Key Sun Ra albums for ESP records – the Heliocentrics
World trifecta – in a 3CD set! The work here is a bit more intense than usual – almost cerebral at times, with very contemplative passages on percussion and reeds, offset by strong piano lines from Ra – all in a mode that marks a sharp break from earlier Saturn albums. Volume One finds the group working in an interstellar formation that holds up strongly with the Saturn sides – John Gilmore on tenor, Marshall Allen on alto, Teddy Nance on trombone, Chris Capers on trumpet, Danny Davis on flute and alto, and Ra on piano, bass marimba, and some especially nice electronic celeste! Things get quite out at points – freer almost than other Arkestra sides of the time – and titles include "Outer Nothingness", "Other Worlds", "Nebulae", "Dancing In the Sun", "The Cosmos", and "Of Heavenly Things". Volume Two has a freer feel than the first volume, and a bit more avant-oriented work overall. Ra and the group play a lot of percussion – and Ra himself is on tuned bongos, piano, and clavioline, which has a very nice spooky sound! The reed work on the album is by Robert Cummings, John Gilmore, Pat Patrick, and Marshall Allen – with bass by Ronnie Boykin and percussion by Roger Blank. Tracks include "Cosmic Chaos", "House of Beauty", and "The Sun Myth". Volume Three features tracks recorded during the sessions for Volume Two, but it was lost to the sands of time for nearly 40 years! Like that previous album, this one features a smaller version of the Arkestra than usual – an octet that has Ra working with core hornmen Pat Patrick, John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Walter Miller, and Robert Cummings – supported by a rhythm section that includes Ronnie Boykins on bass and Roger Blank on percussion. Apart from a lot of added percussion by various members of the group, the instrumentation overall is relatively straightforward – even if Ra's compositions are not. The set kicks off with the 17 minute "Intercosmosis" – a relatively free, stretched-out tune – then is followed by shorter numbers that travel along darker, more introspective pathways. These titles include "World Worlds", "Interplanetary Travelers", "Mythology Metamorphosis", and "Heliocentric Worlds".
(Enhanced CDs with the bonus Spaceways documentary film, photo archive and critical writings.)