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Album Review: Singles: The Definitive 45's Collection by Sun Ra
Exceptionally Good, Based on 5 Critics
AllMusic - 100 Based on rating 10/10
The set contains much of Ra's more accessible work, making it an excellent (and very generous) introduction for newcomers, but there's also plenty of material that might've escaped notice from longtime fans..
How do you pin down Sun Ra? The cosmic jazzman laid down so much music it would take a warehouse of full-time historians working round-the-clock hours to figure it all out. Albums were often hastily assembled from his prolific sessions, packaged with DIY artwork and sold at gigs for quick cash. Thousands of hours of unheard recordings are rumored to exist.
As showcases for an artist’s most immediate music, singles have traditionally been a convenient way into a musician’s discography. Just as with everything else in his singular life and career however, Sun Ra saw their role differently. This extensive, career-spanning collection shows him utilising the format as a conduit for one-off artistic statements.
A compilation can only be as good as the artist(s) within it. This is incredible. By compiling all the known 45s Sun Ra released, this three-disc-set (a limited edition series of 10 45-inch reprints will also be available in 2017) gives as good a collection as is possible from which to explore the development of Sun Ra’s seemingly endless universe of music.
Celebrated for his cosmic themes and avant-garde “space jazz”, the late Sun Ra had a terrestrial side that’s revealed on this three-CD compilation of his singles, most of them issued in tiny runs to be sold at gigs. Here you’ll find Ra and members of his proto-Arkestra in the 1950s providing backing for doo-wop groups and R&B singers while exploring standards such as Round Midnight. Later came instrumental Arkestra odysseys like Saturn Moon, though Ra never lost a taste for words on cuts such as Rocket No 9, celebrating a trip to Venus, and 1982’s droll protest song Nuclear War.