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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sun Ra - My Way is the Spaceways (Norton, 2014) *½

By Stefan Wood

Sun Ra’s “My Way is the Spaceways” is the fourth album of spoken word monologues from Norton records. On them they feature Sun Ra discussing whatever comes into his mind, while music is being played in the background. Listening to it is a bit of a maddening experience. While there are moments of lucid thought and insight piercing through, it gets tired very quickly.

The just under 11 minute opening track “The Music is Like a Mirror” approaches the listener like an unwelcome visitor, grating with the utopian vision of space being the place, without really explaining why, other than being an area to escape to from the awful contemporary life. “My Way is the Spaceways” is better, having a ferocious orchestral explosion in the beginning before giving way to Sun Ra’s poetry, chanting his words like a priest calling to the heavens; a space age avant grade beatnik scene, with some excellent sonics and music that effectively channel the dark universe. Easily the choice track on the album. “The Music is a Sound Image” is a 14+ minute gloomy spoken word mixed with electronics and horns and percussion, waving in and out while Sun Ra speaks about the purity of music and its path to enlightenment. It wears out the ears less than halfway through the track. The album concludes with “Music is a Vibration,” a flute plus vocals piece what is a 4+ minute opinion piece explaining how he sees people as active participants in the music, as people are instruments, having their own unique sound. And other random thoughts…

“My Way is the Spaceways” is really not for the casual listener, nor even for improv or outre junkies. It is for hard core Sun Ra fans, those who have 100+ albums worth of material, the live stuff on Transparency records, etc. Like me. But I won’t listen to it again. It will just keep the other Sun Ra albums company.