Sun Ra entered into an licensing agreement with Impulse! in the early '70s to distribute both old and new LPs from his own Saturn label. This was his first association with something like a major record company, and though it resulted in ten actual releases, it didn't last long; another 12 planned releases were cancelled. Among these were two newly recorded albums, Cymbals and Crystal Spears, both of which were shelved (though three tracks from the former were later released on the Saturn LP Deep Purple). The Evidence label's extensive Sun Ra reissue program brought these two albums into release for the first time in 2000 as the double CD The Great Lost Sun Ra Albums: Cymbals & Spears, a mere 27 years after they were recorded. Cymbals turns out to be a small band session on which no more than six and usually only four musicians are playing on any one selection. Sun Ra is mostly heard on organ, and his understated playing sets the tone for a group of moody, low-key tracks. No matter who is soloing, this is mostly a quiet, introspective session. It's last-set-of-the-night stuff. From the opening miniMoog solo by Sun Ra, Crystal Spears is something else again: a full band album. Its tunes feature as many as seven horn players on a track, with most of them contributing percussion when they're not blowing. The stretched-out arrangements allow plenty of room for solos, duos, and even periods of near-cacophony. It's doubtful that Cymbals and Crystal Spears would have altered Sun Ra's overall career had they been issued by Impulse! in 1973 as intended, but his work is so extensive and so varied that each individual record provides another valuable piece in the puzzle; here are two more.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2