Sun Ra And His Galactic Arkestra Nuclear War

Sun Ra was entering one of his drier periods of studio recording output by the time Nuclear War came out as a twelve-inch single in 1982. His records of this period were either live recordings or one-off, leased projects, such as this and Lanquidity, re-released last year. While UMS is trumpeting this as a long lost Sun Ra album, it is far from his best; there is little happening with his songwriting or sonic invention on this album. The band, too, sounds spaced out in a bad way; there are few brilliant solos and the ensemble playing is ragged. The grooves are of the cocktail jazz variety, and Ra doesn't mess with the keyboards as much as he usually does, mainly puttering around on electric organ. The title track has a gentle groove that overstays its welcome. June Tyson, as usual, has a beautiful, warm and soulful voice, and "Sometimes I'm Happy" is her highlight, despite the masochistic lyrics. Duke Ellington's "Drop Me off In Harlem" is played absolutely straight, and as such doesn't come close to any of the Duke's versions. Ra, while he could frequently be brilliant, could also go off on boring, listless tangents, and this album is one of them. It will never make me forget The Magic City or Heliocentric Worlds, and for a better example of Ra's straighter material, pick up Holiday for Soul Dance. (Atavistic)