Sun Ra

Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vols. 1 & 2

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In 2005, ESP combined Sun Ra's notorious Heliocentric Worlds, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 onto a single disc. Then, oddly enough, they re-released it with a different catalog number and cover art in 2006. Given ESP's convoluted release history, you might think this is just another repackaging of the same album -- and it is, except for an easily overlooked detail. The 2005 release reads "Digitally remastered from the original tapes by Conor Murphy" and the 2006 release credits Douglas McGregor with "Digital Restoration." So it's the same music (originally recorded by Richard Alderson), but with a new remastering that does make a difference to attentive ears. The overall sound is just a bit crisper, and the stereo field for Volume 1 has been switched from the 2005 version to that of the 2006 version. The stereo fields for Volume 2 are the same for both versions, but the opposite of the 1998 Get Back version. The stereo field may not matter much (don't say that to a purist), but the remastering really allows for more detail to come through, especially with Ronnie Boykins' arco bass and all the extraneous percussion. These are landmark sessions to be sure, made at the height of Ra's free-est phase in the '60s. As such, they're not for the timid and are in sharp contrast with the band's earlier Chicago sound. But they still stand as major works in the Ra canon, and this new version, Heliocentric Worlds, Vols. 1-2 allows listeners the best opportunity to really hear what Sun Ra's vision was for these albums.

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