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Interplanetary Melodies

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Album Review

More stuff from Sun Ra's archives, this time focusing on his work with doo wop groups. Sun Ra had a home tape recorder early on, and most of these are previously unissued home rehearsals. The sound is generally excellent given that these are '50s home recordings (except for the studio tracks released on Saturn as singles and their studio rehearsal counterparts). Sun Ra clearly knew and loved this type of vocal music and probably could have had a career cranking out doo wop numbers (he wrote most of the tunes here, and some are really catchy). But Sun Ra was Sun Ra, and some of these tracks move more into territory he was exploring with the Arkestra, whether it's the exoticism of the Nu-Sounds' "Africa" (a longer take than on Nubians of Plutonia), "Spaceship Lullaby" (which shares some lyrics with "Rocket Number Nine") and its outer space themes, or the avant-garde intro and backing to the Cosmic Rays' version of Gershwin's "Summertime." In addition to the doo wop, there's the hilarious and impossibly rare "Teenager's Letter of Promises" by Juanita Rogers in both the issued single form as well as a studio rehearsal. Perhaps most interesting of all for Ra collectors is "Tony's Wife," a snappy Xavier Cugat ditty whose lyrics are decidedly earthbound for Sun Ra.


Born: May 22, 1914 in Birmingham, AL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Of all the jazz musicians, Sun Ra was probably the most controversial. He did not make it easy for people to take him seriously, for he surrounded his adventurous music with costumes and mythology that both looked backward toward ancient Egypt and forward into science fiction. In addition, Ra documented his music in very erratic fashion on his Saturn label, generally not listing recording dates and giving inaccurate personnel information, so one could not really tell how advanced some of his innovations...
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