This nicely packaged 2-CD set signifies a 24 bit mastering job of the original tapes by legendary musician, bandleader and visionary Sun Ra, performing at a Milan, Italy., venue back in 1978. In the liners, trumpeter Michael Ray provides some endearing historical perspectives to complement a few black & white photos of Ra taken by Val Wilmer. Nonetheless, it’s classic small ensemble Ra, radiantly enhanced by the digital retouch.
The leader and his quintet pull out the proverbial stops here. They toggle between space-drenched cosmic meltdowns, largely due to Ra’s arsenal of analog keys and rhythm machine, while also delving into roads infrequently traversed. Vocalist June Tyson, Sax great John Gilmore and the remaining band-members lightheartedly sing about ethereal subject matter, as the band is also apt to weave a path of musical destruction in spots.
Ra occasionally swarms his keyboards, where Gilmore and Ray sojourn into the upper stratosphere via plaintive cries while also injecting some high-flying phraseology atop loose groove swing and bop. On "Sun Of The Cosmos," the band engages in a scrappy sequence of exchanges, where angst and terror segue into somber melodies, featuring the frontline’s use of musical softening agents. In addition, Ra tosses more than a few curveballs into the mix within the realm of his mystifying persona.
On pieces such as "Third Planet incl, Friendly Galaxy" and "Spontaneous Simplicity," the musicians lay it all out with gorgeously executed themes, torrid free-bop and staggered grooves. And during the latter piece, Ra’s cheesy electric organ permutations generate a curiously interesting yet rather oddball contrast to Ray’s bold and brash lines. In sum, Ra aficionados have a reason to celebrate here as the artist’s legacy triumphantly continues into the new millennium and beyond.