Strut follow up their hugely successful Marshall Allen-curated ‘In The Orbit Of Ra’ compilation with a newly curated set from the immense 125 LP back catalogue of jazz maverick, DIY philosopher and self-professed member of an “angel race”, Sun Ra. ‘To Those Of Earth... And Other Worlds’ is a hand-picked selection from BBC 6 Music DJ Gilles Peterson, long-time champion of Ra’s music and the UK’s leading tastemaker for jazz-based sounds. It serves as perhaps the best introduction yet to the music of Sun Ra for a whole new generation of converts. Sun Ra was a one-off in the annals of jazz. As author Robert L. Campbell describes, “He claimed to be the last of the swing band leaders, yet dosed classic songs with LSD. He wrote poetry about the “coming space age” and claimed to be a citizen of Saturn. He dressed himself and his band in goldlame and lectured on the Creator ’s message to the cruel and deceitful Earthman. He named himself after an Egyptian God. Was this guy for real? Sun Ra was very much for real.” For the CD version, Peterson picks personal favourites, classics and unreleased tracks and weaves them into a flowing piece across 2CDs, showcasing the incredible variety of Ra’s work. Alongside the familiar tones of ‘Love In Outer Space’, the modal classic ‘Sleeping Beauty ’ and a heavy version of ‘We Travel The Spaceways’, he brings in the off-kilter croon of ‘Dreaming’, a 45 given to him personally by the late John Peel, alongside an unreleased 1987 bossa take on ‘Astro Black’, the experimental dub ambience of ‘Adventure-Equation’ and the defiant anthem, ‘Blackman’. The 2LP features full length versions of selected tracks from the mix while the digital version features a full unmixed selection with Peterson’s mixavailable within the album bundle. Sleeve notes on physical formats come from Gilles Peterson with a full Ra career biography by author Robert L. Campbell. The album also features previously unseen photos from the archives of Val Wilmer and Jorg Brecker alongside full musician line-ups and session details.
Ghanaian highlife master and “The Golden Voice Of Africa”, Pat Thomas, returns with his first full career retrospective on Strut this Autumn, covering his late ‘60s big band highlife recordings through to the “burger highlife” movement of the early ‘80s. Growing up with music around him (“my uncle, King Onyina, was an important highlife musician”), Thomas was inspired to become a singer after hearing vocalist Joss Aikins: “He sang with Broadway Dance Band and Decca in Ghana chose him to sing with any group that came into their studios.” When a new incarnation of Broadway Dance Band was created in ‘67, led by Ebo Taylor, Thomas received his first big break. “Ebo started to write new songs. I added the lyrics and sang them and it worked well.” The partnership with Taylor would become one of the enduring forces in Ghanaian music during the ‘70s, creating a fresh, progressive new highlife sound. They played with the Blue Monks band before, in 1974, forming Sweet Beans with the backing of Ghana’s Cocoa Marketing Board: “The album, ‘False Lover’, was the first under my own name and my first for Gapophone,” Pat reflects. “Reggae was “on” at that time - Jimmy Cliff was the guy - so I tried reggae fusions and brought in some soul.” The album established Thomas across Ghana. Sweet Beans disbanded but the musicians stayed together as Marijata. “The guys initially used Jewel Ackah as their vocalist but they involved me and I re-vocalled the album. This became the ‘Pat Thomas Introduces Marijata’ LP. At that time, I would go to George Prah at Gapophone to ask for money and he would say, ‘if you want me to pay you, go and write a song!’ So, tracks like ‘Coming Home’ came about that way, written on the spot.” A second Marijata album followed before a damaging coup in Ghana in 1979. “Jerry Rawlings’ “house-cleaning” was designed to stop corruption but it seriously damaged our country’s music culture.” Thomas left for Berlin and stayed true to his highlife roots, becoming the first Ghanaian to record highlife there. “In Ghana, people ex-pats living in Germany called themselves ‘burgers’, so the scene became ‘burger highlife’.” Thomas travelled to Togo and London, before settling in Canada: “I ended up there for ten years playing for universities, Ghanaian societies and festivals.” Pat is now back with Kwashibu Area Band and touring worldwide: “Today, highlife has become the world’s music and I am proud to still bring it to so many people.” ‘Coming Home’ is released on 2CD, 3LP and digital and features exclusive photos and a full interview with Pat Thomas.
