Sun Ra – Live In London (Transparency Records)

SP | I wonder just how many Sun Ra albums are out there? Even John Szwed shied away from the daunting prospect of a discography in his Ra biography. 128? More?? Not being a millionaire, I could never afford to launch willy-nilly into buying everything Ra-related. So one has to cherry-pick and, not being over keen on Norton Records’ spoken word series and those LPs overburdened with standards/Ellington re-treads, this reduces the load somewhat. However, in the past few years, Transparency Records have ratcheted up my want-list woes appreciably with a substantial Ra-load of archived live recordings, Live in London being one of ’em. This comprises of two wildly differing sets, captured at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, during November 9th 1970. A twenty-two strong ensemble on this occasion, heaving with spacematic organs, space dimension mellophones and Neptunian Libflectos (?) is captured rampaging through a brace of ‘tried ‘n’ testeds: ‘Outer Spaceways Inc’, ‘Watusi’, ‘Theme of the Stargazers’ and a number of untitled improvs. The opening salvo being an example of a Stravinsky transmission coming through loud and clear via ouija board, before it’s wiped out by a drum barrage of mammoth proportions.

But unfortunately, there is a caveat emptor. The sound quality is a little bit needy. There are some moments where distortion, tape hiss and echo-o-o become unwelcome gatecrashers and the presence of June Tyson (and supporting vocal troupe) is sadly rendered in miniature. A six out of ten? But… knowing that this is the only recording of their seminal debut UK performance – with Gilmore and Allen blowing up a proverbial storm – just what can you do? Exactly.

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