Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Sun Ra - 2015 - Planets Of Life Or Death Amiens '73

Sun Ra
Planets Of Life Or Death Amiens '73 

01. Enlightenment 02:24
02. Love In Outer Space 17:07
03. Lights On A Satellite 03:52
04. Discipline 27-II / What Planet Is This 23:46

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Piccolo Flute, Percussion – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone, Flute, Percussion – Danny Ray Thompson
Bass – Ronnie Boykins
Bass Clarinet, Flute, Percussion – Eloe Omoe
Bassoon, Flute, Percussion – James Jacson
Cello, Viola, Percussion – Alzo Wright
Drums – Tommy Hunter
Electric Piano, Synthesizer [Mini-Moog], Vocals – Sun Ra
French Horn – Brother Ahh
Percussion – Odun Shahib
Percussion, Balafon, Other [Dance] – Roger Aralamon Hazoumé
Percussion, Other [Dance] – Math Samba
Tenor Saxophone, Drums, Vocals – John Gilmore
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Akh Tal Ebah, Kwame Hadi
Vocals, Other [Dance] – June Tyson, Ruth Wright
Voice [Space Ethnic Voices] – Cheryl Banks, Judith Holton

Recorded at Maison de la Culture, Amiens, France, 21st October 1973.

A previously unreleased Sun Ra concert from Amiens, France in 1973. At times intense, ritualistic and visceral, the recording features the glistening ‘Lights On A Satellite’ featuring the spiritual tenor sax of John Gilmore and a rare instrumental version of ‘Love In Outer Space’

Pretend you know nothing about Sun Ra. Imagine that all you know about him is, well, a colourful pile of nothing. You casually attend a Record Store Day in your city and pick up the only copy (amongst the very few sold exclusively on that day) of this vinyl they have. You’re intrigued by the cover, the name, your very inexperience, and while you leave the premises with yet another Radiohead album under your arms, you forget about the bucks and quid that other album cost you until you sit on your favourite armchair in the comfort of your mortgaged house. Your partner, whose affection for you is somehow stronger than the decades-long relationship you have chosen to entertain with your favourite financial institution, is away, so you’re left in the house to fend for yourself. Well, then what? What happens once Sun Ra & His Intergalactic Research Arkestra fill every corner of the room with waves of afrofuturism? How ready were you for the magic that is -- by now -- bursting at the seams right when “Love in Outer Space” flourishes, shines and withers in a time that is more or less equivalent to In Rainbows’ Side A.

You see, this is absolute music; an abstraction of the abstraction and nothing else. There is no explanation, no discipline and we are left fewer and fewer coordinates. Therefore plenty of them! One might hear Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma (“Love in Outer Space”), Mulatu Astatke’s Ethio-jazz, Magma, Ornette Coleman, John Cage and even some Radiohead. Another will appreciate the simplicity of cacophony in all its splendour, the contrast between harmonies (the vocals on “Enlightenment”), the beauty of percussion and the charm of a Sunday afternoon in Amiens, France in 1973.

Same as you, who knows if the audience was expecting this, or if someone was disappointed to see that the canons of jazz were being torn to pieces right before their eyes. Maybe not, I’d like to think. But this accurate recording (captured right off the mixer) depicts an ensemble at its zenith and an artist who was already somewhere else far, far away. John Gilmore’s sax sinuously progresses through “Lights On A Satellite”, but it is with the instrumental “Love In Outer Space” that the magnitude of Sun Ra’s experimentalism intensifies, ripping apart the structure, bouncing through the obsessiveness of the percussive elements and the illogical cleverness of a legendary free spirit.

This album follows 2014 collection put together by Arkestra’s Marshall Allen (In The Orbit Of Ra), and is the joint effort of two of the most recognisable labels of the underground, Strut and Art Yard, and is enriched with rare images from that very tour taken by Jan Persson.

Whatever your reaction, Planets of Life or Death: Amiens '73 is a genuine, unaltered picture that is definitely worth a listen, both if you already know what to expect or if this is your sonic baptism with Sun Ra’s music. Whatever your starting point, this record will not go unnoticed. It embodies cosmic jazz as seen by a visionary and the end result is a beautifully confused, layered little gem.

