Friday, April 19, 2019

Sun Ra - 1966 - Rocket Number Nine / Interstellar Low Ways

Sun Ra 
1966
Rocket Number Nine / Interstellar Low Ways



01. Onward 03:32
02. Somewhere in Space 03:01
03. Interplanetary Music No. 1 02:25
04. Interstellar Low Ways (Stereo) 08:26
05. Space Loneliness 04:34
06. Space Aura 03:11
07. Rocket Number 9 06:20

Probably recorded at Balkan Studio and Hall Recording Company between 1957-1960

Sun Ra: piano, chimes, gong
Phil Cohran: trumpet (2, 3, 5, 7)
Nate Pryor: trombone (2, 3, 5, 7)
George Hudson: trumpet (1, 6)
John Gilmore: tenor sax, percussion
Pat Patrick: percussion (4)
Hobart Dotson: percussion (4)
Marshall Allen: alto sax, flute
James Spaulding: flute (4)
Ronnie Boykins: bass, percussion
Jon Hardy: drums (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
William Cochran: drums (4)



Compiled from three Chicago recording sessions, Interstellar Low Ways was a showcase for Sunny's “Space Bop,” “Space Blues,” and his “New Directions” compositions. Stressing his pan-galactic persona, Sun Ra was rapidly pushing jazz farther into the Space Age in his titles, as evidenced by this album's offerings. Musically, he continued looking backward and forward simultaneously, drawing on jazz's rich traditions of swing and bebop, while adding flourishes of modernism that evolved into his unmistakable style. Around this time the Arkestra began to perform live wearing space costumes (which Sunny designed). The arrangements featured various members of the Arkestra doubling on exotic percussion. Two tracks, "Interplanetary Music" and "Rocket Number Nine," feature the band's ensemble space chants.

At this point in Arkestra history, Sunny was coaching Gilmore to play less hard bop and instead to feel his way around the compositions despite their hard bop arrangements.


Though the recording sessions were done around 1957-1960, the album was not released until 1966, under the title Rocket Number Nine. In 1969 it was reissued with the above cover and retitled Interstellar Low Ways. Other tracks from these sessions were released on Fate in a Pleasant Mood, Holiday for Soul Dance, Angels and Demons At Play, and We Travel the Spaceways.

Sun Ra - 1970 - Sound Sun Pleasure

Sun Ra
1970
Sound Sun Pleasure


01. 'Round Midnight (vocal: Hattie Randolph) 03:50
02. You Never Told Me That You Cared 05:31
03. Hour of Parting 04:47
04. Back in Your Own Backyard (vocal: Hattie Randolph) 02:02
05. Enlightenment 05:05
06. I Could Have Danced All Night 03:09

Sun Ra (piano and celeste)
Hattie Randolph (vocal 1 and 4)
Hobart Dotson (trumpet)
Bo Bailey (trombone)
James Spaulding (alto sax, flute)
Marshall Allen (alto sax, flute)
Pat Patrick (baritone sax, flute)
John Gilmore (tenor sax)
Charles Davis (baritone sax)
Ronnie Boykins (bass)
William Cochran (drums)



Sound Sun Pleasure was recorded in Chicago at the same March 1959 sessions that produced the instrumental album Jazz In Silhouette, and features near-identical personnel. However, the recordings sat on the shelf for over ten years, finally achieving release in 1970. Whereas Silhouette was comprised of Sun Ra originals, Sound Sun Pleasure explores two works Sunny co-composed with trumpeter Hobart Dotson and four standards, two of which ("'Round Midnight" and "Back In Your Own Backyard") are sung here by Hattie Randolph (or "Hattye," as her name is spelled in Saturn LP credits), whose soulful delivery enhances the uniqueness of this recording date. As a collection of mostly familiar tunes, the short (about 25 minutes) album serves as an accessible introduction to the maestro's music for those likely to find his experimental and avant-garde work difficult to embrace.

The 1950’s were a creative and transitional period for Sun Ra and other Chicago jazz arrangers. It was during this period that Quincy Jones emerged as staff arranger for Mercury Records. Sun Ra was one of his local contemporaries, arranging for large and small bands led by mainstays like Fletcher Henderson and Red Saunders, as well as for R&B and doo-wop ensembles. While Sunny did not have the chart-topping success of Jones (who crossed over into the pop market), he was highly sought for his sophisticated and increasingly idiosyncratic jazz-tinged arrangements.

Tenor saxophonist John Gilmore's and baritone saxophonist Pat Patrick's solos give the arrangements the Chicago “Hard Bop” feel. The set displays Sunny's gentle side with a moving rendition of Thelonious Monk's classic "'Round Midnight," while the Sun Ra/Hobart Dotson collaboration "You Never Told Me That You Cared" unfolds as a majestic ballad before a sudden tempo acceleration at its midpoint. The instrumental "Enlightenment" is the same recording that appeared on Jazz in Silhouette. The reason for its overlapping appearance is unknown, but we're presenting Sound Sun Pleasure as Ra released it.

The first half-dozen cuts on Sound Sun Pleasure (1970) are thought to have been documented between 1958 and 1960, during Sun Ra and his Astro Infinity Arkestra's residency in Chicago. Although Ra's arrangements are as intricate and involved as any from the era, the song list draws heavily upon standards. That said, it might be recommended as a starting point for parties not acclimated to the artist's later and exceedingly aggressive free and avant-garde leanings. Hatty Randolph (vocals) joins the combo for a pair of refined vocals on the covers of "'Round Midnight" and "Back in Your Own Backyard." The Arkestra complement Randolph's full-bodied delivery with such finesse, it is a wonder there isn't evidence of more frequent collaborations like this. She adds a bluesy melancholia that nicely offsets the instrumentation. "You Never Told Me That You Care" -- co-written by Ra and Hobart Dotson (trumpet) -- stunningly demonstrates Ra's unmatched scoring and superlative sense of melody. The sweeping and languid tempo allows the tune to unravel organically. "Enlightenment" -- another co-composition by the pair -- is slightly more indicative of Ra's complex approach, as well as the style that would inform his later work, noted by the band's stridency around the comparatively progressive harmonics. When Sound Sun Pleasure was issued on compact disc in 1992, an additional seven selections were included. Chronologically, they are among the earliest known from Sun Ra, recorded at various times and locations between 1953 and 1956, yielding understandably sporadic sound quality. "Deep Purple" -- from a session held in Ra's apartment -- features contributions by Stuff Smith, while Wilbur Ware (bass) duets on an emotive "Can This Be Love." Arthur Hoyle (trumpet) makes one of his first Arkestra appearances on the bouncy post-bop original "Dreams Come True" that also sports a rare Clyde Williams vocal.

Sun Ra - 1959 - Jazz in Silhouette

Sun Ra
1959
Jazz in Silhouette



01. Enlightenment (Stereo) 05:05
02. Saturn 03:41
03. Velvet (Stereo) 03:23
04. Ancient Aiethopia (Stereo) 09:17
05. Hours After (Stereo) 03:46
06. Horoscope 03:46
07. Images (In a Mirror) 03:51
08. Blues at Midnight 11:56

"In tomorrow's world, men will not need artificial instruments such as jets and space ships. In the world of tomorrow, the new man will 'think' the place he wants to go, then his mind will take him there."
— Jazz in Silhouette 1959 album notes

Recorded 1958–1959

Sun Ra (piano)
Hobart Dotson (trumpet)
Bo Bailey (trombone)
James Spaulding (alto sax, flute, percussion)
Marshall Allen (alto sax, flute)
Pat Patrick (baritone sax, flute, percussion)
John Gilmore (tenor sax, percussion)
Charles Davis (baritone sax)
Ronnie Boykins (bass)
William Cochran (drums)




If you want the most essential record reflecting Sun Ra's Chicago period during the 1950s, THIS IS IT. Recorded in Chicago in 1958 or 1959, Jazz In Silhouette essentially closes Sun Ra's bebop/hard-bop periods, as his interstellar traveler persona began to vividly evolve in the early 1960s. Once he moved to New York in 1961, he began to explore more adventurous musical terrain.

Jazz In Silhouette opens with the Ra composition “Enlightenment” (which also appears on the album Sound Sun Pleasure, which wasn't issued until 1970; all tracks from both albums were recorded at the same sessions). “Enlightenment” would remain a staple in Arkestra concerts for the rest of Sunny's life. “Saturn,” “Velvet,” “Horoscope,” “Images (In A Mirror),” and “Blues At Midnight” showcase tenor saxophonist John Gilmore and the rest of the band taking straightforward, but inventive hard-bop solos. "Horoscope" is credited to pianist Mary Lou Williams (a big influence on Sunny), from her 1945 “Zodiac Suite.” On the album closer, an extended “Blues At Midnight,” each horn soloist stretches out as in a live club performance.

