Sun Ra Media Dreams Review

Released 2008.  

BBC Review

If anything, the slight tarnishing of the sound contributes to the sense of the...

Colin Buttimer 2008

Much has been written about Sun Ra's remarkable odyssey through the final century of the last millenium. Alongside the dreams of other planets, the regalia and imagery, Ra's musical legacy continues to be unearthed. Media Dreams is a recording from Sun Ra's quartet tour of Italy in 1978, a tour which has already offered up Disco 3000, The Sound Mirror and Media Dream. The latter was a single disc release containing some of the material on this new double CD release.

Media Dreams' relatively brief opener, Saturn Research, sounds weighty and portentous, its theme a strung out Moog scout ship foraging through deepest space. Its eery tones continue briefly on the 13-minute Constellation, but the atmosphere's quickly undermined (or subverted or made stranger - take your pick) by an almost comic rhythmelody courtesy of Sun Ra. Luqman Ali joins in his preset rhythm and then Michael Ray lets rip on trumpet, igniting blasts of cosmic fire from the leader. Last to join the fray, John Gilmore initially leads the quartet into quieter realms before venturing out into further unmapped territories.

The title track is a breathtaking Moog exposition, part fantasy part horror, every moment highly original. Twigs At Twilight (great title!) is the straightest offering, coming on like a fine modern jazz piece from the '60s. It cuts all too soon to the lovely solo piano of Unknown Love, which is reprised on the next but one track as An Unbeknowneth Love. The penultimate track is a fascinating quartet version of Space Is The Place, Sun Ra's anthem and probably his best known composition.

The recording quality is a little variable, the original master tape has decayed in places, but it's certainly very listenable, though not audiophile level. If anything, the slight tarnishing of the sound contributes to the sense of the music's otherworldliness. Media Dreams is essential listening for anybody interested in imaginative, original music. ''Calling Planet Earth. Earth, Earth, Earth, Earth''. Oh yes!

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