Sun Ra - 1993 - Concert for the Comet Kohoutek

Sun Ra
Concert for the Comet Kohoutek

01. Kohoutek Intro 1:10
02. Astro Black 1:50
03. Variations Of Kohoutek Themes 5:12
04. Journey Through The Outer Darkness 9:25
05. Enlightenment 2:02
06. Unknown Kohoutek 7:16
07. Discipline 12:39
08. Outer Space E.M. (Emergency) 7:48
09. Space Is The Place 7:56

Live at Town Hall, New York City, December 22 1973. 

Composer, keyboardist and bandleader Sun Ra's intimate connection with the cosmos is well documented, but it was rare that Ra was given cause for real celestial celebration. That opportunity did come in 1973 however, when Ra and his orchestra played a show in celebration of Kohoutek, a comet whose sighting was billed as the "Comet of the Century." Though the comet was ultimately a visual disappointment, the concert was an aural success; the Arkestra is in a loose and comfortable realm on Concert for the Comet Kohoutek, whose release only came in the early '90s before being reissued.
The crowd's enthusiasm toward Ra is palpable even before he gets on stage—the M.C. is amicably disposed of in favor of the Arkestra—and it is with this energy that Ra's band (the personnel of which is unfortunately unlisted) jumps into the funky vocal workout of "Astro Black." Likely it is Space is the Place's (Blue Thumb, 1973) June Tyson leading the proceedings here as she guides the chaotic horn lines of the intro into a mellow groove whose rhythmically textural mysticism paves the way for the fifteen minute free workout of "Discipline 27 (Part 1)." Starting out in Ra's typical big band mode, with rich arrangements and a distinctly Ellingtonian sense of harmony, the work soon dissolves under crushing electronic synthesizer tones and horn blasts that build to become some of the most overtly chaotic and outright weird material that Ra would put to tape before erupting in a wash of kinetic celebration.
"Enlightenment" provides respite with another vocal number before the celebratory poly-rhythmic jaunt, "Love in Outer Space," if slightly laboriously, grooves along. The aptly titled "Kohoutek" opens with a Ra keyboard improvisation, again featuring his markedly fried synthesizer sounds. Still, the piece maintains a relative sense of stability with consistent backing work and a tight-knit big band opening. It's length soon provides the means to loosen as well. However, before it's finished, the piece dissolves into crumbling synth textures and harmonic dissonance that still manages to maintain its sense of direction.
Again, Ra organizes the show's pacing by inserting another lyrical number, "Discipline 27 (Part 2)," to settle the groove. The crowd's enthusiastic game of call and response is surely aided by the kazoos they were given at the start of the show. The closing rendition of "Space is the Place" is a heavy affair, with thick low end synthesizer harmony lines that hearken in Tyson's vocals and the rest of the band's taught interaction. It is a fitting end to a night that saw Ra and his Arkestra doing what it does best—if a little sloppily at times—for a cause that could not be better situated for their unique mode of performance.

Released in the early '90s, Concert for the Comet Kohoutek captures a typically inspired night by Sun Ra & the Intergalactic Space Research Arkestra. Recorded in late 1973, on this date the Arkestra is guided by a musical theme composed around the idea of the Comet Kohoutek, which was passing close to Earth at the time. Typically, the release vaults between cosmic vocal songs that speak of Truth and other such brashly capitalized affairs (such as "Astro Black"), almost straight-ahead big-band jazz arrangements ("Variations of Kohoutek Themes"), and frighteningly evil free explorations ("Journey Through the Outer Darkness"). Much of the Arkestra's appeal lies in its ability to navigate gracefully through these moods. Unfortunately, the balance is too even here, and the band doesn't commit to any of the ideas. There isn't enough free music to let the listener become lost, the few Sun Ra compositions (in the traditional sense) that appear are too undeveloped and sloppy to truly appreciate, and the cosmic platitudes always worked better in their purely instrumental forms. An enjoyable listen, but not an important date.

