This collection is somewhat of an oddity in that there are no original compositions from Sun Ra. That said, cornet player Phil Corhan contributes "Dorothy's Dance." As the album initially surfaced in the early '70s, many presumed the recordings reflected Ra's concurrent combo and sound, which couldn't have been further from the truth. Scholars have since placed 1960 or 1961 as a closer estimation of when these sides were documented, using the rare inclusion of Ricky Murry (vocals) as sonic evidence, coupled with the fact that the effort was cut prior to the band's relocation to New York City from Chicago at the beginning of the decade. The primary (and most notable) Arkestra centered on Ra, Marshall Allen (alto sax), John Gilmore (tenor sax), Phil Corhan (cornet), Ronnie Boykins (bass), and Jon Hardy (drums). The bounty of pop standards and memorable melodies showcase Ra's spectacularly intricate and often underappreciated arrangements. The spry take of George Gershwin's "But Not for Me" is rephrased to spotlight the soloists' remarkable improvisational skills behind tight support from the compact and swinging rhythm section. Boykins and Hardy's brooding introduction to "Day by Day" immediately suggests the uneasy and inquisitive score that has been completely overhauled to express Ra's newly adopted sense of the avant-garde as well as his free jazz leanings. Seemingly disparate tunes and time signatures fuse into a free-wheeling affair that contains all the flair of Sun Ra with much of the same romantic charm of more familiar readings, such as Jo Stafford's (vocals) hit version. "Holiday for Strings" can also be recommended because of the highly stylized rendering. Rather than the mile-a-minute staccato "plinking" that often identifies the piece, Ra gives it a cool post-bop workout that discerns it for those otherwise unfamiliar with the song. "Early Autumn" is interesting from the perspective of the dearth of singers that Raaccompanied. Murry's robust voice proves a bit overwhelming, as if he might break into an operatic vocalization at any moment. Arguably the most memorable selection on Holiday for Soul Dance is the gorgeous take of "I Loves You, Porgy," incorporating a languid swing that gently drives the backbeat, ably supporting the scintillating adaptation.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer