Saturday, September 28, 2019

Sun Ra - 1974 - The Antique Blacks

Sun Ra
The Antique Blacks

Original 1974 El Saturn Records tracklist:

01. Song No. 1 (8:51)
02. There is Change in the Air (10:57)
03. The Antique Blacks (3:38)
04. This Song is Dedicated to Nature's God (3:57)
05. The Ridiculous "I" and the Cosmos Me (4:42)
06. Would I for All That Were (2:55)
07. Space is the Place (8:10)

2009 re-release adds an extra track:

08. You Thought You Could Build a World Without Us (9:10)

Enterplanetary Koncepts 2015 Re-release changes the order of the tracks and a bit more...

01. The Antique Blacks Suite 24:38
02. This Song Is Dedicated to Nature's God 03:55
03. The Ridiculous "I" and the Cosmos Me 04:36
04. Song No. 1 08:46
05. Would I For All That Were 02:52
06. Space is the Place 08:02

released October 30, 2015

Recorded at Temple University, Philadelphia, August 17, 1974; pressing dates 1974, 1978, maybe others

Sun Ra: Rocksichord, Mini-Moog, synthesizer, vocal
Marshall Allen: alto sax
John Gilmore: tenor sax, vocal, percussion
Danny Davis: alto sax
James Jacson: bassoon, Infinity-drum
Clifford Jarvis: drums
Atakatune: conga
Dale Williams: electric guitar
Akh Tal Ebah: trumpet, vocal

The Antique Blacks, original copies of which are quite rare, was one of those LPs that Sun Ra pressed in very limited quantities to sell at concerts and club dates. The recordings apparently originated from a 1974 Temple University (Philadelphia) radio broadcast. Like many independently pressed and self-released albums on Ra's Saturn label, it's a mixed bag of material with little continuity or consistency. That's not a bug—it's a feature. It contains a jaunty jam ("Song No. 1"), a few songs, and lots of Sunny's declamatory (and inscrutable) sermonizing.

After a 30+ year absence from the market , it was reissued on CD in 2010 by the U.K. label Art Yard, who replicated the LP sequence. In fact, due to the absence of tapes, a vintage vinyl copy was used for the reissue, which included a mono bonus track, "You Thought You Could Build a World Without Us."

After the completed CD production, Michael D. Anderson of the Sun Ra Music Archive discovered the master tapes from the date. One of the revelations was that three tracks from the LP, "There Is Change in the Air," the above-named bonus track, and the album title track, were actually part of a continuous 24-1/2 minute suite. When the original LP was compiled, some bridge material had been edited out, and three components of the suite were isolated as standalone tracks. For this digitally remastered edition, the entire suite is presented for the first time (and in full stereo). In addition, "Song No. 1," which was the opening track on the LP, has been placed where it stands in sequence on the tape, as track 4.

What sounds like an audio glitch at 7:21 in "Space is the Place" is in fact a four-second patch of tape spliced in reverse—Sun Ra's contribution to the sinister '70s practice of lyrical backmasking.

There was some speculation about the source of "You Thought You Could Build A World Without Us." Based on comments made by Sun Ra himself on WKCR in 1987 (when it was aired), Sun Ra discographers Robert Campbell and Christopher Trent speculated that the track was an outtake from the 1972 film soundtrack for Space is the Place. However, RC/CT note that electric guitarist Dale Williams did not join the Arkestra until 1974. The discovery of the master tape confirms the provenance of the performance.

Historical footnote: Producer Hal Willner claims he witnessed these sessions at Temple University. Ask him about it.

The Antique Blacks is a great live date, recorded in 1974 but not released officially until 1978. This is a smallish band, and features the first recorded evidence of prominent electric rock guitar in the Arkestra, attributed only to "Sly." "Song No. 1" is a groovy sort of space bossa nova, with Sun Ra on rocksichord supported by great percussion as the other players join in. "There Is a Change in the Air/The Antique Blacks" is a Ra poem recited with musical accompaniment as is "The Ridiculous 'I' and the Cosmos Me." "This Song Is Dedicated to Nature's God" is actually a different tune than "To Nature's God" on Live in Egypt, Vol. 1, but is the same sort of upbeat, swinging singalong. "Would I for All That Were" is a short interlude with Moog craziness over an ominous march, which leads into a rousing version of "Space Is the Place." The Antique Blacks is notable for the recited poetry, as well as for the presence of the extroverted Sly, who adds a totally new dimension to the Arkestra sound. This one will be tough to find, but well worth it.



  2. When they weren’t delivered in pre printed or hand drawn covers, El Saturns sometimes appeared in generic sleeves. This was the front cover for my copies of Some Blues, But Not The Kind That’s Blue and for Deep Purple purchased in the mid 80s. Those albums had their own printed sleeves, so I guess leftovers or generics were used if they ran out of a given album specific cover. You could never be certain what the packaging was going to be on El Saturn. Mr. Ra, Mystery, Mr. Mystery.