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Sun Ra Quartet – The Mystery of Being (Klimt)

Ra’s discography is so vast and daunting that at this point one needs to wonder how far down the dregs go. The answer can be found on this lifeless monstrosity of a release, a triple album representing his small ensemble recordings made in Italy circa January ’78. Conceptually, the album seems like a no brainer; you have the mythic Ra leading a remarkably small ensemble with right-hand sax master John Gilmore at his side, covering standards like “My Favorite Things” and “Exactly Like You”. The problem is two-fold. First, Ra picks perhaps the least flattering digital pre-80s tone on his keyboard heard thus far, leaving everything sounding just horribly flat and wonky. When it seems like only Gilmore can save the day, he’s mixed so freakishly loud that it’s nothing short of jarring. Many of the tracks are “ballads” and certainly not invoking the mood Gilmore was shooting for. Whoever was at the mixing board shoves him so far in front it almost makes one forget about the jittery failure of Ra’s choice in dynamic for the arrangements. If one seeks Ra and Gilmore tackling standards they do so with remarkable success on the Sun Sound Pleasure LP that can be purchased for less than the cost of a 3-D movie rather than break the bank on this expensive, ugly set, (which features no notes, pictures or information).  A release that only a Frenchman could enjoy, The Mystery of Being is perhaps the least necessary release in Ra’s bloated discography. Steer Clear!

by Swingset Magazine on 9/28/2011 in Reviews | Tags: , , , ,