On Jazz in Silhouette, Sun Ra and the band radiate the period's Chicago jazz sound, with lilting melodies, intertwining chords, and surprising dynamic shifts. Sunny's compositions demonstrate his ability to write memorable songs in the jazz tradition. As evidenced by the arrangements, at this point in his career Sunny is already somewhat "out there," but it wasn't until he reached New York that he became completely untethered.

This remastered edition of Jazz in Silhouette, prepared for the Sun-tennial in 2014, includes the premiere release of four tracks in full stereo. Every prior edition of the album was 100% monophonic. One stereo session tape was discovered by Michael D. Anderson of the Sun Ra Music Archive; the album's second stereo reel, unfortunately, is damaged and cannot be reproduced.

Additional session notes on Jazz in Silhouette from The Earthly Recordings of Sun Ra, by Robert L. Campbell and Christopher Trent (2nd ed., 2000):

Nate Pryor (who was supposed to be on this session but arrived too late) recalls that the studio was located off the Outer Drive, somewhere near Grand Avenue. Alton Abraham has said that RCA Victor Studios and a studio with a name like “Balladine” were used for Saturn sessions. Bill Fielder says Bo Bailey was on this session, not Julian Priester as stated on the Impulse issue. (The incorrect listing could have come about because Bo Bailey “wasn’t straight with the Union,” as Nate Pryor says). Thanks to Allan Chase for recognizing the role of the mouthpieces in “Ancient Aeithopia.” In the first edition of this discography, Sunny was credited with playing his Wurlitzer electric piano on the introduction to “Ancient Aethiopia,” but more careful listening suggests that he was emulating his Wurlitzer style on a regular piano! The wordless vocal during this same piece includes John Gilmore and Ronnie Boykins, but the most prominent voice belongs to another Arkestra member.

In the jazz universe, Sun Ra typically travels in an unknown, distant galaxy of his own. He is on the map, but understood and given his proper significance by only a loyal few. Most know his esoteric philosophising, lavish stage shows, and outward-bound music, but those features only scratch the surface of Ra’s music. Recorded in 1958, Jazz in Silhouette stands as an overlooked masterpiece, a work that shows Ra not as a mere curiosity or backwater galaxy, but as a major creative force in the jazz universe, a center of gravity around which many of jazz’s major developments have orbited.

This album simply inspires, no matter what perspective you adopt: rhythm, melody, ensemble or mood. You can listen to John Gilmore sculpt his solo on “Saturn” with sensitivity and flair, or Hobart Dotson extemporize with grace and wit on the two-beat gospel number “Hours After”.

Or you could listen to how Ra integrates all of his marvelous sidemen with the intent of creating a bold yet highly disciplined group sound. Ra ingeniously weaves together the nostalgic, almost sentimental themes and counter-themes that make up Hobart Dotson’s “Enlightenment”, and in doing so he transforms the material from the everyday to something transcendent. On “Saturn” he subtly blends the abstract melody and rapid propulsion of bebop with more conventional big band themes without sacrificing the essential character of either. The tune swings hard and the soloists still create challenging lines.

Ra and the Arkestra continually invent intriguing rhythmic ideas, like on the burning “Velvet”. The rhythm section plays in a brisk 4/4 while the rest of the ensemble deftly navigates an arrangement that seems intent on creating confusion with irregular accents and off-balance phrases. But the Arkestra plays so precisely that they create weightlessness instead, and one cannot help but be uplifted by their force.

Continuing the inventive rhythmic interplay is the dark “Ancient Aiethopia”. However, unlike the other compositions, it lacks any harmonic progression, and Ra foregrounds the varied percussion that the Arkestra was starting to utilize at this time. Most importantly, it points towards the direction the Arkestra would head in the next decade. Namely, the Arkestra begins to blur the distinction between rhythm and melody, thereby creating more freedom in the ways that both could develop. Ra himself has stated that the two are inseparable. Here, Boykins' bass, the floor toms and Ra’s left hand set up an interlocking pulse. Ominous brass figures and a percussive flute solo follow, then Dotson builds a penetrating solo on the prevailing mood of mystery and distance. Ra most distinctively blurs the rhythm/melody line in an interlude that grows out Dotson’s melodic ideas, yet still forcefully follows the pulse pattern already established.

