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Sun Ra: Calling Planet Earth

Space Is The Place and the 3-CD Calling Planet Earth detail the evolution of Sun Ra’s music between 1966 and ’72. This pivotal period in the Arkestra’s history spanned the release of their first relatively well-circulated recordings and their first European tour. Their ensemble cohesion benefited not only from their legendary endless rehearsals, but also from a regular Monday night gig at Slug’s, which allowed Ra to test-drive compositions employing progessively unusual structures and instrumentation. In concert, he also moved away from performing separate pieces, choosing instead to link songs with percussion interludes, free improvisations, and keyboard solos. The result was an expanded cosmos.

The Freedom box consists of tapes Ra sold to producer Alan Bates during their first European tour in 1971. Discographically, it is a tangled mess. One album was released contemporaneously; originally issued as Pictures of Infinity, the title was changed to Outer Space Incorporated upon its CD release. Recorded in ’68, it runs the gamut from svelte early charts like “Saturn” to extended collective improvisations like the incendiary “Somewhere There” (contrary to concerns posted on the Saturn website, the CD still has the strutting “Intergalactic Motion” as a bonus track). Originally released as a Saturn LP titled Outer Space Incorporated, Spaceways is composed of tapes from ’66 and ’68; it includes strong versions of such repeatedly recorded Ra compositions as the intricate, propulsive “The Shadow World,” and features an earlier, longer, and more far-roaming version of “Outer Space Incorporated” than the CD of the same name. Calling Planet Earth is the first release of a ’71 Copenhagen concert. It weaves together pieces from the then-new “Discipline” series and chestnuts like “Enlightenment” and “Love In Outer Space.”

Originally issued on Blue Thumb, Space is the Place is a ’72 studio date not to be confused with the soundtrack for the movie of the same name, currently available on Evidence. The program includes an exhilarating 21-minute version of the title track, a much more loose-limbed take of “Images” than appears on ’58’s Jazz in Silhouette, a desultory “Discipline,” an energetic “Sea Of Sounds,” and the sci-fi patter of “Rocket Number Nine.” It is one of Ra’s best.

Originally Published