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Old 03-07-2011, 04:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Art of Arkestration: Sun Ra Discography

Jazz by Sun Ra a.k.a. Sun Song
1957



Tracks

1. Brainville
2. Call For All Demons
3. Transitions
4. Possession
5. Street Named Hell
6. Lullaby for Realville
7. Future
8. Swing A Little Taste
9. New Horizons
10. Fall Off The Log
11. Sun Song

Ok, so this is the first Sun Ra Album, and the first one I'm going to review. I'm going to hopefully attempt to cover Sun Ra's entire discography, and do an album a day. For those who don't know, there is a LOT of Sun Ra. It's very typical for Jazz musicians to basically continue to release material for the lengths of their careers, and Sun Ra's career began in the late 40s, and ended in the early 90s. So, there is a lot. According to wiki, 100 albums. I am going to attempt to cover them all.

Due to that, I'm going to have to be kind of quick with my reviews. A few of these I've listened to ten or more times, a few I haven't listened to once. So, don't expect too thorough of analysis. However, if you want a good guideline into what you're getting from the album, then you will get it here.

Ok starting with Sun Song which I just freshly finished for the first time. First of all, I enjoyed this album a lot. Albeit, the clear earliest of Sun Ra tends to be more conventional(no 20 minute moog solos) jazz, it's good Jazz none-the-less. This being his first album, it's mostly straight Jazz. Some of which sounds very much like you'd hear out of earlier Coltrane, or Thelonious Monk. At this point, Sun Ra hasn't seemed to fully molded himself into the avant-gardist he would later become.

However, there is SOME of his later traits preserved. The final song, Sun Song, involves a lot of electronic organ, and you get a lot of his strange percussion in there. Another good one is "A Street Named Hell" which utilizes very strange percussion, and I think I even spotted some of the experimentation in multiple percussionist he's given credit for introducing into Jazz in there. Not to expect anything as out there as Varese, but there's little hints here, and there.

The track names show a very strong centricity in the space themes which seem consistent. Sun Ra being the very existential person he is, you get some of that abstract tone from them. The music, however, is just catching up at this point. It doesn't stop the fact, however, his band itself is still one of the best when it comes to straight jazz. Even if you pick up this album expecting a little more than horn driven bop pieces(and there's a few), you'll still get your most out of even those.

Plus, a few hints at what would later become his legacy.

8.5/10
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Old 03-07-2011, 04:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Sun Ra's entire discography? That's ambitious. No, that's an understatement. Looking forward to reading your reviews.
And since I only scratched his enormous discography, this thread can really be a helpful guideline.
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Old 03-07-2011, 04:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Yesssss! Love his music!
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:48 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Great choice, but man it's going to be a hell of a job. Good luck to you.
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
I'm going to hopefully attempt to cover Sun Ra's entire discography, and do an album a day
God Bless You Son.

I also love Sun Ra This is going to be intense.
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Old 03-07-2011, 09:07 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Sun Ra is a musician I could never really get into, and this is coming from a fairly-avid jazz fan. Hopefully this will steer me in the right direction for getting to know him better. And wow, it will be interesting to see if you finish this to the end (granted I'll still be sticking around this forum by that time).
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Old 03-08-2011, 05:00 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Super-Sonic Jazz
1957



Tracks

1. India
2. Sunology
3. Advice to Medics
4. Super Blonde
5. Soft Talk
6. Sunology Part II
7. Kingdom of Not
8. Portrait of a Living Sky
9. Blues at Midnight
10. El Is the sound of Joy
11. Springtime for Chicago
12. Medicine for a Nightmare

Another mixed bag of a Sun Ra CD. Again, not that the straight jazz stuff is particularly bad, just not what you'd expect from a Sun Ra outing. A great example of a more traditional Jazz song done to perfection is Sunology Part II which is a beatifully laid back melodic epic.

One thing that really stands out though is Sun Ra's odd choices in percussion. Something that is present through the first few songs, disappears in the middle mysteriously, and returns later on. If I were to describe this album best it'd be in phases.

Phase I: Experimental/Trademark

India
Sunology
Advice Medics

Phase II: More traditional

Super Blonde
Soft Talk
Sunology Part II
Kingdom of Not
Portrait of a Living Sky
Blues at Midnight

Phase III: A mixture

El Is the sound of Joy
Springtime for Chicago
Medicine for a Nightmare

I'd say due to this dichotomy, however, a lot is taken away from the CD. Especially since the clear high point is the opening track 'India' Which is a masterpiece of "unflinchingly avant" jazz. Strange percussion, some classical operatic sensibilities, and too perfect of a mixture of everything Sun Ra is a genius at. Makes the rest of the album seem like a downward slide:



Albeit, not to discredit other high points of the album. A lot of the later songs are very abrasive, and 'heavy' particularly for later 50s jazz pieces. Advice to Medics is also another neat Avant-Garde piece, and, once again, Sunology II is over whelming. Springtime for Chicago and Medicine for a Nightmare are also high points of this album.

However, as a whole, seems sort of poorly arranged, and as if there were way too many songs pandering to a more traditional jazz sound in order to acquire some fanbase. Still, nothing on here is bad. Production, as often, isn't the best but I like the way Sun Ra produces(a lot of fuzzy recording, VERY loud drums), but for somebody more fidelity minded, this album ain't for you.

With that said, nothing on here is bad, and nothing I even would say ever dips below quality of well above most other people's best. So, my final rating:

7.5/10 - High moment in India which is a definite 10/10 song.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:17 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Alright, I'm going to have to postpone this until Tuesday. I ran over in the bank, and had to return my newly bought headphones. No need to fret, though, I will be able to rebuy them when Tuesday comes around.
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Old 03-12-2011, 08:00 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Sound of Joy
1956(So was the last one, mislabel on my part)



Tracks

1. El Is the Sound of Joy
2. Overtones of China
3. Two Tones
4. Paradise
5. Planet Earth
6. Ankh
7. Saturn
8. Reflections in Blue
9. Viktor
10. As you Once Were
11. Dreams Come True

Of all reviewed, The most conservative Sun Ra album yet. Again, not bad, but this album is almost strictly swing-jazz. It's well performed, but lacking a lot of the nuance of even the two albums before. SOME strange percussion but not much experimentation than that. I suppose that Sun Ra had to conform his sound a lot early on in order to acquire an audience, so it's understandable. Still, nowhere near up to snuff to his mid-60s experimental work, and 70s fusion, noise, pop experimentations. Good stuff, just lacks a unique voice.

Kind of sad because not much really struck out to me. The last two tracks have vocals. One is loungey, and the other sounds like it's trying to imitate Louis Armstrong. Really weird to hear Sun Ra being this bourgeoisie with his artform, but we know how the story pans out in the end.

6/10
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Old 03-12-2011, 08:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The most conservative Sun Ra album yet. Again, not bad, but this album is almost strictly swing-jazz.
One of the great things about Sun Ra is what a fantastic conventional jazz musician he was when he wanted to be. It makes his deep stretches into the avant garde more meaningful. That cat knew what he was doing!
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