Monday, 22 April 2013
Raiders of the Lost Arkestra
Record Store Day was a huge success. I found several of the LPs on my short list, plus a stack of 7 inches and an unexpected 10 inch Sun Ra EP, The Lost Arkestra Series Volume 2.
For the uninitiated, the enigmatic and prolific jazz pianist Sun Ra, born Herman Sonny Blount, began as a blues-oriented band leader but soon evolved into a cosmic force central to Chicago's avant garde scene. Claiming that he was from Saturn - a metaphor for blackness in America, as journalist Richard Cook explains - he embraced that persona, hybridized with Afro-centric Egyptian mythology, in his quest to compose some of the most other worldly music of the 20th century.
Nobody truly knows how many records he released but best estimates comes in at around a hundred. For the full Sun Ra experience, check out his 1974 independent cult flick Space is the Place. As wth most true artistic geniuses, dude is utterly certifiable.
But back to the record! Kindred Spirits of the Netherlands and Art Yard in the UK have been steadily releasing Sun Ra's more accessible (a relative term) back catalogue, as well as contemporary remixes, such as Mike Huckaby's Reel to Reel Edits and homages, such as Theo Parrish's Sun Ra - Sage of Resistance. Last year I was lucky enough to grab their limited edition 180 gram reissues of Sleeping Beauty and On Jupiter, both of which I listen to frequently. But I somehow remained completely unaware that the label was issuing a side project, The Lost Arkestra Series. Thankfully, I'm only one volume behind.
The two cuts on the A side of Volume 2, "Love is For Always" and "The World of Africa" have been selected from Sun Ra's session at Temple University in Philedelphia recorded on September 20, 1974 and released on his own El Saturn Records under several different titles, including Temple U, Sub Underground and Cosmo Earth Fantasy. I can't source the remaining cut on the B side but I suspect that it may be the version of "Space is the Place" that appears on the recent Art Yard release Cosmo Earth Fantasy (Sub Underground Series Volume 1 & 2), the liner notes for which state "live recording possibly May 23rd 1975, unknown venue." Regardless of origin - an apt phrase for describing Sun Ra's music - the EP exhibits a well-balance spectrum of his 1970s styles, including unaccompanied southern spiritual incantations and a gorgeous duet for piano and saxophone.
Sun Ra & His Arkestra - The Lost Arkestra Series II, Kindred Spirits, 2013.
Discogs: The Lost Arkestra Series II
"Love is For Always"
"The World of Africa"
Sun Ra - Space is the Place, North American Star System, 1974
IMDB: Space is the Place