The Sun Ra Guide

Magic cities and other planes of there, all disguised as jazz

Mayan Temples
[1990 (1992) , Black Saint]

Sun Ra revisits the pop tunes and exotica of his youth 40 years later, and the ironic results constitute a well-recorded studio representation of the band's club and concert performances that tops any of those he recorded live.

Sun Ra: No earthly birthplace
photo: Jack Vartoogian/Front Row Photos
Sun Ra: No earthly birthplace


See also:
  • The Billie Holiday Guide
    A pre-album genius in key songs and unforgettable longforms, with extra consumer advice
    by Farah Jasmine Griffin

  • The Thelonious Monk Guide
    He recorded the same songs over and over and never wore them out.
    by Larry Blumenfeld

  • The John Coltrane Guide
    From sideman to mesmerizer to evangelical to interstellar space
    by Francis Davis

  • The David Murray Guide
    Our greatest tenor man began with Ayler and Gonsalves and kept going
    by Tom Hull

  • 2006 Jazz Supplement Listings

  • The Singles
    [1954– 1982 (1996 ), Evidence]

    Singles? Boy howdy! No matter what they say, Sun Ra was no obscurantist, and this 20-year collection of incredibly rare doowop, r&b, blues, and outer-space recordings that he aimed at jukebox play are the proof. You may never listen to these two CDs a second time, but you'll never be the same, either.

    Dud: Second Star to the Right: Salute to Walt Disney
    [1989 (1995 ), Leo]

    Invited to record "Pink Elephants on Parade" for a Disney tribute album called Stay Awake, Ra took the assign- ment seriously, bought a video of Dumbo (who he said he could relate to), and dove into the whole Disney songbook. Like the Ellington, Gershwin, and Fletcher Henderson he had previously explored, Disney's music was part of what he called his "shield of beauty" against the forces that would destroy earth. Maybe, but this live recording is heavy with what one could charitably call broad humor. With all that falsetto and basso profundo, the songs wear mouse ears, for sure. Only the cautionary lyrics of "The Forest of No Return" from Babes in Toyland seem worthy of Sun Ra's attention.

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