Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sun Ra And His Intergalactic Research Arkestra ‎– Planets Of Life Or Death: Amiens '73 (Art Yard/Strut, 2015)

This album was originally a limited edition Record Store Day release, but luckily someone realized that this excellent concert needed a wider release. Recorded live in France in October of 1973, this features a very large version of Sun Ra’s band The Arkestra, including well known members Marshall Allen and John Gilmore on saxophones and percussion, but much of the focus is on the man himself who plays electric piano and mini moog synthesizer. “Enlightenment” is a classic Sun Ra opener for the period, a fanfare for the band to enter chanting the space age mysticism lyrics: The Sound of Joy is Enlightenment - Space, Fire, Truth is Enlightenment - Space Fire - Sometimes it's Music… The band develops a great call and response with their vocalist June Tyson. Sun Ra takes over from his set of keyboards on “Love in Outer Space” with the rest of the band putting their regular instruments to the side to develop a hypnotic groove on hand percussion. They develop a massive rhythm that Ra flexes at will before some horns begin to fall in, eventually launching one of the trumpeters, Akh Tal Ebah or Kwame Hadi into a solo position. Whoever it is does an excellent job keeping pace with the percussion that builds even faster with Sun Ra aiding and abetting by pounding on electric piano to the conclusion. Everybody takes a break on “Lights on a Satellite” with light and dark shadings of horns and reeds and Ra’s placid keyboards giving no hint at the chaos to come. “Discipline 27-II / What Planet Is This” is simply awe-inspiring, it comes from a period where Sun Ra was deeply involved in free jazz and the newest electric keyboards he could get his hands on. He is unaccompanied here, developing an ominous feeling, but with a purpose, and soon the waves of scalding, white-hot synthesizers are raining down in simply outrageous keyboard textures. Some of the horns try to sneak in, but Ra is having none of it and there’s no stopping him as he rolls over everything in his path. The music is unreal and mesmerizing and when he finally lets up after nineteen mind blowing minutes the crowd’s applause is palpable. They shift to end as they began with call and response vocals, turning the band’s exit into a fanfare of music, words and dance. Planets of Life Or Death: Amiens 73 - amazon.com

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