Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sun Ra - 1979 - Sleeping Beauty

"By the late 1970s the Saturn record label had become a musical newspaper, keeping the world abreast of the latest developments in the Sun Ra story, for those people lucky or persistent enough to find the few outlets where the albums were appearing. Sun Ra was releasing more records on his own label than ever before -- at least six Saturn LPs document his activities in 1979 alone. This however, is the first reissue of any 1979 Saturn album, and will be widely welcomed -- Sleeping Beauty instantly became one of Sun Ra's best loved records, and remains so to this day. At this period, compared to previous years, Saturn records tended to document more of Sun Ra's current work rather than older tapes. This was certainly true of one particular group of four albums released simultaneously into Saturn Records' distribution channels within a year of being recorded: 'God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be', 'Omniverse' and 'On Jupiter', and 'Sleeping Beauty'. These all represented facets of Ra's work during 1979, and between them include everything from piano trio compositions to conducted improvisations to disco music. Sleeping Beauty features the funkier end of the Sun Ra spectrum. It is a studio recording featuring at least twenty-eight musicians, an enlarged version of the Arkestra which had just crossed the Atlantic to play the 1979 Moers festival. The line up includes both acoustic and electric bass players, and electric guitarists, and the reed and brass sections are both augmented beyond the core members of the Arkestra." -- Chris Trent.

Sun Ra (synth, organ vocals)
John Gilmore (tenor sax, percussion)
Marshall Allen (alto sax)
Danny Thompson (baritone sax, flute, percussion)
Michael Ray (trumpet)
Noel Scott (alto sax)
June Tyson (vocals)
Eloe Omoe (bass clarinet)
Craig Harris (trombone)
Tommy Hunter (drums)
Al Evans (flugelhorn)
Jarbu Shahid (bass)
Samarai Celestial (drums)
Vincent Chancey (french horn)
Francisco Mora, Tani Tabbal (percussion): Bright Moments (congas)
The Bell Brothers (bells)
John Ore (bass)
James Jackson (Ancient Egyptian Infinity Lightning Drum)

1. Springtime Again
2. Door of the Cosmos
3. Sleeping Beauty

Saturn 1979

"This is the great late-night Sun Ra chillout album you never knew about. The band had been working in a more groove-oriented setting off and on for over a year, as evidenced by the albums Lanquidity and On Jupiter, with both featuring prominent electric bass and electric guitar. Sleeping Beauty picks up right where On Jupiter left off, with the gentle, swaying "Springtime Again" echoing the same mellow vibe of "Seductive Fantasy" from On Jupiter. A skittering intro coalesces as different instruments pick up bits of the melody, which is then fully expressed by the horn section and ensemble vocals. It's a simple two-chord vamp, with beautiful solos that seem to embody the reawakening and rebirth of springtime. "The Door of the Cosmos" starts with a gospel-like chant and handclaps, with comments from Ra's electric piano and electric guitar. A strong bassline enters, very reminiscent of "A Love Supreme, Pt. 1: Acknowledgement," but the accompanying chant celebrates the mysteries of the unknown rather than the universal truth of A Love Supreme. This track builds in intensity, but never loses its groove or becomes nearly as raucous as the Arkestra is sometimes known for. "Sleeping Beauty" is the album centerpiece, taking up all of side two. Ra's beautiful electric piano gets things rolling, and the band falls into a peaceful groove before the vocals enter, led by the wonderful June Tyson. These songs are all built on the simplest of structures, and the playing from everyone is understated and sublime. Sleeping Beauty is truly a high point in an unwieldy discography, and something of an anomaly at the same time. There's a good reason copies of this album go for several hundred dollars on the collector's market, but it really deserves a proper release so more people can hear it. Outstanding." ~ Sean Westergaard