Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sun Ra - A Fireside Chat With Lucifer

This record represents what is probably my all-time best record collecting find. I was thumbing through a box of records at a record show, and came across the difficult-to-decipher cover pictured above. I thought, "This can't be Sun Ra's A Fireside Chat With Lucifer, can it?" A closer looked revealed that it was, and in very good condition. The dealer was asking ten dollars for it, but knocked off a buck, so I got this very rare disc for nine dollars.

I guess record rarity doesn't mean quite the same thing it used to, since almost everything ever recorded is available online to stream or download. So I don't know anymore, but once upon a time this was one of the rarest and most expensive records on Sun Ra's Saturn label. But of course, when I found this record, having a physical copy was the only way you could hear this music. The fact that that is no longer true of almost any music raises all sorts of questions about the rationality of record collecting - but I'll put that discussion off until another day.

The great Sun Ra issued dozens of albums on his own label, in all sorts of configurations. I have examples of the same side one pressed with different second sides. In this case, this must be a  later pressing of Fireside Chat. The first pressing had a more conventional cover, with a painting of a sinister-looking Lucifer. My copy has a typed and xeroxed page glued to a plain white sleeve. I've seen other examples of this version of the cover, sometimes using colored paper.

But in any case, the music is magnificent, in Ra's odd and individual manner. The opening track, "Nuclear War," is the best known piece here, since it appeared on other Sun Ra albums. The rest of side one is excellent, if somewhat conservative by Sun Ra standards. But the side-long title cut on the second side is kind of amazing - a guided improvisation that is alternately mysterious, eloquent, and downright frightening.

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