, I hear music played by a true ensemble, not a series of soloists waiting their turn.

You have to be open-minded to like this recording, but if you are, it will show you how articulate music can be; Machine Gun is still revealing new directions for contemporary musicians and listeners.
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