THE SUN RA MUSIC ARCHIVE
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THE MAGIC CITY — SUN RA & HIS SOLAR ARKESTRA
COSMIC MYTH MUSIC - DEFINITIVE STEREO EDITION - LP / CD / DIGITAL RELEASE
On the original 1965 The Magic City LP, issued on Saturn, the monster 27-1/2 minute title track sprawled across side A. The "Magic City" to which Ra refers was his birthplace—Birmingham, Alabama. The term was the town's motto, emblazoned on a billboard by the train station near Sunny's childhood home, intended to reflect the city's explosive growth as a Southern industrial epicenter after the discovery of iron ore, coal, and limestone deposits. Birmingham was a place about which Sun Ra felt and expressed ambivalence: an outpost of racial segregation and grim smokestack-pocked landscapes, yet a city for which he felt twinges of nostalgia and affection. (His heirs still live in the area.)
Ra customarily supervised the Arkestra's improvisational process via keyboard cues or hand signals. He was always in charge—hence critic Simon Adams describing the title track as "27 minutes of controlled freedom." "The Magic City" was never performed in concert; saxophonist John Gilmore said it was "unreproducible, a tapestry of sound."
The Magic City - page 2
Although shorter in scope than side A's magnum opus, the four works on The Magic City's flip side reflect the same improvisational approach, spatiality, and lack of structure. One session outtake, "Other Worlds," an alternate version of "Shadow World," is included as a bonus track on side B.
The Magic City: The Definitive Stereo Edition
Historical and technical liner notes are provided by noted jazz historian Ben Young, who restored and remastered the album with his Triple Point Records partner Joe Lizzi. Both men have been recognized for their production work on Holy Ghost, the Grammy-nominated Albert Ayler boxed set released on John Fahey’s Revenant Records in 2005.
First-generation Saturn pressings of The Magic City were monophonic. The album was reissued on CD by Evidence in 1993 with the title track in mono and the LP side B tracks in stereo. A full stereo version had been issued on Sun Ra's Thoth subsidiary label sometime after 1969; however, it suffered from a technical flaw that prevented many copies of the LP from tracking cleanly through the first cut on side B. A 1973 gatefold LP reissue on Impulse featured reprocessed stereo. For this definitive reissue, Cosmic Myth Records used stereo sources which are superior to the Thoth pressing.
During mastering, Young and Lizzi encountered one peculiar hurdle. "Sun Ra's tympani solo on 'The Shadow World' is especially dynamic," Young explains. "That makes it very tricky to cut the sforzando spikes of his playing into a stereo LP. Indeed the Thoth LP has distortion on most of the peaks and an over cut that tracks defectively on every copy we've examined. This may explain why the initial Saturn LP and the Evidence CD versions were folded to mono, and/or why the Impulse reissue panned most stereo elements toward the center." Young and Lizzi overcame this challenge and managed to restrain the jolts on this vinyl cut, thus succeeding where Thoth did not.
Cosmic Myth Records is a partnership of Irwin Chusid, Michael D. Anderson and Virtual Label Group, working under license from Sun Ra LLC, comprised of the heirs and rights holders of Sun Ra's music. Recordings will primarily use source tapes from Anderson's Sun Ra Music Archive, the world's foremost collection of original Ra session masters. The series is being co-produced and supervised by Chusid (Raymond Scott, Esquivel, Langley School Music Project, Songs in the Key of Z, WFMU).
2017 NEW RELEASES
2018 NEW RELEASES
2018 NEW RELEASE DESCRIPTIONS
ASTRO BLACK - SUN RA & HIS INTERGALACTIC MYTH SCIENCE SOLAR ARKESTRA
MODERN HARMONIC LP & CD RELEASE
Astro Black has long been known as a cornerstone of the Ra catalog. It is well recorded, features a superb Arkestral lineup, and successfully combines several of the styles in which Sun Ra orbited, from Saturnic jazz to astro-funk. And now it’s in the earthly bins on CD for the first time, with new cover art, and liner notes by Robert Campbell (author of The Earthly Recordings of Sun Ra)!
