Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I was actually planning to do a detailed Sun Ra post next week but since Shelby beat me to it yesterday and posted a link to Space is the Place I figured that I might as well throw something together quickly while he's still fresh in every one's mind. If, by chance, you watched Space for the first time with no knowledge of who Sun Ra was (is), I envy you, and if you need more information you can check out his Wikipedia entry here. It covers the basics - Ra's real name was Herman Blount, he was a pianist, believed he was from Saturn, etc. But if you're really interested, Perfect Sound Forever has a great article on Sunny and his work here. And if you're lucky, your friendly local library might have a copy of this. Anyway, on with the music.
Sun Ra released a ton of stuff and there's a great deal of debate regarding what Sun Ra album is best to introduce people to his work. Many people recommend Jazz in Silhouette (1959), while others say The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra (1961), and some people like anthologies like The Heliocentric World of Sun Ra Volumes I and II (1965). I've chosen none of those because (judging from the comments to Shelby's post) there are a few Sun Ra fans hanging 'round these parts and they might enjoy something a bit more obscure. Also, the aforementioned titles should be readily available at your local record store. And, honestly, I'm just an asshole sometimes so, whatever.
Lanquidity was released in 1978 and is considered Ra's first full fledged foray in to fusion. Electric guitars are used, and the album has a very 'funky' feel to it, but it's still as abstract as anything Ra ever released.
Nuclear War is from 1982 and was one of Ra's several attempts to attach himself to a major label. Needless to say his bid was unsuccessful and this album was hard to find for a long time. It's not as 'out there' as a lot of his recordings, but is still creepy and weird in several places, despite Ra's mainstream intentions. It is also remembered for it's title track in which Ra sings: "Nuclear war / Is a motherfucker / Don't you know / If they push that button / Your ass got to go / What you gonna do / About your ass / Oh what you gonna do / About your ass?"
Sun Ra died in 1993 and the Arkestra continued under the direction of the great saxophonist John Gilmore. Since Gilmore's death in 1995 the Arkestra has been under the direction of Marshall Allen, another saxophonist. Every now and again they tour, and if you get the chance to see them you should jump on it. Even without the master the Arkestra is an amazing experience.
Oh, and by the way, if there is enough interest I can do another Sun Ra post.