Jazz in Silhouette shows Ra doing what he did like few others: looking at the past, present and future simultaneously while maintaining a unified musical direction. Ra’s Arkestra swings intricate big band charts worthy of Ellington, never forgetting their blues roots. They precisely play angular bop melodies in an orchestra setting. They explore the wide-open modal frontier that was opening up and also foreshadow the prominent role percussion would play in the coming years. Combine these elements with bold solos that gleam with warmth and precision, splashes of Afro-Cuban rhythms and Ra’s imaginative writing- what results is a captivating set of music that not only firmly establishes Ra in the jazz tradition, but actually puts him on its leading edge, pointing the direction forward.

One of the definitive "what the shit" experiences. Even though the songs have the sort of titles you'd expect from the space music - "Horoscope," "Saturn," "Enlightenment" and "Ancient Aiethopia" all present and accounted for - the music here is downright conventional and mostly concise, with only the two side-closers breaking the nine minute mark. I mean, for fuck's sake, "Hours After" is straight-up swing, while "Enlightenment" is pretty conventional post-bop. You might not be surprised at the lack of funk or synthesizers, given the release date and all, but there are no chants either, and the songs are mostly head-solo-head. What, you might wonder, is going on here? "Horoscope" isn't Sun Ra. "Images" isn't Sun Ra.

The thing is, it's damn enjoyable anyway, even if the only hints of "Space is the Place" come in the form of "Ancient Aiethopia." The band Ra assembled plays excellently together, frequently bolstering the melodies with sympathetic and complex horn arrangements. This is, basically, a small combo bop record arranged for big band, which means you get the best of both worlds: the terrific arrangements and easygoing spirit of the best big band matched with the psychic communication of the best small combo. "Midnight Blues" is a great example of this, as it features some great horn charts in the heads but is more interested in those solos, all of which smoke.

There are hints of what would come afterwards, though. "Enlightenment" is more about mood and groove than melody or solos, slinking around various tempos and whatnot. Unsurprisingly, it went onto become a concert favorite, and apparently the group added vocals, which probably had something or other to do with space. Or acid. Sun Ra must've been a big acid fan, right? Anyway, the other odd one is "Ancient Aiethopia," which uses odd horn motifs and a lot of low end to create the sort of unique experience Ra would later specialize in. It also features an atmospheric instrumental segment, and while it doesn't have the flow or groove of "Space is the Place," it's still a solid composition.

And you know? I think I enjoy this most out of all the Sun Ra I've heard. Now, there's some Sun Ra I haven't heard for a long time and a lot of Sun Ra I haven't heard at all, so I imagine I'll go on a Ra binge in the coming days and see if that's still the truth or not. As of now, though, this comes off as the guy's most consistent release, even though it has nothing to do with his later work. Check it out.

Sun Ra - 1969 - The Nubians From Plutonia

Sun Ra 
1969 
The Nubians From Plutonia



01. Plutonian Nights 04:22
02. The Lady with the Golden Stockings (a.k.a. The Golden Lady) 07:45
03. Star Time 04:18
04. Nubia 08:06
05. Africa 05:05
06. Watusa (a.k.a. Watusi) 02:35
07. Aiethopia 07:14
08. Images in a Mirror (Stereo, Previously Unreleased) 03:42
09. Ankhnaton (Stereo, Previously Unreleased) 04:18
10. Spontaneous Simplicity (Stereo, Previously Unreleased) 03:01
11. Black Sky and Blue Moon (Stereo, Previously Unreleased) 03:01

Recorded in Chicago 1958-59
According th Robert L. Campbell it was initially issued as Saturn SR 9956-11E/F "Lady with the Golden Stockings" in 1966 (in a generic "Tonal View of Times Tomorrow" cover). In 1967 it was given the catalog number 406. It was retitled "The Nubians of Plutonia" by the end of 1967. By the 1969 the album was given a new cover by Richard Pedreguera.

