Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Sun Ra - The Definitive 45s Collection (Strut)

Fresh coffee - 
85% cocoa chocolate - 
Sun Ra

Orbitration is needed after that political shock - no doubt lots of people wishing they could board Rocket Ship #9 to Venus and never come back - still, the next best thing to physical escape is the musical variety and who better to provide it than Sun Ra?

Evidence released a singles collection but this goes further, deeper and is therefore essential even though they share some tunes. Take I Am An Instrument for starters, literally and the tone is set, as if you don't already know the tones for mental therapy Sun Ra gave us. Spoken word, first accompanied by harp, then on the second take, piano; classic Ra poetry - "I no longer have respect for hate...I am stronger than hate..." - quite appropriate in Donald's brave new world, so let's embrace love...and stop hating he who is going to make America great again...(ha-ha).

"Zoom, zoom up in the air"...Spaceship Lullaby, Ra was no stranger to recycling lyrics and tunes, so here we get early versions of what would later become set standards (as much as there were such things) and regarded as Ra classics. That Sun Ra produced doo-wop tunes came as a shock to me a few years back before I schooled myself. Now, listening to Daddy's Gonna Tell You No Lie sung by The Cosmic Rays (clue about the shape of things to come) from the 50s, they sound even stranger, not because of their content, but the very fact that these straight genre pieces featured the hand of Ra. But everyone has roots in something and Ra's are brilliantly explained on Transparency's Eternal Myth Revealed.

A fresh visitor to planet Ra playing Disc 1 might wonder what all the fuss was about - "He's not that weird!" - but the great thing about a chronological collection like this is the trip through changes as the gradual shifts towards the Outer Realms take place. By the time you're well into Disc 2 you can hear echoes of the future leaking through, in solos, in Ra's piano, in strange brass charts and weird keys.

Appropriately, Disc 3 starts with The Bridge, a blast of 'Free' horns and more defiant, cosmo-poetry - quite brilliant, of course. "THEY MUST WALK THE BRIDGE!" Yes, they must, crossing it to the Other Side of Ra. Great version of Rocket #9 here that I'd not heard before, (the earliest one, presumably?) a looser, funkier take, with completely different music to the better known version. There are no dates on my promo copy so I can't say when this one was made. 

Blues On Planet Mars is totally amazing, a psyched-out instrumental in which Ra makes the keyboard sound like a guitar, accompanied only by bass and congas. Mayan Temple, Disco 2021, Cosmo-Extensions, Outer Space Plateau - the hits keep coming! Hits, that is, in an alternate universe. Not forgetting the classic Nuclear War. If you didn't appreciate the breadth of Sun Ra's greatness before hearing this collection, you will afterwards. Absolutely essential.



  1. Wow, I hadn't heard about this yet. So, do you have the Evidence set, and if so, is the remastering noticeably better here? Because it looks like there isn't much "new," just more singles that were omitted from the Evidence set because they had also appeared on albums. But it'd be great to have it just for the two Pat Patrick features ("A Blue One" and "Orbitration in Blue") in cleaned-up sound. Of course the material itself is brilliant. "October" is one of my all-time fave Ra ballads, and "The Perfect Man" is, of course, perfect.

  2. Sorry but I can't comment on the mastering, not having heard the Evidence collection. As always it's a dilemma when it comes to big collections which contain a few things we may not have heard. I wrote this with those who have neither in mind rather than major fans such as yourself.

  3. Thanks for the heads up. I made it over to Bandcamp just in time to bag the last CD set.


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