Like the annual appearance of some holy comet, Sun Ra's Arkestra performed at three consecutive Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festivals from 1972-74. Wake Up Angels documents these close encounters with Ra's troop of celestial communicators on two discs. Considering the density of some of the performances, the sound quality is better than average.
Legend has it that Ra and co were so well received at the inaugural event ('72) that they were asked back for the subsequent concerts, evidenced here by the crazed audience reaction. You can hear them shouting and clapping along, even after the most abrasive of keyboard freakouts. Ra at this time was playing even farther out than previously, predicting a noise future not fully realized until many years later. These concerts are hard proof that by the early 70's Ra's group had achieved a truly cosmic interaction, having coalesced into one of the most fluid bands in the solar system. John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, and the other reedsmen are in particularly free orbits, occasionally settling into group standards such as "Outerspaceways, Inc.", "Space is the Place", and "Watusi", before blasting off to the next planet. Of particular note are two versions of "What Planet is This?", with its haunting lyrics juxtaposed against a thoughtful modal backdrop.
Each of the three concerts offers a similar program of gorgeous Sun Ra music, with a few exceptions. For instance, the addition of some particularly searing guitar by Dale Williams at the '74 concert is truly a mind blow. It's easy to hear the future feedback of Nels Cline, Thurston Moore, etc in these mangled guitar lines that blend and bend in and out of the horns and Ra's keyboards. The cumulative ruckus the Arkestra produces here is so in tune with itself that it no longer matters where the sound is coming from. Voice, string, drum, dancing feet — unity of vision has superseded the ego, and as a result we have been transported outward into the universe. Thank you, Sun Ra.
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