Sun Ra - 2006 - What Planet is This

Sun Ra
What Planet is This

01. Untitled Improvisation (Ra) (5:30)
02. Astro Black (Ra) (3:04)
03. Discipline 27 (Ra) (7:29)
04. Untitled Improvisation (Ra) (28:18)
05. Space is the Place (Ra) (10:27)
06. Enlightenment (Ra - Dotson) (3:39)
07. Love in Outer Space (Ra) (10:29)
08. The Shadow World (Ra) (20:42)
09. Watusa, Egyptian March (Ra) (8:54)
10. Discipline 27-II (incl. What Planet is This? / The Universe Sent me to Converse with You / My Brother the Sun (Ra) (17:39)
11. Line-up & Recording Date:

Recorded live in New York, July 6, 1973

Sun Ra (piano, mini-moog, organ, declamation)
John Gilmore (tenor sax, percussion, voice)
Marshall Allen (alto sax, oboe, flute, percussion, cowbell, voice)
Danny Davis (alto sax, flute, percussion, voice)
Larry Northington (alto sax, percussion, voice)
Eloe Omoe (bass clarinet, bassoon, percussion, voice)
Danny Ray Thompson (baritone sax, flute, percussion, voice)
Pat Laurdine Patrick (baritone sax, oboe, voice)
James Jacson (bassoon, flute, percussion, voice)
Akh Tal Ebah (trumpet, fluegelhorn, megaphone, percussion, voice)
Kwame Hadi (trumpet, percussion, voice)
Dick Griffin (trombone, percussion, voice)
Charles Stephens (trombone, percussion, voice)
Hakim Jami (tuba, percussion)
Alzo Wright (cello, percussion)
Ronnie Boykins (bass)
Lex Humphries (drums)
Aye Aton (drums)
Atakatune (congas, tympani)
Odun (congas)
Harry Richards (percussion)
June Tyson (voice, declamation, percussion, dance)
Judith Holton (voice, dance)
Ruth Wright (voice, dance)
Cheryl Banks (voice, dance)

It is appropriate that this double album is being released by Leo Records' Golden Years imprint. Recorded in New York in July, 1973, it features as large an Arkestra as any that Sun Ra put together and includes all of his key collaborators. What Planet Is This? comes from the crucial period when Sun Ra had progressed from cult status to wider recognition, a process aided by a strange alliance with the MC5. But unlike the '50s and '60s (which are well-documented, particularly by the reissue programme on Evidence) or the late '80s and early '90s (covered well, not least by Leo), this period is not well-served by current releases. All of that makes this a welcome issue.
The sound quality is generally good (not always true of Leo's past Sun Ra releases), although some of the balance is rather eccentric; for instance, on "Space Is The Place, the vocals are far forward and the band sounds very distant. In fact, given the instrumentation (thirteen reeds and brass!) the band doesn't sound nearly as powerful as it could or should.

By contrast, the ten-minute version of "Love in Outer Space really captures the majestic power of the band in full flight, driven along by Ra's surging organ, wild, free-blowing horns and massed percussion that creates a massive polyrhythmic groove that is sure to move anyone with a pulse. Just as impressive is a twenty-minute version of "The Shadow World that features a barnstorming big band (again, with percussion aplenty) interspersed with more incredible Ra organ and free-blown improvisations on saxophones and tuba, the latter providing a rich, fruity bass line.

Special mention must go to vocalist June Tyson, whose vocals are pure-toned and powerfully soulful throughout. Her call-and-response "declamations (an appropriate term; "vocals doesn't do them justice) with Ra himself on the title track turn it into a space-age revivalist meeting. Extraordinary.

Another valuable piece in the ever-evolving Sun Ra jigsaw.

