Since many labels have sworn off producing multi-disc boxed sets for the holiday blitz, a six-disc John Coltrane collection is a welcome surprise. The first of three planned Coltrane retrospectives covering the jazz giant's incredibly prolific three-year stint with Prestige, Fearless Leader chronologically documents his output as a bandleader. Pointedly opening his May 31, 1957 throwdown with his own Straight Street, announcing that his drug problems were behind him, the ever-searching saxophonist presses forward with more self-assured solos and dabbles with multiphonics and double-time runs. Those only familiar with 'Trane's freer blowing of the 60s may be shocked at how closely he adheres to the standard repertoire here, but remember, this was prior to Giant Steps, and he was still in transition from sideman to main man. So while these performances aren't as groundbreaking or monumental as his later Atlantic and Impulse! recordings, there's something to be said for the accessibility of his work during this period. His wonderfully lyrical sweep through Like Someone In Love is a reminder of his exceptional skill with ballads. He would never sound like this again.