Sun Ra - The Singles

Evidence music has been restoring Sun Ra’s hopelessly obscure Saturn label LPs since 1991, and have done a hell of a job working with crumbling, poorly-recorded master tapes (when the masters were even available) and cheaply-pressed vinyl. The 15 discs they’ve released to date are all worth a listen by anyone with adventurous ears.

With the release of The Singles, the folks at Evidence have qualified for sainthood. This two-disc set collects all known 45s released by Sun Ra on his own label. The records were borrowed from the world’s most dedicated Ra collectors. Amazingly, until this project neared completion, there was no one person who knew of the existence of all of the singles! Many were pressed in editions of 50 or less.

Far from being a collection for fanatics, this is the perfect entry point for the uninitiated. Besides the otherworldly jazz stylings of Ra’s various Arkestras, he recorded doo-wop groups, R&B, lowdown blues, and the out-of control Yochannon, who was a sort of Screamin Jay Hawkins from the other side of the sun. The mad mixture of musical styles has a certain coherence – the unifying factor being the singular vision of Le Sony Ra – giving one the feeling of inadvertently tuning in to an oldies station from a parallel universe.

A true labor of love, and a benefit to all people of Earth, The Singles easily qualified as my favorite release of 1996, in any category.