Saturn : 1979
Sun Ra, piano, organ, keyboard, vocal; Eddie Gale, trumpet; John Gilmore, tenor sax; Marshall Allen, alto sax, flute, oboe; Danny Ray Thompson, baritone sax; James Jackson, bassoon, flute; Skeeter McFarland, electric guitar; Taylor Richardson, electric guitar; Steve Clarke, electric bass; Luqman Ali, drums; Atakatune, percussion; June Taylor and ensemble, vocals.
When Sun Ra dropped the fearless Disco 3000 in 1978, he named that visionary slab right. “UFO” off the estimable On Jupiter is more like disco 2000, give or take a decade. But while this track may be more earthbound than some of Ra’s work, that just means you don’t have to wait millennia to fully appreciate its funky charms. We wonder if Sun Ra cut this intergalactic groove with a jealous eye toward another Mothership Connection, trying to remind everyone who really started the musical Space Race? Or maybe he was simply transmuting the heavy vibes from the Gamble & Huff contingent in his hometown? Whatever the case, this joint will “take you where you want to go.”
So dig how effortlessly the divergent elements fall together here: A horn riff and vocal chant ripe enough to rock the dance floor; an atonal guitar solo scribbled in the margins of the song, proto-James Ulmer; a trumpet solo that’s both flashy and squishy; the minimalist piano and organ lines that wind around the rhythms; the dubbed-out vocal breakdown; etc. Some fans may call this frivolous, but it was Sun Ra’s genius that he knew any truly cosmic vision had to be willing to flirt with the ridiculous. This tune perfectly embraces pure escape-ism, because why would you even bother to board a UFO if you’re not looking to get away? As for picking up passengers, Ra knew the dance floor was as good an embarkation point as any.
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After you’ve checked out our vinyl rip of this track, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Art Yard’s newly remastered edition of On Jupiter. And while you’re there, be sure don’t neglect their light-years-beyond-essential editions of Disco 3000 and Media Dreams, each of which include over an hour of previously unreleased primo Ra.