Evidence Records' Singles collection was the first inkling for many that Sun Ra had rehearsed and led vocal groups during his Chicago phase. Now Atavistic is shedding considerably more light on the subject with the release of Spaceship Lullaby, a collection of rehearsals Ra held with the Nu-Sounds, the Lintels, and the Cosmic Rays. The first batch of tunes are the Nu-Sounds with Ra on piano and Robert Barry on drums. Barry demonstrates once again what a masterful drummer he is, and listeners are treated to three previously unheard Sun Ra compositions: "Spaceship Lullaby," "Black Sky & Blue Moon," and "Chicago USA." "Spaceship Lullaby" contains lyric fragments that would later be incorporated into both "Rocket No. 9" and "Interplanetary Music," and "Chicago USA" was written as an entry in a contest to come up with a new official song for the city (it should have won). The Lintels sound like a considerably less professional group, and it is unknown whether Ra worked with them beyond this session. There's another set with the Nu-Sounds and just Ra on piano, but the best is probably saved for last with the Cosmic Rays rehearsing with the full Arkestra. There's a bit more distortion on these tracks (the rest sound remarkably good for home rehearsals), but it's worth hearing if only for the vocal version of "Africa," which appeared on Nubians of Plutonia. There are some flaws in the tapes, but given the rarity of this material, that's a minor quibble. Sun Ra fans will be thrilled that this material exists at all to be heard, and the chance to hear Sun Ra giving directions is like a peek behind the curtain. Excellent.
Spaceship Lullaby (1954-60) Review
by Sean Westergaard