After years of trawling Jazz sections and mistakenly getting excited about finding a copy of this album before turning it over and finding yet another Italian BASE re-issue, I have a copy.
Eventually I cheated and went the way of the American Ebay but it was worth it. Not so much because of the music (It's not his best - but more of that later) but because this has to be one of the greatest and certainly top 3 Sun Ra record sleeves ever. It's not actually the original sleeve... or pressing. The first ESP Disks press had a black and white mess of shapes across the cover, I have actually seen that fairly recently but I could hardly justify owning both and with this crazy cat still out there....
Sun Ra has one eye and is bigger than planets, if I recall correctly he believed that he was from Saturn, part of a race of angels sent to Earth to spread the word of electronic music and jazz. His life was an insane tangle of said awesome jazz, flowing golden gowns and a hat collection that would make Lee 'Scratch' Perry cry with shame.
He sounds a lot like a day release patient, the kind you might find roaming public parks of an afternoon or swigging Special Brew in a pile of their own shit behind the local Safeways. Still I strongly doubt Sun Ra would have been the knife wielding, care worker stabbing kind. I actually imagine him to have been completely approachable and not at all smelling of his own piss.
So let's take what we know and then remind ourselves that Sun Ra was born and brought up in Birmingham Alabama. Buckle of the bible belt, home of the Klan and a place where the unusual is not only frowned upon but more often than not beaten with sticks, sentenced to unfathomable prison sentences and on occasion murdered. Basically Sun Ra must have had intergallactic balls of steel (or whatever the cosmic version of a very hard mineral is) to fly in the face of such blind intollerance, so hat's off to him.
Musically it's suitably obtuse but less rewarding than subsequent work. A use of space and silence stops it from being an utter mess but only just. In parts it sound like a rat has got loose in the studio and is running it's way across a series of percussional instruments and then piano in an attempt to escape an enraged cosmic Jazz ensemble. Not to say I don't like it but comparing this to his early 70's work, 'Nothing Is' or 'Space is the Place'. Well, I don't suppose you can because it's completely different and entirely accomplished (Which for some Stockhausen fans surely reads as 'entirely sold out')
I just wish that Sun Ra had been around to compete on Celebrity Big Brother, there is a slim chance that he could have single handedly saved modern television.