Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Sun Ra – Sleeping Beauty (El Saturn 1979, Art Yard 2005)

This is a reissue of a Sun Ra Arkestra album from a very interesting period in the group’s long history. Ra was pumping out records left and right, six in 1979 alone, and experimenting with different sized ensembles as well as introducing new textures and instruments. This album features an expended Arkestra with 26 members along with the usual suspects like John Gilmore on tenor saxophone and June Tyson on vocals.

The larger orchestra brings out the romantic Ellingtonian in Sun Ra. The opening “Springtime Again” is augmented by graceful flute and vibraphone along with some tight ensemble playing from the band. Things pick up a bit in pace on “Door of the Cosmos” which continues Ra’s exploration of mystical themes through music that slowly builds in instrumental intensity and the chanted vocals of a group of singing band members led by Tyson.

The sidelong title epic “Sleeping Beauty” ends the record with the soloists, particularly John Gilmore getting some room to shine around Sun Ra’s and June Tyson’s spoken meditations on the nature of beauty. All in all, it’s a strangely tranquil record, something of an acoustic doppelganger to the ur-electronica album Lanquidity he had recorded a few months previously.

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