Sun Ra - 2014 - Sign Of The Myth

Sun Ra
Sign Of The Myth 

01. Sign Of The Myth 16:12
02. The Eye Of Horus 6:54
03. Hidden Cosmic Treasures 10:32
04. The Truth Of Maat 12:51

Alto Saxophone – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone, Oboe – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone – Danny Ray Thompson
Bass – Ronnie Boykins
Bass Clarinet, Percussion – Eloe Omoe
Congas – Atakatune
Drum [Ancient Egyptian Infinity Drum] – James Jackson*
Drums – Clifford Jarvis
Keyboards – Sun Ra
Mellophone, Percussion – Akh Tal Ebah
Tenor Saxophone – John Gilmore
Trumpet, Percussion – Kwame Hadi

Edition of 1,050 copies.

Recorded 8 March 1973 at Variety Recording Studios, NYC.

In 1973, Sun Ra inked a high-profile deal with ABC / Impulse, bringing his recorded work to the widest audience he’d had to date. A slew of Saturn back catalog titles and two newly-recorded albums (Astro Black, Pathways To Unknown Worlds) were issued before ABC cancelled the contract, dumped the records into the cut-out bins, and left the unreleased albums to languish. Now, over four decades later, Roaratorio is proud to offer one of the lost Impulse recordings for the first time. Sign Of The Myth hails from the same studio session as Pathways, and shares its emphasis on guided improvisations. With a constantly shifting palette of Moog textures, Ra tosses off a dazzling array of ideas throughout, supported by the usual Arkestra stalwarts; in particular, bassist Ronnie Boykins and drummer Clifford Jarvis are in shining form here, giving shape and solidity to these pieces. Sign Of The Myth is a welcome augmentation to an especially fertile period from Sun Ra’s time on Earth.

Sign of the Myth originates from the Pathways To Unknown Worlds sessions and like In the Orbit of Ra, maybe the best of all 2014 releases, it also captures the brilliant and underestimated bass work of Ronnie Boykins – while Ra concentrates on spooky, spacey and psychedelic synthesizer sounds, which are like an electric carpet contrasting the wave of percussion and the free jazz reeds lines of the reed section consisting here of Eloe Omoe, Danny Ray Thompson, Kwame Hadi, Akh Tal Ebah, Marshall Allen, Danny Davis, and John Gilmore.  With a constantly shifting array of Moog horror movie sounds, Ra structures the pieces, for example the title track, which can keep up with the best Arkestra tracks. Ra, Boykins and the percussion section start off before the saxes fall in trying to take control of the improvisation but in the end it is Boykins’s walking bass and Ra’s synth lines which prevail and even give an outlook to where the Arkestra was heading with Disco 3000 only five years later.

Sun Ra - 2000 - Cymbals / Symbols Sessions

Sun Ra
Cymbals / Symbols Sessions

01. The World of the Invisible 06:51
02. Thoughts Under a Dark Blue Light 16:32
03. The Order of the Pharaonic Jesters 07:24
04. The Mystery of Two 07:34
05. Land of the Day Star 03:56

06. The Universe is Calling 04:10
07. Space Landing 07:15
08. Of Drastic Measures 04:50
09. Of Otherness 07:31
10. Myth Evidential 13:20
11. Destination of the Known Unknown 09:36

Recorded at Variety Studios, New York, 1973

LP1 is the first legitimate release of Cymbals on vinyl, LP2 contains some previously unreleased material.

Sun Ra: organ, Minimoog, Rocksichord
Akh Tal Ebah: trumpet
Danny Davis: alto sax
John Gilmore: tenor sax
Eloe Omoe: bass clarinet
Ronnie Boykins: bass
Harry Richards: drums
Derek Morris: conga

In early 1973, thanks to the intrepid persuasion of jazz producer Ed Michel, Sun Ra signed a licensing agreement with the prestigious jazz imprint Impulse (then part of ABC/Paramount Records) to reissue catalog titles from Ra's proprietary Saturn label, as well as some new Arkestra recordings. Michel had produced Ra's most commercially successful album, Space is the Place, in 1972 for Blue Thumb Records, and he figured Ra was finally primed for a wider Earthly audience. The Impulse deal struck with Ra and manager Alton Abraham specified a cap of 50 albums — ten annually for five years — although all masters were subject to approval by Impulse and theoretically less than 50 could be issued.

