Sun Ra - Space Is The Place
Choosing an essential LP from the expansive and mythical discography of the Sun Ra Arkestra is a daunting task, one that I do with real appreciation for his work. Keep in mind, this review is not me choosing this particular album as THE Sun Ra record. However I do feel that this particular LP does indeed earn the ESSENTIAL title, as it is a defining moment for the Arkestra. I have immense respect for Mr. Ra; he was an artist that only comes around every generation or so. A true character who demanded the utmost respect as a musician, an artist and a person. He sustained his band on sheer willpower and dedication to craft, supporting their livelihoods and giving them shelter at the same time. He is as much a confrontational, DIY punk musician as Penny RImbaud or Iggy Pop, and his own feeling of alienation deeply affected him. Even claiming that he was from Saturn on his birth certificate! Space Is The Place is an amazing Sun Ra record, and is front loaded with the titular magnum opus that may in fact be the definitive Sun Ra song. "Space Is The Place" is a huge track, a hypnotic piece of modal jazz with a consistent vocal repetition; the lone lyric, "space is the place.” If brevity is the soul of wit, it's this lyric mixing Sun Ra's fascination with space and his demand to become more in tune with the stars. Alongside bravado and street jive, the tracks morphs and flows with an exotica sound that reveals itself emerging from the mantra for 20 compelling minutes. The laid back and sharp basslines, emotive horns and vocals are hypnotic and gorgeous.
Side B continues as a Sun Ra album would, with four more wonderful and varied tracks. "Images" and "Discipline 33" are fantastically tuneful and explosive, full of strong riffs and excellent saxophone playing plus some incredibly strong and tight bass playing from Pat Patrick. "Sea of Sound" is a fittingly direct title, as it's exactly what the track is. This is where the chaotic free cluster jazz of the Arkestra is highlighted. The track is a constant barrage of loud and desperate playing from all the players. Lex Humphries beats the drum kit into splinters and Sun Ra delivers some truly sludgy and nasty organ hits. The track eventually dies out with Marshall Allen and John Gilmore duetting violently. After that bombshell, the album ends with a bastardized little jingle entitled "Rocket Number Nine,” taking the listener off to Venus and leaving with an expanded mind. Space Is The Place is definitely an essential Sun Ra record. (VII)
Check out a track here.