Sun Ra And His Galactic Arkestra Outer Space Employment Agency

Recorded live at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in 1973, Ra’s 16 piece band, including three drummers and three percussionists, is in fine form. Like most avant-garde free jazz, the absence of regard for fixed harmonic structures and pre-set chord changes can make for some pretty noisy and bewildering results. It can also lead to some amazing discoveries and confluence of serendipity and inspiration. In other words, a mixed bag, which is exactly what this is. It’s somewhat similar to Miles Davis’ contemporaneous work, but with less reliance on funk and groove. The music is free flowing from start to finish, so the notion of tracks is somewhat of a convenience for CD production, and the matter is further muddied by reports of major errors in the track labelling. No matter, it doesn’t change the listening experience, which is challenging and rewarding. After some chaotic skwonking, the band settles into a bluesy amble, before morphing into a percussion laden groove that pulses and changes, sounding like competing Brazilian street parades. Eventually the horn section returns and it sounds like Pigbag doing the theme for Hockey Night In Canada. Then some chanted interweaving vocals come in and we get a cosmic sermon about the Big Bang, self-determination, and redemption over a subtly swinging vamp, before the disc fades out. Pretty neat stuff, at least at times. (Total Energy)