Sun Ra: piano, electric piano, Wurlitzer organ, bells
John Gilmore: tenor sax (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 11), Nigerian bells (4, 7), percussion (5)
Marshall Allen: alto sax (1, 3, 6, 7), flute (2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11)
Pat Patrick: baritone sax (1, 3, 7), percussion (2, 6), space lute (5, 11), vocals (5)
Charles Davis: baritone sax (3, 5, 9, 11)
James Spaulding: alto sax (2, 3, 5, 9, 11), flute (7)
Lucious Randolph: trumpet (1, 2, 3, 7)
William Fielder: trumpet (6)
Hobart Dotson: trumpet (9)
E.J. Turner: trumpet (11)
Nate Pryor: trombone (3, 5, 7)
Bo Bailey: trombone (9)
Ronnie Boykins: bass (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11)
Jim Herndon: tympani, timbales, conga (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11)
Robert Barry: drums (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11)
Additional personnel unknown

Research herewith on vocal ensembles for tracks 5 and 11, variously identified by historians as The Nu Sounds or The Cosmic Rays: These groups are not the same ensembles, nor do they have overlapping members. The actual vocalists on these tracks might not be either group (the original Saturn LP back cover says "Arkestra" on "Africa"). Lacking session logs, any identification of vocalists on these tracks is speculative. The vocalists on "Black Sky" are unknown and could have been overdubbed at a date later than the original recording. ..



Originally titled The Lady With The Golden Stockings (released 1966), The Nubians of Plutonia (as it was retitled in the ca. 1967-69 reissue) was compiled from tracks recorded in Chicago in 1958 and 1959. Sunny was still in his Space Bop phase, although mystical overtones begin radiating through the jazz. The revised album title cleverly juxtaposes ancient Egypt with outer space—the primitive with the futuristic, characteristics reflected in the compositions and arrangements. The album is redolent with percussion, often played by Arkestra brass or reed players providing a simple, quasi-Latin or African rhythmic foundation behind solos. (Having everyone in the band play percussion remained a longstanding Arkestral tradition.)

Like dozens of Sun Ra tracks recorded in Chicago in the late 1950s, this material was released in the late 1960s (long after Sunny had left Chicago) on the Saturn label, and reflected musical styles Sunny had long since transcended (but never abandoned).

These Saturn LPs were pressed in limited quantities and sold at Arkestra concerts, many of which presented new material radically at odds with the post-swing and hard bop contained on the vinyl. These LPs were also distributed by mail order and tucked in the bins of independent record stores who could get their hands on stock.

Some tracks on Nubians echo the then-prevailing Exotica aesthetic of Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman and Les Baxter (the latter a personal favorite of Sunny—see the Modern Harmonic 2017 compilation EXOTICA). "The Golden Lady" (a.k.a. "The Lady with the Golden Stockings) features an exquisite alto solo by James Spaulding. "Watusa" (a.k.a. "Watusi") became a staple in the Arkestra repertoire. "Aiethopia" is a remake of "Ancient Aiethopia" (Ethiopia), which appeared on Jazz in Silhouette.

Also included on this digital edition are four unreleased stereo recordings from the period: "Images In A Mirror" (different from the version on Jazz in Silhouette), "Ankhnation" (a.k.a. "Ankhnaton"), "Spontaneous Simplicity," and "Black Sky and Blue Moon," which features an unknown vocal ensemble (see personnel notes below).

Trying to keep track of Ra's recordings gives me a headache. What was recorded when under what original title with whom, in Chicago, New York, or on Saturn, how many times was the original broken down into later-released, differently packaged fragments in editions of twelve copies each with wrongly attributed credits before getting paired with another patched-together album from a different era with different unknown musicians...

In this case, the later title Nubians of Plutonia is much more endearing, and much more in keeping with Ra's colorful outer space conceits, but I'm documenting it under Golden Stockings, because that's how it came out initially.

Anyway, more relevantly, it's my favorite Ra. It's got the earthy Afro and Afro-Cuban percussive sound he had begun to use in late '50s Chicago, prior to his going full bore esoteric, which moving to New York seemed to do to him (not an uncommon outcome for those who move to New York, I suppose). And yet there's enough residual boppiness and remnant strands of big band corniness to keep it varied while his influences are all flashed.

I find it more adventurous and less predicta-boppy than Jazz in Silhouette, which is many Ra fans' reference point for his early outings. In fact, while Golden Stockings (Nubians) seems to be a minor diversion in the ears of many Ra lovers, it tops his prolific pile for me, blending all his elements into the ultimate Duke Ellington Docks at an Abandoned Space Station with a Tribe of African Drummers on his way to visit the Great Pyramids blended set.

