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Destination Unknown (Live)

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Album Review

Recorded late in Sun Ra's life in concert, this version of the Arkestra was a good one, but far from the band who could make worlds quake in its presence. Featuring Michael Ray, Marshall Allen, Buster Smith, Ahmed Abdullah, Bruce Edwards, and a few others, these 11 men took the music to the people with the usual impeccable arrangements, but without the improvisational fire that was indicative of Ra's band at its zenith. The program of ten tracks, about an hour in length, features well-known Arkestra favorites such as "Theme of the Stargazers," "Calling Planet Earth," "Interstellar Lo-Ways," and "Echoes of the Future," as well as the closer, "We Travel the Spaceways," and the standard nuggets "Prelude to a Kiss" and "S'Wonderful," along with Will Hudson's "Hocus Pocus." The feel is there, but the fire isn't; the groove is in place, but the fierceness of attack is absent; the playing is impeccable, but the chaotic edge has been rounded. There is certainly much to enjoy here if one is listening in a vacuum, but if one has to compare, as one can and should in a line of musical and historical continuity — especially the one Sun Ra provided so willingly and insistently — this album pales.

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