William Ruhlmann at AllMusic notes, "This was Ra's first association with something like a major record company, and though it resulted in ten actual releases, it didn't last long; another 12 planned releases were cancelled." Eight (egregiously remixed and/or remastered) existing Saturn titles were repackaged; on other planets, extraterrestrial jazz scholars refer to the Impulse period as "Ra's Quadraphonic Years."

Besides the reissues, two newly recorded albums were released—Astro Black and Pathways to Unknown Worlds. Another pair, Cymbals and Crystal Spears, recorded in 1973, were assigned catalog numbers before being shelved. They must have been rejected quickly, because that very year three Cymbals tracks were incongruously grouped with some of Ra's earliest 1940s & '50s recordings on a Saturn LP entitled Deep Purple.

The Cymbals sessions took place at one of Ra's most favored recording venues, Variety Studios, in New York. Other than the three tracks on Deep Purple, the Cymbals (a.k.a. Symbols) sessions were unissued during Sun Ra's lifetime. Five tracks from these sessions (tracks 1 thru 5 on this 11-track complete edition) were posthumously issued on a 2-CD set by Evidence in 2000 under the title The Great Lost Sun Ra Albums (which included Crystal Spears). The Evidence CDs had to rely on substandard source tapes, which at the time were the only tapes available.

This 2018 double album on Modern Harmonic used session master tapes from Michael D. Anderson's Sun Ra Music Archive, and represents the complete Cymbals/Symbols sessions.

Cymbals constitutes an intimate gathering by Arkestra standards. Although eight musicians were involved, nothing larger than a sextet and often only a quartet plays on any one track. Ra's illustrious tenor saxophonist John Gilmore only performs on one title (“Thoughts Under A Dark Blue Light”), and Danny Davis plays alto on another ("Land of the Day Star"). Cymbals is notable for being one of the few ensemble albums in Sun Ra's vast catalog that does not feature Arkestra mainstay Marshall Allen.

As Bro. Cleve writes in the liner notes to the LP and CD editions of the Cymbals/Symbols packages, "The ABC/Impulse deal imploded, due to disappointing sales. The cut-out albums were dumped into bargain bins. Curiosity seekers heard Sun Ra, perhaps for the first time, for a dollar a disc. Sadly, the band made no money from sales of these LP’s. Ra returned to Saturn … Records, that is."

A lost slice of work from Sun Ra's early 70s years on Impulse Records – one of the few new recordings created for his association with that label (most of the titles were reissues of earlier Saturn albums) – but one that was never issued at the time! Cymbals saw some release later, during the 90s – but this package really expands on that album by adding in a whole extra set of recordings from what appear to be the same sessions – and which really flesh out the vibe of the performance! The core group is a sextet – with Ra at the helm on some of his cool electric keyboards – including minimoog, rocksichord, and Gibson Kalamazoo – with acoustic work from Eloe Omoe on bass clarinet, Tal Ebah on trumpet, Ronny Boykins on bass, Harry Ar on drums, and Derek Morris on congas. Much of the core music explores a tension between Ra's cosmic keys and the more earthy sound of the acoustic instruments – but the added material here opens up some nicely different moods, and makes the whole thing explode with deep colors.

Sun Ra - 2000 - Crystal Spear

Sun Ra
Crystal Spear

01. Crystal Spears 06:06
02. The Eternal Sphynx 04:47
03. The Embassy of the Living God 10:22
04. Sunrise in the Western Sky 20:21

Recorded at Variety Studios, NYC 1973. Planned as Impulse! ASD 9297 Sun Ra - Crystal Spears (not released)

Sun Ra: Rocksichord, marimba, Minimoog, electronic vibraphone, gong
John Gilmore: tenor sax
Danny Ray Thompson: baritone sax
Danny Davis: alto sax, flute, percussion
Marshall Allen: flute, piccolo flute, oboe
Kwame Hadi: trumpet, percussion
Eloe Omoe: bass clarinet
Clifford Jarvis: drums
Atakatune: percussion
Odun: percussion

Jagged spears of crystal thrust into the brain (or is it the heart?) elicit an agonizing howl, a cry, and a scream. Thus opens Sun Ra’s 1973 adventure-mystery Crystal Spears. After a few minutes of a cathartic brawl between Minimoog and Yamaha combo organ, percussionists Atakatune and Odun enter while drummer Clifford Jarvis provides tonal textures, not rhythm, from the kit. Marshall Allen saunters in with a rather plaintive oboe, under which Ra later overdubbed (a rarity on an Arkestra recording!) a marimba. But this momentary gentleness is soon disrupted by roaring electronic keyboards over waves of rollicking marimba devilishly chattering below the fray.