Although Astro Black was obviously professionally produced in a recording studio, no one is entirely sure where or when. The jacket of the original release gave the date as May 7, 1972, and the location as “El Saturn Studio,” Chicago. There never was such an animal as the El Saturn studio, in Chicago or in any other town. Yet it was routinely cited as the venue for Saturn/Impulse! recordings, no matter how old they were or where they were originally from. Besides, May 1972 was the month that the Arkestrans had to pack up all their belongings and leave the house they had been staying in in Oakland, California, because they gotten on the wrong side of the Black Panthers. The road trip from Oakland back to Philadelphia would have taken some time.
The title track was a vehicle for Arkestral vocalist June Tyson, who had been with the band since 1967 and was in absolute peak form in 1972. Meanwhile, Ronnie Boykins, who had been Sunny’s full-time bassist from 1957 through 1968, was a welcome guest on this occasion. It is his ostinato that holds the theme statement together, and his arco that guides and accompanies Sunny on his space wandering, where they are joined by Akh Tal Ebah on trumpet, and by the ecstatically interweaving alto saxes of Marshall Allen and Danny Davis. A trio of wriggling alto (Danny Davis), mini-Moog synthesizers, and high bowed bass develops, with Sunny and Ronnie accompanying Tyson’s hushed recapitulation. This is one of the Arkestra’s greatest performances.
CYMBALS - SUN RA & HIS INTERGALACTIC MYTH SCIENCE SOLAR ARKESTRA
MODERN HARMONIC RELEASE - EXPANDED 2 CD / 2 LP / DIGITAL RELEASE
Cymbals has finally landed… and brought a 2nd saucer with it!
Originally recorded for the Impulse! jazz label in ’73, Cymbals is paired with a 2nd disc of unheard material from the same sessions. Hear Ra’s Baroque soundscapes, electrolytic clusters and dithering Moogs catalyze images of monoliths, space stations, computers malfunctioning and galaxies imploding on two compact saucers, with liner notes by known Ra-fficianado Brother Cleve!
Making its debut here, the 2nd disc is culled from a mysterious tape recorded during the same time frame and with many of the same musicians (though no Ronnie Boykins; Ra provides keyboard bass). Could this be one of the unissued Impulse! LPs? Quite probable. The tape box only lists the song titles.
The 2nd disc opens with some “Space Age Cocktail Music” as only Sun Ra could conjure in his intergalactic lounge. Continuing the Sci-Fi film references, the first four tracks could well be post-last call cantina music from a galaxy far, far away. The final two tracks, comprising Ra’s keyboards and accompanying drums/percussion, feels like an alternate soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film still playing in theaters in 1973.
The Cymbals / Symbols Sessions New York City 1973 is yet another piece of the puzzle, the Mr. Re of Mr. Ra. On two compact saucers with liner notes by known Ra-fficianado Brother Cleve!
GOD IS MORE THAN LOVE CAN EVER BE - THE SUN RA TRIO
COSMIC MYTH MUSIC LP / CD / DIGITAL RELEASE
God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be is something of a rarity in the Sun Ra catalog—a cohesive album, with none of the stylistic eclecticism and musical chair shifting found on many of the artist’s self-released LPs. Recorded at Variety Studios one day in 1979, the album's five tracks comprise a solid jazz trio set.
It's also unusual because it had not previously been reissued. In March 2018 Cosmic Myth Records issued a newly remastered edition in LP, CD and digital formats. The LP and CD packages contain liner notes by jazz historian Marc Medwin and Sun Ra catalog administrator Irwin Chusid (who produced the reissue), as well as two previously unpublished photos of Sun Ra by jazz portraitist Veryl Oakland.
God is More Than Love is the only complete piano-bass-drums studio session in the massive Sun Ra catalog. What would have drawn the bandleader, 25 years into his recording career, to adopt a format that had been common in jazz for decades? Drummer Samarai Celestial (Eric Walker) recalled it being his first recording date with Ra; they were joined by bassist Hayes Burnett, who gigged with Ra on and off for a decade.
The album offers an intense set of cosmic vagabond moods, reflecting the telepathy that is the essence of small combo jazz. Sun Ra doesn't play notes—he paints stars. Burnett's bass runs fluid and thick. Celestial is a perpetual motion machine; his quicksilver fills echo the muscle and propulsion of a young Billy Cobham. This is a power machine, full of drive and liftoff, with sporadic (and surprising) gearshifts. Celestial's restless stickwork doesn't play the groove so much as imply it; Burnett's foundational pulse is the unifier. The threesome rarely locks in, but their musical spirits are intertwined.
