Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Sun Ra
Heliocentric Worlds of...Volumes 1&2

Released 1965 on ESP
Reviewed by YooDooRite, 05/03/2002ce

Sun Ra Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Volumes One and Two

Beaming out of the two-tune psychedelic cover of Heliocentric Worlds Volume One, cycloptic and transcendent, Sun Ra can never be labelled a typical jazzman. In fact you couldn’t call the guy a typical anything. I’d heard of Sun Ra through the music of Captain Beefheart, Spiritualized, MC5, Ornette Coleman and other folk who, within their own scenes, attempted to take sound out of the confines of straight lines. His course through his own muse has taken him, and his bewildered yet dedicated band, through countless albums, gigs and costume changes, and has always strived for something further. That constant dissatisfaction with the current fuelled by an absolute belief in the transcendent pushed the previously mentioned musicians onto headier and headier heights and in Sun Ra it is fully realised as total philosophy.

‘I'm not into division, I'm into coordination, discipline and precision.’

Sun Ra’s music is no free jazz wankathon, it has a near geometric beauty to it, cymbals crash, basses bounce and piano’s tumble in a graceful freefall that lead the listener to believe this is actually the noise that space makes. See, I’ve never seen a Nebulae but I sure as hell know what they sound like. Sun Ra has that kind of magic to him. Initially bewildering and unfocused, you listen further and slowly his Hubblesque telescopic vision becomes clearer and music never seems quite the same again. What you then begin to appreciate is this music is anything but unfocused. It’s meant to sound like that. It’s the same feeling you get when you suddenly sussed Trout Mask Replica or European Son.

The two records in question are by no means definitive. His vast catalogue spanning 4 decades is packed with gems, some verging on pop; the soundtrack to his movie Space Is The Place for example, others see the Arkestra getting a funk on; Languidity, in hand with a load of live albums that display the playfulness of his music. The Heliocentric Worlds… merely offers the listener a gateway into his world. As well as having, in the case of volume 1, one of the greatest album covers ever. No other cover quite encapsulates the music it contains like the screen printed third eye gaze of Sun Ra over two colliding suns.

Add these records to your collection. A piece by piece description doesn’t really do the music justice so I’ll only mention briefly the glissando xylophone’s on Nebulae, the bowing cello’s that open volume 2 and so on. It’s (re?)released on ESP Records so you also get the undoubted benefit of an Esperanto translation of some of the credits. Play it loud on a sunny day and hear the universe gyrate in your living room.

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