July 28, 2013

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra Quartet: The Mystery of Being (Horo/Klimt 3LP)

There have been several dodgy, grey-market reissues of the Horo records over the years and the latest is a vinyl-only box set, The Mystery of Being, released back in 2011 on the tiny French label, Klimt, which crams the two January 1978 double albums onto three LPs. Sound quality is actually pretty good – certainly better than my crackly needledrops—but at the same time, I suspect these are taken from vinyl sources and then (aggressively) de-noised. Moreover, the sides are excessively long, resulting in diminished dynamic range and susceptibility to noise. Sadly, one side of my copy has a nasty pressing flaw, which causes the stylus to skip—and they are now out-of-print, so it is not so easily replaceable. Bummer.

Although there are neither mastering credits nor any liner notes whatsoever, this set purports to present the music in chronological order, providing recording dates on the labels. According to them, the sessions occurred as follows:

Side One: January 2: My Favorite Things, Moon People, Rome at Twilight, When There is No Sun
Side Two: January 7: Sun Steps, Exactly Like You, Friend and Friendship
Side Three: January 8: The Horo, Sun Sky and Wind
Side Four: January 13: Springtime and Summer Idyll, Constellation
Sides Five and Six: January 2, 7, 8, 13: One Day in Rome, Bridge to the Ninth Dimension, Along the Tiber, Rebellion, The Mystery of Being

That makes some sort of sense until you get to the last disc, which could have been recorded on any one of those dates. Huh? This is less than helpful and just another indication of this set’s dubious provenance. I would guess that basic tracks for New Steps were recorded on January 2, with overdubbing taking place on January 7. Similarly, basic tracks for Other Voices, Other Blues likely took place on January 8, with overdubbing happening on January 13. That’s just a guess, but that would mirror the usual progression in a multi-track environment. Then again, such was a highly unusual practice for Sonny, so who knows how it went down? As with so much in the Sun Ra discography, not much can be known with certainty except that the music is fantastic.

I cannot whole-heartedly recommend The Mystery of Being, although if you can find one for a decent price, it might be worth it. Otherwise, I’d recommend ponying up for the rare originals. Me? I’m still waiting for a proper reissue of these classic Sun Ra albums. May I live so long...!

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