Sun-Ra and His Astro Infinity Arkestra - Atlantis (1969), 8/10

Sun Ra gave us an engrossing, and more importantly very distinctive and prophetic, record in Atlantis with a wonderful, surreal and impressively visual story. We familiarize ourselves with Atlantis and its peoples in “Mu”, a conversation between Sun Ra’s capricious clavinet and Gilmore’s saxophone. It is not only inviting as an opener but displays a certain tantalizing quality of discussion that eclipses the ambient, tribal percussion. The deliberation between clavinet, sax and percussion during our visit to “Lemuria” is less focused yet displays its own haphazard brand of glamor. Then my personal favorite in “Yucatan” hosts an authentic image of its meridian influence and inspiration, and some of Sun Ra’s most penetrating yet obscure phrasings. The percussive convulsion on “Bimini” foretells the movement to come on the latter half of the album, one who’s repercussions depend on the rise and fall of the first. Of course the title track is the album’s memorable climax and focus, providing an entirely self-contained narrative of adventure and tragedy despite it’s reliance on the preceding songs for greater significance. It’s sounds and more importantly its story continues to expand on Sun Ra’s ‘space jazz’ sound, while leaning on freedom for meaning. This free playing within the context of a greater narrative results in one of his greatest creations bar none, exceeding the nuance of its surrounding works. Sun Ra’s macabre, inventive playing along with how unrelenting the recounting of the disaster remains is entirely captivating. It certainly takes an open mind and an approachable ear, but Atlantis is one of Sun Ra’s greatest and most vital records.