Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sun Ra - Singles: The Definitive Collection 1952-1991 (Strut Records, 2016)

The legendary composer, arranger and keyboardist Sun Ra carved a unique path though music for nearly fifty years, releasing scores of albums on platforms ranging from major labels to self pressed rarities. In addition to the LP format, he also released dozens of limited edition seven inch singles that covered a massive range of material from doo-wop to spoken word and instrumental jazz. Most of these 45s were only pressed in small runs and were sold at concerts and have since become extremely rare. There was a two-CD collection released in the mid-1990's by the Evidence Label, and this new release adds additional recordings, a new remastering of the music as well as new liner notes, interviews and photographs. The breadth of the music is astonishing with Ra and the band backing vocal ensembles like The Nu Sounds on the sugary sweet "Daddy's Gonna Tell You No Lies" and the saccharine "It's Christmas Time" by The Qualities to an extended version of his epochal "Nuclear War" where Ra sings the unforgettable refrain "If they push that button, your ass gotta go! Whatcha gonna go without your ass?" In between there is classic Sun Ra Arkestra material like "Saturn," "Velvet" and "Medicine for a Nightmare" which showed not only Ra's skill as a composer and arranger, but the brilliance of the band and their ability to take the leaders raw material and shape it into indelible performances. As the group moved into the late sixties and beyond, Ra begins to incorporates a battery of electronic instruments, which bumped up the tempo on the thoroughly bizarre "I'm Gonna Unmask the Batman" and the futuristic synth and saxophones of "The Perfect Man." If you are a Sun Ra fan or a partisan of outsider music, this collection is a blast to hear. It is extraordinary that the diversity of this music could come from just one man, but considering that the man in question is Herman "Sonny" Poole Blount aka Sun Ra, the man from Saturn, it's not surprising at all, just inspiring. Singles -

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