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Rocket Ship Rock

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Album Review

Sun Ra on Norton? It will make perfect sense after you hear Yochanan the Spaceage Vocalist, who isn't far from Screamin' Jay Hawkins on the crazy scale. Rocket Ship Rock contains all of Yochanan's Saturn sides as well as alternate takes on almost all of them and a couple previously unissued studio tracks. It's all swingin', upbeat R&B with some hot backing from Sun Ra & the Arkestra and some wild vocals from Yochanan. The collection is rounded out by a smattering of other blues/R&B Ra-related sides. Little Mack (Gordon) offers "Tell Her to Come on Home," while Lacy Gibson gives us the slightly stranger "I Am Gonna Unmask the Batman." Ebah (Akh Tal Ebah) reprises Gibson's tune in a considerably more unhinged vocal performance at a Ra home rehearsal, while Don (Dino) Dean gives the only performance not backed by the Arkestra with "Space Stroll." Yes, a handful of these tracks were on the Sun Ra Singles Collection, but the previously unreleased stuff here is just great. Apparently, this is from Sun Ra's personal cache of recordings given by Ra to former Arkestra drummer and archivist-designate Michael Anderson (one of three comps from this source released by Norton at the same time). Sun Ra fans rejoice.


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 a 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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