SUN RA
                Astro Black

                  Recording Date: 
                        May 7, 1972

                     Sun Ra                 Key,Vib
                     Marshall Allen       FT,AS 
                            Atakatune            CG 
                            Ronnie Boykins     B 
                            Chiea                  CG 
                            Danny Davis         FT,AS 
                            Ahk Tal Ebah       TP
                            John Gilmore       Per,TS 
                            "Bugs" Hunter      D 
                            Tommy Hunter     Per
                             Lamont McLamb   TP
                             Atakatun Odun     Con
                             Eloe Omoe           CL
                             Pat Patrick           CL
                             Charles Stephens  TB
                             Danny Thompson   FT,BS
                             June Tyson           Vo
                             Alzo Wright          Vio,Viola


Review by Brian Olewnick
One of a handful of albums Sun Ra released on Impulse in the early '70s, Astro-Black provides a reasonably comprehensive picture of where the Arkestra was around the time, drawing to the end of their ultra-free period and beginning to investigate some traditional jazz forms. The opening title track explores some of Ra's spacier side, sounding a bit like a calmer alternative to his well-known "Space Is the Place" with June Tyson's ethereal vocals and the leader's ghostly synthesizer. "Discipline '99'" is a relaxed, bluesy number, although, as was often the case, one could argue that the band is a bit too relaxed and the piece does plod a little. But this is followed by a lively African-percussion-driven work, "Hidden Spheres," which, along with the propulsion provided by the great, underappreciated bassist Ronnie Boykins, is a fine example of Ra's band at their most enjoyable. "The Cosmo-Fire," the 18-minute track that closes the album, is a sprawling affair, a smorgasbord of Arkestra once again held in place by Boykins' bass, serving as a solid stem off of which Sun Ra launches abstract organ and vibraphone explorations and the rest of the band wails and sputters. Again, the performance is loose, but in a way that enhances the otherworldly effect that Ra strove for. Astro-Black isn't by any means the finest work by this musician, but is a decent introduction to his unique sound world.

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