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Sun Ra and his Solar Myth Arkestra: Life Is Splendid

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A document of Sun Ra’s performance at the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival, Life Is Splendid captures the Arkestra in peak psychotic form-and I mean that in a good sense. While on earlier ’50s and ’60s outings, Ra’s orchestra still had one foot solidly in the camp of Fletcher Henderson’s orchestral elegance as it explored the outer reaches of the avant-garde, this post-Woodstock, post-Hendrix edition of the Arkestra is solidly tuned into the electro-psychedelic vibe of the day. The sheer intensity here makes Miles Davis’ electrified Agharta and Pangaea bands look tame by comparison. Seething and cathartic, the Arkestra connected with MC5 fans then and relates more today to Sonic Youth than to the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

The Arkestra’s 37-minute set modulates from theme to theme and mood to mood, opening on a fairly melodic note

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