Reviewer biography

Current Reviews

Review Articles

Book Reviews Archive

Disco 3000

by Sun Ra
Art Yard, 2006
CD, CD 001, $26.50
Distributor’s Website: http://www.rerusa.com.

Reviewed by Michael R. (Mike) Mosher
Saginaw Valley State University


Sun Ra is in the air again. I was looking at a picture of the next Mars Rover in WIRED magazine when WCMU-FM played Sun Ra’s "Discipline 47", a song from a new 28-CD Sun Ra boxed set (with liner notes by poet/polemicist John Sinclair). This double-CD album issued in Great Britain may be a bit more modest, but it’s satisfying. It contains the complete concert played in Milan, Italy in 1978, with a small combo consisting of Sun Ra, Luqman Ali, John Gilmore, Michael Ray, and June Tyson.

The first disc opens with "Disco 3000". Luqman Ali’s perambulating beat, where percussion does not equal pounding, has a delicate touch. June Tyson reminds us again that "Space is the Place", as the beat dissolves into John Gilmore’s sax then drops out Sun Ra’s big paintbrush organ is played with forearm swipes, then he noodles a riff as goofy as Jar Jar Binks. Is the shimmering celeste-like instrument the Crumar Mainman he boasted of playing, a model that even the manufacturer had never heard of?

In this track we hear San Ra’s influence on the Residents and Devo, and perhaps Punk permitted Sun Ra to be even funnier when the spirit so moved him. A drum fusillade introduces Michael Ray’s flight-of-the-bumblebee trumpet, met with cries of Wow. It’s willfully childish, exploratory, and to end it, a

programmed "Switched-On Bach"-style sequence riffs rippling, constant change, echoing Kraftwerk.

"Sun of the Cosmos" has John Gilmore’s tenor sax bleating, Sun Ra’s ectoplasmic organ in the background. Stuttering drums of "Geminology" increase its edginess until Sun Ra’s jagged, cubistic Dr. Mabuse piano enters, as if to accompany a silent movie. It all becomes an elegant shuffle beside the Seine, sailor-suit trumpet by Michael Ray, merry as the Douanier Rousseau with his paintbox. Sun Ra’s off-kllter piano then sets the carpenter’s level askew.

"Echoes of the World" is very pretty, and "Sky Blues" is a fun sax-driven fish-fry blues, as New Orleans as the hotel piano player Tuts Washington. On the second disc, "Dance of the Cosmo Aliens" has pulsing Moog twiddling and palms-down organ by Sun Ra. The drums are in their own space, oblivious to insistent oddball, drunkenly bluesy riffs. "Spontaneous Simplicity" is strange rock filtered through rippling keyboard then Michael Ray’s Masekela-like trumpet, its percussion evoking helicopters doing the cha-cha.

"Images" gives us a lovely modulated smidgen of "Over the Rainbow" in an arrangement suggestive of Gil Evans, while the energetic Sun Ra appears as the organ Master of the Drunken Fist. In "When There is No Sun", June Tyson sings of how the sky is sea of darkness; we are given a space traveler as a plaintive African-American motherless child. There proceeds a melancholy, cosmic storm of organ activity, drum rolls and crash cymbal. Notes leave tracks of percolating positrons, cosmic effects assemble, and chemical drums carry us out of here.

A loping version of "We travel the Spaceways" has a likeable piano solo, group vocals over Luqman Ali’s shuffling drums, and the happily spaced-out crowd clapping along.



Updated 1st March 2008

Contact LDR: ldr@leonardo.org

Contact Leonardo: isast@leonardo.info

copyright © 2008 ISAST