Ever since Evidence Records began reissuing his myriad releases on CD, the veil of mystery surrounding eccentric visionary jazz man (and self-proclaimed spaceman) Sun Ra has slowly eroded. In some ways, that's too bad, as part of his charm is the near-total lack of context for his distinctively different music. He regularly claimed to be from Saturn, his biography was largely hearsay, and his futuristic-sounding albums appeared almost randomly on a variety of different labels. That they frequently sounded like nothing on this planet only added to the mystique. In the years following his death, Sun Ra has been the subject of books and films, his life story has been somewhat unraveled, and his works have been finally and whole-heartedly embraced as genius. Thankfully, though, his strange legacy has ensured some surprises from beyond the grave. A prolific composer, Sun Ra was always recording, and even when label deals fell through, there was always his own El Saturn label. Evidence, which last compiled two discs of Sun Ra's singles in 1996, has returned with five new releases, mostly drawn from his '70s sessions and in many cases previously unreleased. The quadrophonically recorded Cymbals, Crystal Spears, Friendly Love, and Pathways To Unknown Worlds are all drawn from the same 1973 sessions, but only the last was ever released. Cymbals finds Sun Ra on organ, his playing arguably at its bluesiest (but still adventurous), while Crystal Spears is more along the lines of his percussion and squawking analog-synth exploration. Pathways and Friendly Love are both guided improvisations, which, given the talent of the "noisicians" with whom Sun Ra surrounded himself, often leads to some inspired free weirdness. The extremely rare Lanquidity, from 1978, has also been made available on CD for the first time, and the disc is one of his funkiest and most accessible. When Angels Speak Of Love was originally issued in 1966, but the disc's echo-laden jazz—like Ornette Coleman produced by Sam Phillips—was far ahead of its time. As for Sun Ra and his Arkestra's Greatest Hits, like most jazz collections it serves mainly as an introduction, but for anyone intimidated by Sun Ra's extensive catalog it may be a decent, if arbitrary, place to start. All these releases have been remastered and feature extensive and engrossing liner notes, further placing this strange man in perspective. More material remains to be released, meaning that no matter how much we know, the unique saga of Sun Ra will continue to unfold.

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