Sun Ra - Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra LP
60th Anniversary 180g Vinyl LP Reissue All-Analog Remastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and Pressed at RTI
Craft Recordings presents a 60th-anniversary edition of The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra. A standout title in the Afrofuturism pioneer and innovative jazz artist's extensive catalog of recordings, the 1962 album marks Sun Ra's first recording with his band, The Arkestra, in New York after relocating from Chicago. Produced by Tom Wilson (whose credits include titles for Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground, and the Mothers of Invention), The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra has long been considered one of the avant-garde artist's most accessible albums.
This special reissue features all-analog re-mastering by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio, while the LP has been pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI. As a bonus, the LP package include Tom Wilson's original liner notes, plus insightful new essays by jazz historian Ben Young, as well as by Irwin Chusid, who not only administers the musical estate for Sun Ra, but is also a journalist, radio personality, and the author of the book, Sun Ra: Art on Saturn – The Album Cover Art of Sun Ra's Saturn Label.
Recorded in just one day, on October 10, 1961, The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra featured 11 tracks. As Ben Young describes in his essay, "this is a set of miniatures – reductions of what the band offered in performance." He continues, "as Sun Ra was casting about for work on McDougal and Bleecker Streets in the months after Futuristic Sounds was recorded, it would be useful to drop a copy of the record to represent this is what we do. Or can do – a little bit of everything, in short manageable, segments. The whole smorgasbord of Sun Ra."
Among the selections is the Latin-influenced opener, "Bassism," the bluesy "Of Sounds and Something Else," and the aptly named, "What's That?," which Young describes as "an oddly shaped scramble." The track, which breaks into a four-saxophone improvisation, stands out as an example of Ra's early experimental work. Young explains, "Futuristic Sounds represents the beginnings for Sun Ra of turning away from mapped music to a sound coordinated more spontaneously or organically. Make no mistake – this is organized music, but it has sections that are highly heterophonic and undetermined."
Another example of Ra's free-flowing work is "The Beginning," which, for the talented members of The Arkestra "raises the issue of what it meant to be proficient in an open-field world of sound – that is, one that's generally not determined by song frameworks," Young notes. The album also includes "Tapestry from an Asteroid," a ballad that became one of Ra's most-performed works. Interestingly, out of the ten original selections on the album (Victor Young's "China Gates" was the sole track not penned by Ra), "Tapestry from an Asteroid" would stand as the only work that the artist would ever revisit – on stage or otherwise – again.
Futuristic Sounds, Chusid argues, "was Sun Ra's last fully ‘File Under: Jazz' album. Once firmly ensconced in New York, his releases of new material became increasingly innovative, often featuring compositions and arrangements that only tangentially resembled jazz, and often were something stylistically uncategorizable. It was at this stage of his career that the icon of Afrofuturism achieved total liftoff."
And while Wilson and Ra would only work on two more projects together (neither of which were led by Ra), it's clear that the producer not only held the musician's artistry in the highest regard, but also understood his vision completely. In his original liner notes, Wilson's enthusiasm is palpable, as he praises Futuristic Sounds as "a long overdue voyage into new dimensions of jazz where rhythms have become super-rhythms, where trite arrangements and instrumentation have given way to exotic sound pictures combining distant rumblings from the primeval past of all music with strange strains from the future."