Crystal Spears, intended for release in 1975 by ABC/Impulse! and assigned catalog # AS-9297, was ultimately rejected by the label. Ra and business manager Alton Abraham retained the rights, rechristened the album Crystal Clear and assigned Saturn Records catalog # 562—but never got around to issuing it. The first three tracks on this album were mastered from that tape, a 1/4-inch four-track (15 IPS) brand favored by home recording enthusiasts—and generally disfavored by pro engineers. The sessions took place at Variety Recording Studio in New York on February 3, 1973, a month before the Ark returned on March 8 to record another Impulse-rejected album, Cymbals/Symbols (also available in a remastered edition from Modern Harmonic).

Why was Crystal Spears rejected? A year or two after Ra’s signing, reigning ABC management was swept out and new execs rolled in. It’s quite probable that the new execs didn’t comprehend what was happening on these recordings. For the uninitiated, this was not jazz as they knew it, but unbridled cacophony. But is it? Sun Ra always had a method to his madness—and a madness to his method.

Most of the Ra projects on Impulse! were reissues of Saturn-label releases which had been poorly distributed (and pressed in limited quantities). In 1972-73, Ra reportedly produced eight newly recorded projects for Impulse!—two were released at the time, and five have been issued since 2000. Ra’s “guided improvisations” often showcased his extraterrestrial takes on the blues as well as “chamber jazz,” a classical/jazz hybrid popularized by 1950’s Hollywood composers such as Leith Stevens, Fred Katz, and Robert Markowitz for crime jazz. It’s a good bet that Ra was as fascinated by these cinematic sounds as he was with the Exotica of Les Baxter. (Fans of the latter should explore Modern Harmonic's double album of Sun Ra Exotica.)

The core of the Arkestra played together daily, enduring endless hours in rehearsal and more onstage; by 1973, some had played with Ra for over 15 years. This forged a musical telepathy that helped this music coalesce. Since the mid-1960’s, their group improvisations deployed deep layers that blossomed over repeated listening.

Track two, “The Eternal Sphynx,” is probably the most commercial sounding work. Stylistically related to the “Discipline” series of compositions Ra crafted in the early 1970’s, the ensemble plays a repetitive two-bar vamp, in which soloists Danny Davis (alto) and John Gilmore (tenor) and Ra (who slinks into “Space Is The Place”) commune. The band returns to the motif before building up to a Space Chord finale, upon which Ra overlays a minor/major-7th chord, that irrefutable “sound of intrigue” heard from Peter Gunn to 007.

Cinematic suspense permeates “The Embassy of the Living God,” who apparently resides in a haunted mansion. There’s an eerie majesty to Ra’s chordal voicings. Eloe Omoe’s bass clarinet and Marshall Allen’s oboe add an otherworldliness with their howlings, until the entire group retreats into the shadows as Gilmore’s hellacious wails materialize. Ra’s starburst organ runs and (probably) Kwame Hadi’s trumpet herald the propulsive finish of the track, which ends sharply and conclusively.

“Sunrise In The Western Sky” opens with various gongs, some overdubbed, announcing the rising of the sun in the east. This is a more languid composition, reflecting its title. By its denouement, the sun is out in full force, its fury scorching the planet. The drums soon abate, their work for the day done. But will the need for sunset bring them back to evoke the gods again? In Sun Ra’s aural cinematheque, one has to await the sequel that may never arrive to learn the answers one may never know.

