Rise lightly from the earth
And try your wings
Try them now
While I make the darkness invisible
- Sun Ra, Invisibility
Sun Ra is the space invader, inner and outer space. He's been in my head for the last few days because this compilation set me on the Arkestra's strange celestial road once again...ah, the infinity of their universe...........a moonship journey amongst the stars...dancing with the cosmo aliens of the astro nation...the cosmo sun connection...love in outer space...................stars that shine darkly, the exotic forest, pyramids, a tapestry from an asteroid...Saturn, Jupiter, Venus...next stop, Mars!.......brainville.............media dreams of sound infinity spheres...in a space jazz reverie..........
In The Orbit Of Ra is a good starting place for beginners. It orbits Planet Ra but doesn't travel to the inner (hard)core of his intense synthesiser pieces or the fierce free-blowing of the Arkestra captured on 'live' recordings. They would prove too much, perhaps. Yet to include a taste such as edited tracks would have been good.
Some classic space chants are included such as Interplanetary Music and We Travel The Spaceways. Also Somebody Else's World, featuring Sun Ra's space siren, June Tyson. She appears again on Astro Black, backed by Ra's sinister synth and initially kept afloat by a killer Ronnie Boykins bass line (see also Angels And Demons At Play) before dissolving into just electronics and bowed bass. Whilst all the tracks benefit from being 'pristine masters' recording-wise, the new clarity here reveals it's true depths, lending it even greater power than it had previously.
On Rocket Number Nine Take Off For Planet Venus there's a taste of the energy the Arkestra can give off; that hurried opening chant, a precursor/countdown to the pause before ignition which propels the band at high velocity, veering close to going Out but always remaining withIn the gravitational pull of the rhythm. It ends with a fantastic piano solo by Ra, tumbling through booming space chords. "The second stop is Jupiter..."
"Space vocalist" Art Jenkins features on Solar Differentials. "The possible has been tried and failed; now I want to try the impossible," Ra told Jenkins, who found it by singing through a reversed ram's horn with a hand acting as an open and close mute over the larger end. "Now that's impossible!" said Ra, laughing. The result is as strange as anything recorded by the Arkestra, with Jenkins' wordless vocal improvisation set against a sparse background lead by Ra's piano.
On Dance Of The Cosmo Aliens Sun Ra's organ/Moog playing is unearthly yet melodic, easy yet disorientating and made stranger by the constant drum machine rhythm. We head East via Planet Earth, up The Nile, through the percussive/blowing fire of Reflects Motion and into the kingdom of Ancient Aiethiopia (images of kings and queens being carried through temples, such a stately sound, perhaps to accompany Sun Ra himself during a procession).
Spaceship Ra is ready and hopefully this selection will encourage some new passengers to climb on board.
In another dimension, here's a compilation of tracks featuring Ra running wild on the synth, Space Organ, Cosmic Keyboard and Interplanetary Piano (have I made those up?). This is not for the faint hearted so best wear your space helmet...
1. Calling Planet Earth
2. Journey Through The Outer Darkness
3. Would I For All That Were
4. When Spaceships Appear
5. Sun Of The Cosmos
7. Moog solo
8. Saturn Research
9. Outer Reach Intensity
10. On Spaceship Earth
12. Space Probe