Sun Ra: Jazz/ Sun Song (1956) Delmark re-copy

The citizens of Saturn wish you all a merry Christmas and a very spacious New Year. They are despatching a small seasonal gift as a gesture of thanks for fifty years of Earth hospitality. United Saturn Postal Service will be delivering this by interplanetary freight. It may take several centuries to reach you; please ensure someone is available to sign for.

In the mean time, Saturn is downloading to Earth three tracks from Sun Ra’s first long playing recording from 1956, Jazz/ Sun Song, via their Saturn Embassy representative  and space travel visa section,  Londonjazzcollector.

Sun-Ra--Sun-Song-Clone----cover-1800-LJC Selection 1: Possession

.  .  .

A lush classic Sun Ra tune teetering on the divide between the past and present, with hardly a nod to the future. In a jazz-spa this is one to soak in. Without a care in the world, forget your worries and float weightless in space.

Selection 2: Transition

.  .  .

Now we are beginning to feel the changes. Great solos from the boys in the Arkestra, transitional.

Selection 3: The Future

.  .  .

Sun Ra shows he can do the classical piano genre, melting into hard bop with a forward-sounding twist. Space-tastic.


Sun Ra (piano) Pat Patrick (baritone saxophone) Richard Evans (bass) Robert Barry (drums) Wilburn Green (electric guitar) John Gilmore (tenor saxophone) Julian Priester (trombone)  James Scales (alto saxophone) Arthur Hoyle, David Young (trumpet) Jim Hearndon (timpani)  Recorded July 12, 1956 at Universal Studios, Chicago Il.


This is one of the handful of classic early Sun Ra “mainstream” jazz albums. Not quite up there with Jazz in Silhouette, but close enough to make it a Sun Ra essential second port of call.

It is very much in the big band Ellington mould. I have never been keen on what I think of as “old school” big band jazz, my loss, but once again I find myself learning by looking through the wrong end of the telescope, starting from the future and looking back into the past. LJC reader Joe L described the early years of Sun Ra as Ellingtonia from Outer Space. Those quirky years from 1956-60  are a palatable introduction for me to The Duke. This is an interesting time and place to be, on the cusp of change.

Though increasingly big-band tolerant, I doubt that I will warm to tracks here featuring a new-fangled instrument, the Wurlitzer electric piano. It sounds as cheesy as the soundtrack to a science fiction B-movie, flying saucer wobbling on strings, more Telstar than Jimmy Smith, and played as if a new toy rather than an expressive musical instrument.

Lurking in the brass section, Pat Patrick, John Gilmore and Julian Priester turn out lovely straight bop solo’s, without  a hint of weirdness, and are eagerly anticipated in the progress of each song. All these early Sun Ra albums are acceptable-sounding reissue vinyl, and this from someone who is an Audiophile Fundementalist.

Vinyl: “Delmark DS 411” clone.

It’s a modern reissue – of course – factory job codes and a cheeky engineers squiggle in the run-out. But for all that it probably sounds no better or worse than the original – if you could find and afford one.

Rather than a live college campus gig or recorded rehearsal session like some Sun Ra albums, Jazz/ Sun Song is a solid studio recording. It has a good basic sound engineering, with quality that has been reasonably well retained in the reissue process. It is not intentionally lo-fi, not to say that it could not have been better.

Once again we find the reissuer’s source undeclared, but note the Delmark facsimile label  from the late ’60s US reissue and not the true original Transition label. It is a copy of a copy, but sounds quite acceptable. Despite being declared “Stereo” (and some collectors decry the Delmark as electronically reprocessed for Stereo), the channels look identical in Audacity and it sounds entirely mono to me. I think it is a special type of stereo – bogus stereo, a special process in which the word “stereo” is printed on the label and cover, but no-one actually could be bothered to reprocess it for stereo.

Here is how it started life Transition TRLP 10 – over $1500 on Popsike. Desirable!

Transition-TRLP10 Then the Chicago label Delmark  reissued it in the late ’60s.-  it is argued in fake stereo, or mono, and retitled it Sun Song. Not so desirable, this one has rarely ran to over $50. Sun Song original $59 My modern clone set me back only a tenner. It has no historical value, merely for playing. The likely manufacturer of these clones may well be,  I suspect as with  the Russian DOL, the giant Czech vinyl manufacturer GZ Media, They claim to be the largest manufacturer of vinyl records in the world, boasting a production level of  a staggering 10 million records a year, with a unit cost as low as 2 euros per LP – a fraction of the final selling price. Direct Metal Mastering technology, knowledge and experience in vinyl manufacture,  even make their own vinyl. If anyone can turn out decent copies for small change it is these people. Sun-Ra-Sun-Song-labels-1800-LJC Barcode on the back cover, giving it away as a facsimile of the Delmark design Sun-Ra--Sun-Sounds-Clone----back-1800-LJC Collectors Corner

I’m approaching Peak Sun Ra in terms of listening, but I can see the fascination  among hardened collectors. The most valuable Sun Ra record, according to Popsike, is the Saturn doo wop 45 single., followed closely by something I think more deserving of their price tag, a Pat Patrick private LP, then Saturn editions of Supersonic Jazz. Sun Ra popsike 1CaptureThe Transition first edition of Jazz/ Sun Song just squeezes into the top ten most expensive Sun Ra auctions. With no audiophile dimension, the only reason for skin in this game is lust for ownership of a rare artefact. Perfectly reasonable, and understandable motive, I’m good with that. And it is fitting that, as the year draws to a close, LJC should come up with a copy of a reissue of an original record. You can’t sink too low in search of good music.

