Do not expect The Criterion Collection to reissue the 1974 film Space Is The Place anytime soon. It is though, a cult classic in the truest sense of the word. Sun Ra and his Arkestra had been at the forefront of avant-garde music, developing and refining his vision since the 1950s. Today listeners are most likely acquainted with Ra's claims of being from Saturn and his mission to save our doomed planet. Back in the late 1960s and early 70s his concepts must have been eccentric and quite strange. Admittedly Ra's ideology, which we now call Afrofuturism, has been adopted and adapted by musicians such as George Clinton and his Parliament and Funkadelic ensembles, Afrika Bambaataa and Herbie Hancock.
This beautifully detailed box set (either 3 LP or 2 CD) contains the film both in DVD and Bluray formats, restoring it to its original eighty-four length. Space Is The Place is a combination of science fiction, blaxploitation and Ra pedagogy. Sun Ra arrives in Oakland, California via a spaceship to battle The Overseer, a pimp and CIA/NASA henchman who enslaves modern-day African Americans. The Black residents of Oakland are eventually teleported off the planet by Ra after an assassination attempt on the pianist's life during a concert. The bonus content includes a music video of Ra and Arkestra members manipulating psychedelic colors and stars, Rick Russo's account of his organizing performance between John Cage and Sun Ra, the exotica music of Sun Ra, Michael D. Anderson's recollections of his time with the Arkestra and a cartoon music video adaptation of Ra's composition "A Fireside Chat With Lucifer."
The accompanying soundtrack to the film (not to be confused with the 1973 Blue Thumb records and subsequent Impulse! Records release of the same name) first released on CD by Evidence Records in 1993 is presented uncut at seventy-three-plus minutes of music on either two LPs or one CD. The second LP/CD contains 40 minutes of unreleased music from the soundtrack recording session, plus the CD version adds an additional track, "The Idea Of The Greater Age." Both formats include essays from the scholars Alex Zamalin, Ytasha L. Womack and John F. Szwed.
The soundtrack features the well-known compositions "Calling Planet Earth," "Satellites Are Spinning," "Outer Spaceways Incorporated," "Love In Outer Space" and "Space Is The Place," All delivered by Ra's keyboards and his Arkestra with the command vocals of June Tyson. Ra speaks and performs on piano, keyboards, and the then space-age instruments, the mini-Moog, farfisa, and clavinet. The Arkestra includes the legendary members John Gilmore, Marshall Allen and Danny Ray Thompson.
Perhaps of greater interest is the accompanying disc of unreleased material from the recording session titled The Mathematics Of The Altered Destiny. Here we are presented with extended music tracks and Ra's pontifications. His speeches are echoed by Tyson's retorts and are supplemented by bursts of free jazz brass, reeds and percussion barrages. Ra would expand upon these thoughts in his writings and music for the next twenty years until his departure from this planet in 1993.
It's After The End Of The World; Under Different Stars; Discipline 33; Watusa; Calling
Planet Earth; I Am The Alter-Destiny; Satellites Are Spinning; Cosmic Forces; Outer
Spaceways Incorporated; We Travel The Spaceways; The Overseer; Blackman / Love In
Outer Space; Mysterious Crystal; I Am The Brother Of The Wind; We'll Wait For You;
Space Is The Place; The Mathematics Of The Altered Destiny; Listen Intently To The
Things I Do Not Say; Creation Is Fabrication; My World Is The Space Way; The Idea Of
The Greater Age.
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