Sun Ra – Monorails and Satellites / John Cage Meets Sun Ra

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John Cage / Sun Ra – John Cage Meets Sun Ra (1987)

“Silence is music. There are different kinds of silences, each silence is a world all of it’s own.”
-Sun Ra

“Everything we do is music.”
-John Cage

Euh? (I love both of those quotations, especially the John Cage one. This album does neither justice, and barely even attempts to deliver upon the title/cover, with the two finally playing together on the second side. Alternates between solos and silences you wish would end sooner; another album where I felt sorry for the audience.)

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Sun Ra – Monorails and Satellites (1973)

More or less what you’d expect a Sun Ra solo album to sound like: mostly non-revelatory to anyone the slightest bit familiar to Sun Ra’s work, and sometimes rewarding. The main highlight is “Skylight,” which begins on Earth and then slowly ascends into space; 2:35 – 2:40 = stars. Lots of other, better pianists tend to get dragged into comparison, so here’s mine: I hear Byard in the first few minutes of “Skylight,” as high a compliment of anything. Elsewhere, Sun Ra does some fascinating things in the climaxes of “Space Towers” and “Cogitation”: in the former, check out the section at the 2:15 mark, where his right hand explores chaotically before returning to the same root note/home-base; left hand crashing around all the while. In the latter, check out the middle section, where he wrings a memorable theme out of dissonant staccato chords. And the theme of closer “The Galaxy Way” features sun flares in fast forward. That’s already more to recommend than Charles Mingus’ own solo album, and I can’t shake the comparisons: piano playing was neither artists’ forte; it was sheer volume of sound: I can’t remember a thing about “Easy Street” (the only song that’s not a Sun Ra original), nor “Blue Differential” except the walking bass-line. Tiny Mix Tapes’ Garblik: “Monorails and Satellites still serves as Sun Ra’s most beautiful, most accessible and most likeable picture of the future.” Nah: that’s Lanquidity. This one’s sometimes beautiful, somewhat accessible and mostly likeable.

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4 responses to “Sun Ra – Monorails and Satellites / John Cage Meets Sun Ra

  1. Haven’t heard the John Cage record, but that’s disappointing that it doesn’t really offer too much. You’re pretty much spot on about Monorails and Satellites. A pretty unremarkable album.

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