________________________________________________________________________ Saturn Interplanetary Tourist Board Advisory

SoacetripadvisorIf you are planning to visit Saturn be sure to consult traveller reviews on Spacetripadvisor, including where to stay on Saturn, best places to eat, tips on getting around Saturn, and must-see destinations, such as The Rings and nearby moons of Titan and Phoebe. Get views and opinions  from other space travellers on the Saturn Forum, sign up for email alerts on cheap spaceflights, and check out our exclusive discounts on rocket-rental.

For further details write to: The Londonspacejazzcollector at Planet WordPress.

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To all my long-suffering readers, a Happy Christmas and a Jazzy New year,              from The Londonjazzcollector.

Professor Jazz


Jazz washes off the dust of everyday life

Art Blakey

Jazz on vinyl washes still better




Postscript: Delmark were as of the 2008 catalogue still selling vinyl records including DS 411  Sun Ra “Sun Song”, and interestingly, DS 414 Sound of Joy,  at $11.99

In Print Delmark LPs

So its entirely possible this is an “official” repress, though found among thirty or so other Sun Ra titles on a variety of supposed  labels, on the shelf at Honest Johns, Ladbroke Grove, all similarly modern mint and shrink-wrapped.

16 thoughts on “Sun Ra: Jazz/ Sun Song (1956) Delmark re-copy

  1. I was chatting with Bob today in Jazz Record Mart, and he confirmed that the current reissues, like yours, are from Delmark and are not clones. Both Sound of Joy and Sun Song have always been in print.


    • Thanks for confirmation – I guessed wrong. Delmark continue to produce vinyl of those earliest of Saturn recordings. “Sound of Joy” is proving very hard to come by. Our biggest stockist of Sun Ra is Honest Jon’s in Notting Hill, and that one flew off the shelf and hasn’t been seen since.


  2. Happy Holidays and thanks for a great 2014 I think your blog took a huge leap forward this year, from it’s already advanced position.

    As to this record, for what it’s worth, this may be an “official” reissue, as they are sold (in bunches) in the Jazz Record Mart, and while Bob sells 304 Park Aves and every other clone out there, I would be surprised if he sold “illegal” clones of his own records! (I’ll ask him the next time I’m in there). This and Sound of Joy are prominently featured in the store entrance next to Delmark CDs. So, perhaps the real thing. Anyway, you are not missing out on anything sound wise; I have an original Delmark Sound of Joy and directly A:B play-compared to a new bar code reissue, and they sound identical.

    Here’s to a great 2015!


  3. SUN SONG sounds extremely enjoyable — Saturnalian Ellingtonian via Czechoslovakia. Who would have guessed?

    Here’s to more jazz, more of the time in 2015. Best to all.


    • Best to you Alun, always appreciate the thoughts and recommendations, more than a few of which have pushed my interests out in unexpected but fruitful directions.

      The future lies ahead of us. Promises to be an exciting year, I can’t wait (though I guess I’ll have to)


      • It’s kind of you to say so, LJC.

        This cold morning Ran Blake’s SHORT LIFE OF BARBARA MONK is working its beautifully recorded, dark melancholy magic.


  4. Season’s greetings to you Andy and all the LJC readers. Santa delivered the Uncompromising Expression Blue Note 75th anniversary book and I was delighted to see you get more than a couple of name checks in the text.


    • Greetings , seasonally adjusted, Martin!. Three weekends of my life were dedicated to photography for that book, but it has come together really beautifully. It’s a thrilling, so much original material.

      It’s a shame the price of collectable Blue Note vinyl only seems to go one way – up, and the book probably won’t help. I haven’t added a title in many months, possibly longer. I look back at my mission – “collecting originals, on a budget” That budget doesn’t stretch far enough nowadays.



        • When you find the close-ups of van gelder etchings, and the Japanese obi-strips, you can say to your grandchildren, “I knew the guy who took those pictures, LJC” while they look blankly at you. Cheers and thanks for all your support.


  5. To comfort you:
    The Delmark sounds far better than the Transition.
    Thank you for all your efforts and information.Please keep going in 2015.
    Happy Xmas and New Year,


  6. a 24 page booklet with photos is included with Transition issue: there’s a pic of Sun Ra that looks like Red Garland. from snowless Alps in north-eastern Italy, my best wishes to all collectors.


    • I had a Japanese re-issue of the Sun Ra Transition album, with a facsimile booklet. The Delmark of LJC, with bar code, appears to be a re-issue of the US Delmark album, which was already a second issue (like my Japanese Transition). The music, in my very personal appreciation, is only so and so and leaves me luke-warm. Regarding Ellington in modern jazz, the prime example is “Mingus Dynasty”. One feels the Duke, still it is Mingus. Magistral. Definitely Sun Ra is not my cup of tea. Still I enjoy your posts.


  7. It is good to know that LJC is in orbit these days and enjoys interstellar life. Thank you so much for sharing your travel experiences with the crowd back on earth..
    From the snowless Alps I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


  8. What a lovely way to greet Christmas morning!
    Thanks very much for this and all of your stellar labor-of-love posts throughout the year.

    A warm Merry Christmas from Seattle,


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