A Space Odyssey: From Birmingham To The Big Apple – The Quest Begins

Sun Ra
FORMAT: Audio CD - 3 Disc
Release date: 11 Feb 2013

'Compiler Kris Needs has done a wonderful and rather important job, not so much in offering a good sample of classic period Sun Ra, but in repositioning his roots.' WIRE

'This collection represents a fine gateway into Ra's oeuvre... essential music'  Record Collector 4/5


'This miraculous collection... adds weight to his claims' Daily Mirror 4/5

CAT No: FVTD154UPC TEXT: 5055311001548

Full details

Sun Ra was the ultimate outsider artist, the first musician to declare that space was the place, claiming to hail from Saturn as his crew fearlessly traversed the outer limits of aural exploration, taking jazz to new levels of free improvisation.

Although the sound they whipped up could be cacophonic, Ra never stopped paying homage to his jazz roots, like glimpsing his home planet in the starship’s rear view mirror. Often dismissed as bonkers by jazz buffs at the time, the 21st century has seen him recognised as one of the greatest musical minds and innovators of the last century, amassing music’s most formidably complex catalogue and one of its strangest legends.

Compiled and annotated by music journalist and long-time devotee Kris Needs, A Space Odyssey charts the early days of Sun Ra’s voyage, from swing to the solar system, starting with his first composition in 1933. This painstakingly-compiled labour-of-love tribute is intended to reflect Sun Ra’s journey from leaving the Jim Crow oppression of his Birmingham, Alabama birth-place, through his first Chicago recordings then on to New York City, where his unique musical visions could flourish and take off.

CD1 (Pre-flight) features Sun Ra’s earliest recordings from the 1940s, playing piano for Wynonie Harris and Lil Green, jamming with Stuff Smith, and coaching or arranging for artists such as Andrew Tibbs, the Hambone Kids and the Dozier Boys with Red Saunders’ Orchestra. Other artists he worked with featured here include pianist Dorothy Donegan, Joe Williams, Jo Jo Adams and LaVern Baker. There’s also an intriguing brace of tracks displaying his experiments with mid-1950s vocal groups such as Nu Sounds and Cosmic Rays, while introducing berserk space-preacher Yochanan.

All along, Ra was blueprinting his sonic spaceship until the time was right to launch under his own name in mid-1956 with effervescent debut single, ‘Saturn’, on his newly-established label of the same name. Saturn is also the planet he claimed to be his birth-place. CD1 ends with the first 1956 Arkestra sessions, picked up again on CD2 (Lift-off), which runs through early Saturn singles such as ‘A Call For All Demons’, then tracks from Sun Ra’s early albums Jazz By Sun Ra, Sound of Joy, Visits Planet Earth and Super-Sonic Jazz, his sound tangibly expanding through the stunning Arkestral manoeuvres of tracks such as ‘Sunology’.

CD3 ( Future Shock) mixes tracks from Sun Ra’s twin landmark albums Jazz In Silhouette and The Futuristic Sounds Of Sun Ra, with intoxicating one-off singles such as ‘Great Balls Of Fire’, ‘Space Loneliness’ and ‘Big City Blues’, the massively weird ‘Teenager’s Letter Of Promises’ with singer Juanita Rogers, before signing off with Yochanan’s demented ’Message To Earthman’.



  1. Saturn (Le Sun-Ra and His Arkistra)
  2. Chocolate Avenue (Clarence Williams and His Orchestra)
  3. Dig This Boogie (Wynonie Mr Blues Harris)
  4. Lightnin' Struck The Poor House (Wynonie Mr Blues Harris with Jimmie Jackson and His Orchestra)
  5. Blowtop Blues (Lil Green and Her Orchestra)
  6. Deep Purple (Sonny Blount and Stuff Smith)
  7. In Every Man's Life (Andy Tibbs and The Dozier Boys)
  8. Dawn Mist (Eugene Wright and His Dukes Of Swing)
  9. D.D.D. (Dorothy Donegan)
  10. Aching Heart (Sax Mallard and His Sextet with Andrew Tibbs)
  11. I Want To Rock (Miss Sharecropper LaVern Baker)
  12. Hey Bartender (Red Saunders and His Orchestra, with Joe Williams)
  13. Boot 'Em Up (Red Saunders and His Orchestra)
  14. Hambone (Red Saunders and His Orchestra, with Dolores Hawkins and The Hambone Kids)
  15. Voodoo Blues (Red Saunders and His Orchestra with Joe Williams)
  16. Rebecca (Jo Jo Adams)
  17. It's Raining Again (Joe Williams with the Red Saunders Band)
  18. Summertime (Red Saunders and His Orchestra)
  19. Alley "B" On 5th Ave. (Paul Bascomb and His Orchestra)
  20. Chicago USA (Nu Sounds)
  21. Daddy's Gonna Tell You No Lie (The Cosmic Rays with Sun Ra and Arkestra)
  22. Dreaming (The Cosmic Rays with Sun Ra and Arkestra)
  23. Spaceship Lullaby (Nu Sounds)
  24. Last Call For Love (Billie Hawkins with Sun Ra and His Orchestra)
  25. Muck Muck (Yochanan The Space Age Vocalist)
  26. Medicine For A Nightmare (Le Sun-Ra and His Arkistra)
  27. Adventure In Space (Sun Ra and His Astro Infinity Arkestra)
  28. New Horizons (Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra)


  1. A Call for All Demons (Le Sun-Ra and His Arkistra)
  2. Future (Sun Ra and His Arkestra)
  3. Planet Earth (Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra)
  4. Overtones Of China (Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra)
  5. India (Sun Ra and The Arkestra)
  6. Eve (Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra)
  7. Kingdom Of Not (Sun Ra and The Arkestra)
  8. El Is A Sound Of Joy (Sun Ra and The Arkestra)
  9. El Viktor (Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra)
  10. Sunology (Sun Ra and The Arkestra)
  11. Springtime In Chicago (Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra)
  12. Brainville (Sun Ra and His Arkestra)
  13. Street Named Hell (Sun Ra and His Arkestra)
  14. Portrait Of The Living Sky (Sun Ra and The Arkestra)
  15. Ankh (Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra)
  16. Sun Song (Sun Ra and His Arkestra)
  17. Advice To Medics (Sun Ra and The Arkestra)


  1. Great Balls Of Fire (Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra)
  2. Enlightenment (Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra)
  3. Velvet (Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra)
  4. Hours After (Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra)
  5. Blues At Midnight (Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra)
  6. Ancient Aiethopia (Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra)
  7. Space Loneliness (Sun Ra and His Arkestra)
  8. Teenager’s Letter Of Promises (Juanita Rogers and Lynn Hollings with Mr V’s Five Joys)
  9. Big City Blues (Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra)
  10. Bassism (Sun Ra and His Arkestra)
  11. Where Is Tomorrow (Sun Ra and His Arkestra)
  12. New Day (Sun Ra and His Arkestra)
  13. Tapestry From An Asteroid (Sun Ra and His Arkestra)
  14. The Beginning (Sun Ra and His Arkestra)
  15. Message To Earthman (Yochanan)