– Brother Cleve

Recorded in ’73 and rejected by tin-eared major label execs in ’75, Crystal Spears (or “Crystal Clear” as it appears on the tape box) subsumes a cathartic brawl between Minimoog and Yamaha combo organ, with percussionists providing tonal textures, and plaintive oboe colliding with roaring electronic keyboards over waves of rollicking marimba, devilishly chattering below the fray. Crystal Spears is Ra’s once lost aural cinematheque! Includes a quad-ra-color Sun Ra poster!
Crystal Spears, intended for release in 1975 by ABC/Impulse! and assigned catalog # AS-9297, was ultimately rejected by the label. Ra and business manager Alton Abraham retained the rights, rechristened the album Crystal Clear and assigned Saturn Records catalog # 562—but they never got around to issuing it. The first three tracks on this album were mastered from that tape, a 1/4-inch four-track (15 ips) brand favored by home recording enthusiasts—and generally disfavored by pro engineers. The sessions took place at Variety Recording Studio in New York on February 3, 1973, a month before the Ark returned on March 8 to record Cymbals, as well as tracks issued decades later under the title Sign Of The Myth (and perhaps even Pathways To Unknown Worlds).

Why was Crystal Spears rejected? A year or two after Ra’s signing, reigning ABC management was swept out and new execs rolled in. It’s quite probable that the new execs didn’t comprehend what was happening on these recordings. For the uninitiated, this was not jazz as they knew it, but unbridled cacophony. But is it? Sun Ra always had a method to his madness—and a madness to his method.

Sun Ra - 1973 - Friendly Love

Sun Ra
Friendly Love

01. Friendly Love I
02. Friendly Love II
03. Friendly Love III
04. Friendly Love IV

Sun Ra- org, mini-moog;
Akh Tal Eba- fgh, mellophone
Kwame Hadi- tp, cga
Marshal Allen- ob
Danny Davis- as
John Gilmore- ts
Eloe Omoe- ct, bct
Danny Ray Thompson- bs
Neptunian libflecto; Atakatune- cga
Harry Richards- d.

Recorded 1973. Offered to Impulse Record but rejected

Sun Ra's brief involvement with the Impulse! jazz imprint was hastily terminated in early 1975. Subsequent to his dismissal, several projects that had never been issued were consequently returned to the artist. Whereas the other three rejected master tapes had (at the very least) working names, there are few specifics about Friendly Love's exact place in Ra's tousled discography. Some jazz scholars insist the catalog number of Saturn Records LP 564 had been designated, but attempts to locate a copy or even retrace a paper trail have been fruitless. However, there are a few things that can be presumed accurate about the origins of the actual recordings. The personnel indicates that the four extemporaneous free jazz pieces that were to be included on the long-player were documented circa 1973, although the exact location remains a subject of debate. In his wonderfully insightful liner essay in the compact disc reissue of Friendly Love -- which was piggybacked with Pathways to Unknown Worlds (1975) -- Robert L. Campbell goes behind the music, sourcing these performances as having been discovered among the materials "sent back to Sun Ra's business partner, Alton Abraham in Chicago, where [they were] stored in a box...." That is until 2000, when the indie Evidence label integrated this music as part of their ongoing effort to restore as much of Sun Ra's legacy as possible. The four sequentially titled tracks are much in keeping with the vast majority of the sounds coming from the various early- to mid-'70s incarnations of Ra's Arkestra(s). That is to say, each is independent and wholly improvised by the perpetually alternating cast of musicians, and there are obvious contributions throughout from several longtime Arkestra members. The absolute conviction and unmistakable presence of Marshall Allen is marked by his strident tenor sax runs and interjections, while Danny Thompson can be heard manipulating the somewhat baffling bassoon-derived apparatus that Ra dubbed the "Neptunian libflecto." Even more peculiar is the "space-dimension" mellophone, which is a bastardization of the traditional instrument with a retrofitted contrabassoon reed inserted into the mouthpiece. This assuredly accounts for the weightier and slightly muffled timbre. Akh Tal Ebah weaves alternately melodic and atonal interjections around Ra's sinuous, and at times understated, changes. While this is definitely not the place for the novice listener, seasoned enthusiasts will find the Arkestra interaction vacillating between mildly amusing to nothing short of spellbinding.