Other than an overdubbed second piano on "Days of Happiness," the five works were spontaneously generated and forever fixed: none of the titles recur in the encyclopedic Ra discography. Originally released on Ra's private Saturn label in small press runs (under the alternate title Days of Happiness) from 1979 to 1981, fully realized artwork was never established and the album got scant circulation; hence, it has remained a largely overlooked session in the Ra omniverse. Nearly 40 years later, the record is long overdue for acclaim.
SUN EMBASSY - SUN RA & HIS ASTRO-INFINITY ARKESTRA (1968-69)
ROARATORIO - LP / CD / DIGITAL RELEASE
Roaratorio’s survey of the unheard Sun Ra continues with Sun Embassy. Consisting of recordings from Sun Studios (aka Ra’s house in Philadelphia) from 1968-1969, the album features nine tracks : six compositions which have never been heard before in any form, plus fresh coats of paint on such 1950s classics as “Sunology” and “Ancient Aiethiopia,” and an early rendition of “Why Go To The Moon?”. Essential listening for Sun Ra devotees.
Sun Embassy comprises rehearsal tapes from five sessions from May 1968 to October 1969. This would be shortly after Sun Ra recorded his Black Mass (Jihad Productions, 1968) with LeRoi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka), Outer Spaceways Incorporated (Saturn, 1974), and before making My Brother The Wind (Saturn, 1970), and performing at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival.
We find the great man using various electric keyboards to accompany his all-star saxophonists , John Gilmore and Marshall Allen. We are grateful that he recorded many of these rehearsals. There's an early version "Why Go To The Moon," a composition the Arkestra would return to many times, complete with the vocal repetition of "rocket number nine try Neptune." Also, the classic pieces "Ancient Aiethiopia" and "Sunology" are included.
Pieces like "The Stranger," "Dance Of Fire," and "Cosmic Strut" are percussion-laden numbers the Arkestra utilized to maintain momentum. The latter piece is a twist on the contemporary funk of 1968. The title track wraps three flutes around congas, percussion, Ra's clavinet, and Gilmore's seldom-heard clarinet. The highlight here might be "Sunology," a beautiful and gentle ballad used to showcase Gilmore and Allen in harmony before Ra lays down some blues organ.
OF ABSTRACT DREAMS - SUN RA & HIS OUTER SPACE ARKESTRA
STRUT CD 166 - LP / CD / DIGITAL RELEASE
In 1974, Sun Ra found a musical home on the University of Pennsylvania campus, in the studio of public radio station WXPN. It was a scrappy, student-run venture, and a great spot for a jazz composer and self-proclaimed alien. He’d record at the station several times until 1980. For Sun Ra, an Afro-futurist who believed true peace for black people resided in outer space, finding solace anywhere on Earth was quite a surprise.
Newly released by Art Yard, Of Abstract Dreams collects a portion of the music Sun Ra performed on WXPN. Here, the cosmic jazz icon plays alternate versions of “Island in the Sun,” “New Dawn,” “Unmask the Batman” and “I’ll Wait For You,” tweaking the tracks’ arrangements while maintaining the songs’ original structures. Take “Island…” as an example: A Latin-influenced jam from 1974’s The Invisible Shield, Sun Ra quickens the rhythm with thicker percussion, adding harmonic chants that bolster the track’s divine essence. “Unmask the Batman” is also given new life on this set: with its deep scatting, piano stabs and winding horns, the song properly retains the original’s blustery swing.
Then there’s “I’ll Wait For You,” a robust funk-fusion cut that appears on Strange Celestial Road. A love story occurring across “many light years in space,” the stripped-down composition allows Sun Ra’s vocals to cut through, giving them adequate shine. Of Abstract Dreams is the sound of a true genius fully aligned with his spirituality. Though the artist had long mastered the path of space travel through music, this set feels decidedly comfortable, as if he’d finally ascended to a higher level of consciousness. While Abstract is a fleeting glimpse, it’s still an essential stop in Sun Ra’s grand voyage.