"Sun Ra said he came from Saturn, because white America treated him like an alien, like a creature from outer space, so he became one, an anarcho-emperor of the fantastic, who made it to the moon before America or Russia, because the moon was nowhere near as far out as he could really go." - Paul Morley Strut and Art Yard join forces for a special release to mark what would have been Sun Ra's 100th birthday with 'In The Orbit Of Ra', a new collection curated by the longest serving member of the Arkestra and current bandleader, Marshall Allen. Bringing together Ra highights from over 25 years of music, the album is the first internationally released compilation to provide an introduction to the music of Sun Ra, curated personally by the Arkestra and mastered from the original tapes. With a catalogue of well over a hundred albums, Sun Ra forged his own direction in music from the mid '50s until his passing in 1993, injecting space age cosmic philosophy, ancient Egyptian history and lyrical poetry into a unique and freeform jazz sound. His music evolved constantly with relentless rehearsals, live gigging and recording schedules, developing a second-sense chemistry with his fellow Arkestra band members. Together, their emphasis would often be on improvisation and "the moment", constantly re-interpreting and evolving their sound. Elements of magic and ritual would regularly feature in their performances and would lend the Arkestra a mystical aura. As Sun Ra himself said, "I have many names; some call me Mr. Ra, others call me Mr. Re. You can call me Mr. Mystery." For this exclusive new collection, Strut join forces with Artyard to gain access to the inner sanctum of the Arkestra. In addition to the track selection, the release features recollections and contributions from some of the core Arkestra line-up including Marshall Allen, Michael Ray, Knoel Scott and Danny Ray Thompson. For the music, Allen's selection takes us through the huge variety and intricacy of the Arkestra's work covering the '60s to early '80s, from the celestial blues of 'Spontaneous Simplicity' and 'Plutonian Nights' to the urgent jazz of 'Rocket Number Nine Take Off For Planet Venus' and 'Dance Of The Cosmo Aliens'. The album features an exclusive previously unreleased Sun Ra track from the Art Yard archives, theacoustic 'Trying To Put The Blame On Me' recorded live in Rome in 1977, along with a previously unreleased Part 1 of 'Reflects Motion' from 1962 and an unheard extended version of 'Island In The Sun' from the late '60s. 'In The Orbit Of Ra' is released on 2CD, 2LP and digital formats. Physical formats feature full interview with Marshall Allen along with rare and previously unpublished photos by Val Wilmer.
Aloha Got Soul’ encompasses a vibrant era of contemporary music made in Hawai’i during the 1970s to the mid-1980s as jazz, rock, funk, disco and R&B co-existed alongside Hawaiian folk music. Check!Hawai’i’s identity had undergone huge change: statehood into America in ‘59 and the Vietnam War were the backdrop as Hawai’i’s youth found inspiration in a new wave of international music led initially by The Beatles and Stones and, later, by US R&B bands like Earth Wind & Fire and Tower Of Power. Garage bands flourished during the ‘60s and, by the ‘70s, live music was at its peak. Waikiki was filled with clubs: The Point After, Infinity’s, Hawaiian Hut, Spats and more. For the ‘70s generation of artists, some came through the talent contest ‘Home Grown’ and its accompanying compilation LP. Singer Nohelani Cypriano won it with her instant radio hit, ‘Lihue’. Other winning songs, like Marvin Franklin’s soul surfer jam ‘Kona Winds’, burned more slowly but have endured with DJs today. Many records also packed a powerful message. In 1978, Hawaiian was made the official state language and a huge movement arose to revive hula and traditional music. Steve & Teresa’s ‘Kaho’olawe Song’ longs for an island long gone: the US military had used Kaho’olawe as a bombing range since Pearl Harbor. Nohelani Cypriano sang about the once sleepy town of Kailua, now a popular tourist destination: “Kailua needs no high-rise with her blue skies, not for our eyes. Can you realize?” Leading Hawaiian artists like Aura, Mike Lundy and keyboardist Kirk Thompson’s Lemuria took time in high quality facilities like Broad Recording Studio to make albums. Others grabbed studio time when they could: Tender Leaf’s Murray Compoc worked for the city bus by day and recorded an album during night sessions. Other albums were spontaneous. In 1983, Steve Maii & Teresa Bright recorded an acoustic set in just 3 hours after being invited to a studio following a gig. For the artists of the ‘70s, the climate for music changed rapidly during the mid-‘80s as DJ culture grew and live venues shut down. Hawai’i’s R&B era shone brightly and relatively briefly but, despite brilliant musicians, regular gigs and LP releases, most of the music barely made it to the mainland. Thanks largely to Aloha Got Soul’s Roger Bong, a new interest in this fertile era of Hawaiian music has grown, culminating in this new compilation of overlooked gems. ‘Aloha Got Soul’ is compiled and annotated by Bong and features rare photos and original artwork.
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
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