March 14, 2010

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra & His Intergalactic Solar Research Arkestra:
Vejlby Risskov Hallen, Aarhus, Denmark 10-19-71 (AUD 2CDR)

Eighty-five minutes of the Arkestra’s performance at the Vejlby Risskov Hallen in Aarhus, Denmark on October 19, 1971 was captured on an extremely bad-sounding audience recording which circulates amongst more fanatical Sun Ra collectors. How bad is it? It sounds to me like the recordist stuck the microphone in his shoe and shoved his foot into Sun Ra’s amplifier. It is unbelievably boomy and woefully unbalanced with every instrument aside from the jacked-up, distorted keyboards sounding distant and muffled, making it impossible to tell exactly what’s going on with the music. Of course, the intrepid fan is to be commended for making the effort; there are no other known recordings of this concert. But, really, this tape borders on the unlistenable.

Which is shame, since it would appear the Arkestra is in fine fettle, premiering the stately “Discipline 2” and tossing off a blindingly fast version of the insanely complicated “The Shadow World.” There’s also yet another unknown number in the “Discipline” series of compositions which leads to a spectacularly far-out synthesizer and organ solo from Ra. But the sound quality is so awful that I could hardly bring myself to listen to it more than once. Campbell and Trent point out that James Jacson’s Ancient Egyptian Infinity Lightning and Thunder Drum can be heard for the first time at the beginning of this tape (p.176). As the legend goes, Jacson made the enormous ceremonial Infinity drum while the band was living in Oakland out of tree that had been struck and dried out by a bolt of lightning. After its naming by Ra, it would become a fixture of the Cosmo Drama for years to come (p.171). So, there is that.

As a true obsessive, I treasure this as a historical artifact, even if I might never listen to it again. Given the fact that there are several other better-sounding recordings from this tour, more reasonable persons would go out of their way to avoid ever hearing this tape in the first place. Brutal!


Sam said...

Can't wait to hear what you have to say about the 11-29 Paris recording--if anything, it's worse. Yep, this is rough going all the way around, and it's a shame, but even so, the Stockholm concert is still the strongest so far, in terms of performance (not sound quality_) from this tour yet.

Rodger Coleman said... memory is that Paris sounds slightly better, or at least different. I agree with you re: Stockholm -- that is a very special performance!