THUNDER OF THE GODS - SUN RA & HIS OUTER SPACE ARKESTRA
MODERN HARMONIC LP MH-8021 / CD MHCD-021 - LP / CD / DIGITAL RELEASE
This newly discovered session features a new version of Ra’s earlier ‘Island In The Sun’, a romping, raucous rendition of ‘Unmask The Batman’ and the first studio recording of ‘I’ll Wait For You’ There is no bass player on the sessions and Ra’s left hand beats out a rhythmic bass pattern on the piano. All tracks are remastered directly from the original tapes. The album package features a newly commissioned painting by legendary Bristol urban artist Guy Denning and new sleeve notes by Paul Griffiths.
Recently discovered in the Sun Ra archive, the recording forms part of a series of sessions that Ra and the Arkestra recorded for WXPN-FM between 1974 and 1980. The ‘Antique Blacks’ album was recorded there in ’74. Based on the campus of The University of Pennsylvania, WXPN’s station manager Jules Epstein and music director Russ Woessner were instrumental in the exposure and recording of The Arkestra in their broadcast production studios. Geno Barnhart, founder of The Empty Foxhole concert collective, Jules and Russ broadcast an on-going series of jazz concerts covering a wide spectrum. The Arkestra performed at The Foxhole in Philly many times from 1974.
MY BROTHER THE WIND VOL 1 - SUN RA & HIS ASTRO-INFINITY ARKESTRA
COSMIC MYTH MUSIC - EXPANDED EDITION - 2-LP / CD / DIGITAL RELEASE
My Brother the Wind, Vol. 1 captures Afro-futurist visionary Sun Ra's initial 1969 encounter with the Moog synthesizer. The album has been meticulously remastered from archival session tapes and includes rare and previously unreleased studio material.
Recorded in 1969 and self-released by Sun Ra in 1970 on his independent Saturn label, My Brother the Wind is one of several albums that showcase Ra's initial reckonings with the then-recently introduced Moog synthesizer. Although the Astro Infinity Arkestra is credited on the original Saturn LP sleeve, only three sidemen were on the session—reed players Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, and Danny Davis, with Moog performance pioneer Gershon Kingsley serving as synth programmer and technical consultant.
The original 1970 Saturn release featured four tracks, which are included on disc 1 of this two-LP remastered edition. Disc 2, side A features the complete tracking session of Ra's Moog-centric single "The Perfect Man," with three full takes of the title, including two previously unissued versions. Side B of disc 2 features the monumental 18-minute "Space Probe," an outrageously freewheeling Ra solo work recorded on a Moog (or two) around the same time.
The remastered LP and CD editions include liner notes by Moog historian Brian Kehew. Technical notes are provided by jazz historian Ben Young, who restored and remastered the album with his Triple Point Records partner Joe Lizzi. Both men have been recognized for their production work on HOLY GHOST, the Grammy-nominated Albert Ayler boxed set released on John Fahey’s Revenant Records in 2005.
This edition of My Brother the Wind, Vol. 1, was co-produced by Michael D. Anderson of the Sun Ra Music Archive, and Irwin Chusid, for Cosmic Myth Records. Cosmic Myth is a partnership of Chusid, Anderson and Virtual Label Group, working under license from Sun Ra LLC, comprised of the heirs and rights holders of Sun Ra's music. CMR releases will primarily use source tapes from Anderson's archive, the world's foremost collection of original Ra session masters. The series is being co-produced and supervised by Chusid (Raymond Scott, Esquivel, Langley School Music Project, Songs in the Key of Z, WFMU). The first CMR release was a remastered, full stereo edition of the 1965 recording The Magic City, considered one of Sun Ra's historically transitional albums.
Sun Ra Meets Two Moogs — the instrument and its namesake inventor
"Some musicians may fear the synthesizer. It is awesome even in its primary development; but this is a bold, aggressive age, pioneering in a sense beyond known frontiers." — Sun Ra, 1970
COSMIC MYTH RECORDS is a partnership of Irwin Chusid, Michael D. Anderson (of the Sun Ra Music Archive) and Virtual Label Group, working under license from Sun Ra LLC, comprised of the heirs and rights-holders of Sun Ra's music. The Sun Ra Music Archive extends great gratitude to audio mastering engineers Ben Young and Joe Lizzi of Triple Point Records for being an invaluable part of our audio production team.