Sun Ra - 1966 - Visits Planet Earth

Sun Ra
1966
Visits Planet Earth


01. Planet Earth (Stereo) 04:57
02. Eve 05:51
03. Overtones of China 04:19
04. Reflections in Blue 06:20
05. Two Tones 03:40
06. El Viktor 02:30
07. Saturn 03:53

Tracks 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 probably recorded at Universal Recording, Chicago, 1956
Tracks 1 and 3 recorded late 1957 or early 1958, Chicago


Sun Ra: piano, solar electric piano, Egyptian Sun Bells, Chinese Solar Gong
John Gilmore: tenor sax (1, 4, 7), Solar Bells (1), tambourine (1), solar drum (3)
Pat Patrick: alto sax (2), baritone sax (5, 7), Rhodesian Bells (1), solar drum (1, 2), Space Lute (3)
Lucious Randolph: trumpet (1)
Dave Young: trumpet (7)
James Spaulding: alto sax (1)
Marshall Allen: flute (1, 3)
Nate Pryor: trombone
Jim Herndon: timbali (1, 2, 3, 6), tympani (1, 3, 4, 6), boo-bams (2)
Art Hoyle: trumpet (4, 6, 7)
Charles Davis: baritone sax (4, 5)
Victor Sproles: bass (2, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Ronnie Boykins: bass (1, 3)
William Cochran: drums (2, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Robert Barry: drums (1, 3)



Sun Ra Visits Planet Earth was compiled from two studio sessions recorded from 1956 to 1958. Befitting the title, the A side of the LP presented a mystic travelogue in which the band descended on “Planet Earth,” time-traveled to the Garden of Eden to encounter “Eve,” and then zoomed to the Far East to explore "Overtones Of China."

The side B tracks were recorded in 1956 and represent some of the first Arkestra sessions, showcasing Sun Ra's emerging Hard Bop Space Book. These sessions were produced by Tom Wilson for his Transition label, and many tracks were issued in 1968 under the album title Sound of Joy by Delmark. Planet Earth, which coupled tracks from the two unrelated sessions, was commercially released on Ra's Saturn label in 1966.

Planet Earth's title track is a different take than on Sound of Joy, and appears here for the first time in stereo. "Overtones of China" is a radically different (and longer) arrangement than the Sound of Joy version. "El Viktor," "Two Tones," and "Reflections in Blue" are the same takes as on Sound of Joy, but Planet Earth's 2014 digital transfers from the master tape offer greater clarity and higher fidelity. Planet Earth's "Saturn" is eight seconds shorter than on Sound of Joy because on the Delmark reissue, the tape machine ran noticeably slow, causing pitch problems. These flaws were avoided for this digital release. Before its inclusion on Planet Earth, "Eve" had not previously been released, but dates from the Wilson sessions.


An alternate view on the pieces offered on (the later released) Sound of Joy, and one that sounds like a more cohesive album in this incarnation. Here the sides are more sharply divided up between the more idiosyncratic Ra compositions on the A side, and the more typical swing/be-bop based, albeit presented through Ra's inimitable style, on the B side.

The late '57 re-recordings of Planet Earth and Overtones of China aren't necessarily better than the Sound of Joy (December '56) versions, just different. Marshall Allen is now in the band and his flute adds an extra dimension to proceedings. Eve is an unused piece taken from the Sound of Joy sessions, and showcases Ra's rather classically-leaning piano improvisations.

The second side swings from start to finish, and is much more what you might expect from a 'jazz' record. All the soloists shine and is a bit of a romp, truth be told. These four pieces can all be found on Sound of Joy, but the different order here really helps - the energy level just keeps on rising. On a personal note, I think the absence of the rather lethargic 'Ankh' really helps matters!

Sun Ra Visits Planet Earth is another one of the great albums dating to the Chicago period in the mid- to late '50s. Assembled from two recording sessions, Sun Ra Visits Planet Earth is an excellent snapshot of this early period. The first four tunes are all from the earlier session (1956) and feature the Arkestra playing what might strike many listeners as fairly conventional material. The remainder of the tunes are from a 1958 session, and show the band moving away from straight bop and swing towards a more unique sound using much more prominent percussion and an increasing use of dissonance, along with instruments like solar bells and space lute. Most of these tracks were recorded a number of times in the '50s (check Sound of Joy), but arrangements and players vary from take to take. This album is a good example of how the Arkestra sounded just prior to (figuratively) blasting off into outer space.