Sun Ra - 1975 - Pathways To the Unknown Worlds

Sun Ra
Pathways to Unknown Worlds

01. Pathways To Unknown Worlds 12:12
02. Extension Out 7:31
03. Cosmo-Media 6:58

Alto Saxophone – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Oboe – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone – Danny Thompson
Bass – Bill Davis, Ronnie Boykins
Bass Clarinet – Leroy Taylor
Congas – Eugene Brennan, Russell Branch, Stanley Morgan
Drums – Clifford Jarvis
Keyboards – Sun Ra
Tenor Saxophone, Percussion – John Gilmore
Trumpet – Akh Tal Ebah, Lamont McClamb

Recorded at El Saturn Recording Studios, Chicago, Ill, 1973.

The civilizations of the past have been used as the foundation of the civilization of today. Because of this, the world keeps looking towards the past for guidance. Too many people are following the past. In this new space age, this is dangerous. The past is dead and those who are following the past are doomed to die and be like the past. It is no accident that those who die are said to have passed since those who have passed are "past". - Sun Ra -

Pathways to Unknown Worlds was originally issued on LP in 1975 as part of Sun Ra's ill-fated and short-lived ABC/Impulse! Records partnership. ABC offered an ambitious deal that promised dozens of remastered editions of Sun Ra's Saturn back catalog along with a slew of new titles. The launch fizzled shortly after liftoff, but not before introducing two vital albums to the Ra catalog: Astro Black and Pathways. (Astro Black was reissued in all formats by Modern Harmonic in 2018.)

Ra’s original Pathways liner notes expressed his disdain for the past and his vision of the future. But the future here rendered by Ra seems more dystopian than utopian. Imagine this album as an aural Science Fiction novel, analogous to the contemporaneous writings of Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Samuel R. Delany, and others who dwelled in unknown worlds where confusion and chaos often reign. A cybernetical soundscape for time travel through an inscrutable cosmos.

Sun Ra - 1999 - Outer Space Employment

Sun Ra
Outer Space Employment 

01 Discipline 99 (13:49)
02 Love In Outer Space (4:58)
03 At First There Was Nothing/The Universe Has More To Offer You/Wake Up Angels/Outer Space.  (20:14)

Marshall Allen : Flute, Percussion, Sax (Alto)
Akh Tal Ebah : Mellophonium, Trumpet, Vocals
John Gilmore : Percussion, Sax (Tenor)
Kwame Hadi : Trumpet
Judith Holton : Vocals
James Jacson : Bassoon, Drums, Vocals
Clifford Jarvis : Drums
Stanley Morgan : Conga
Eloe Omoe : Clarinet (Bass)
Sun Ra : Organ, Piano, Synthesizer, Vocals
Danny Thompson : Flute, Libflecto, Percussion, Sax (Baritone)
June Tyson : Vocals
Dale Williams : Guitar (Electric)

Recorded in concert at Otis Spann Memorial Field, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sunday, September 9, 1973.
These recordings were produced for the Rainbow Multi-Media Corporation and recorded direct to two-track by the Butterfly Mobile Recording Service.

Recorded on September 9, 1973 at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, this is a fair-fidelity live document; the sound is listenable, but not exceptional. Of the three tracks, "Discipline 99" and "Love in Outer Space" are by far the more cacophonous, with Sun Ra's spooky farfisa organ and mini-moog being by far the most interesting elements in the inscrutable brew. The 20-minute medley "At First There Was Nothing/The Universe Has More to Offer You/Wake Up Angels/Outer Space Employment Agency" -- yes, that's the full title -- is more ingratiating. Anchored on a lilting swing groove, much of it is devoted to the inimitable, and uplifting if not purely sensical, cosmic rap-philosophizing of the Arkestra, joined by vocalist June Tyson. If this were the only aural evidence of the Arkestra in this era, you could still get a sense of their more enduring qualities. But there are better-sounding albums of this phase of their development; this should be investigated by those hungry to hear Sun Ra in quantity.