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Sun Ra: Nuclear War

Nuclear War was recorded in 1982 for Columbia Records, which turned it down. The LP was eventually released by Italy’s Y label, but it was poorly distributed; Atavistic deserves all sorts of plaudits for reissuing Nuclear War because it’s one of Sun Ra’s most enjoyable recordings, containing material that’s both challenging and accessible.

The grooving, slow motion, call-and-response title tune contains the chant “Nuclear war/They’re talking about nuclear war/It’s a motherfucker, don’t you know/ If they push that button /Your ass got to go.” This was before protest and gangsta rap were in vogue, and not surprisingly, Columbia didn’t show a lot of enthusiasm for it. The rest of the CD consists of relatively easy-to-follow pieces including Duke Ellington’s “Drop Me Off in Harlem” and the standards “Sometimes I’m Happy” and “Smile.”

Stimulating solos are contributed by Ra on electronic keyboards, tenorman John Gilmore, alto saxist Marshall Allen and trumpeter Walter Miller, a fine high-note man and one of very few trumpeters who was still exhibiting an obvious Dizzy Gillespie influence in 1982. The album ends with a lovely, bittersweet version of “Smile,” featuring June Tyson. How great to have this one back in print.

Originally Published