Album Review: To Those of Earth & Other Worlds by Sun Ra & His Arkestra
Excellent, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Following Strut's essential 2014 Sun Ra compendium In the Orbit of Ra, curated by longtime Arkestra leader/musician Marshall Allen, the U.K.-based label tapped influential BBC disc jockey Gilles Peterson to mix a follow-up volume. To Those of Earth... and Other Worlds is a double-CD montage of nearly three-dozen selections from numerous lineups of the Arkestra, including a handful of unreleased live cuts and several more rarities.
Sun Ra – “To Those of Earth… And Other Worlds” (Strut/Art Yard)Career-spanning compilations are contentious business. A question central to any such activity is how to boil down an artist’s catalog to bite-sized proportions without leaving important ingredients out. The problem only compounds with a subject like Sun Ra, where the reservoir runs to well over one hundred albums and seven times that in the way of compositional candidates.
As far as back-stories go, the cosmic one the musician born as Herman Blount in (probably) 1914 in Birmingham, Alabama offered as the authentic story of his life is hard to beat. Calling himself Sun Ra (after an Egyptian god), the pianist, composer and bandleader claimed to be a citizen of Saturn, sent here on Earth to bring a message of peace and understanding to deceitful and war-mongering humans. Even by the mind-expansion standards of the psychedelic era, this story would've been spectacularly far-out.
Sometimes music is here to help us readdress the everyday. Some people use music as pure escape, "taking drugs to make music to take drugs to" (as Spacemen 3 so put it). On the odd occasion it looks like an attempt to reframe our social landscape altogether, sometimes as an offshoot of the previous option when psychedelics are involved. 60s psychedelia in particular saw musicians in pursuit of "the truth" via a combination of hallucinogens and rock music, as seen through groups such as the 13th Floor Elevators.