Pharoah Sanders: Karma (1969) Impulse

Selection: The Creator has a Masterplan (Part 2)

.  .  .


The Creator Has a Master Plan – Part 1; & 2 (“Light Of Love”); Colors (5:43)


Pharoah Sanders, tenor saxophone; Reggie Workman, Richard Davis, bass; William Hart, drums; James Spaulding, flute; Julius Watkins, French horn; Nathaniel Betti, percussion; Lonnie L. Smith Jr., piano; Leon Thomas, vocals, percussion; engineer Bob Simpson; Producer, Bob Thiele.

Recorded February 14, 1969 (Master Plan); February 19, 1969 (Colours).  On Colours (YSMV, your spelling may vary), Ron Carter replaces Richard Davis, bass, Frederick Waits replaces William Hart, drums.

Sound engineer Bob Simpson frequently recorded Bob Thiele’s Impulse sessions where Van Gelder is absent, including with Mingus, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, Oliver Nelson, Chico Hamilton, and Elvin Jones. Simpson is associated with RCA Studio A, New York, (attributed by Discogs) though the studio is never mentioned in Impulse credits, reason unknown, possibly ABC didn’t want to credit rival RCA.

Music ♪♫♪♫♪

“The Creator has a Master Plan
Peace and Happiness for every man

The Creator makes but one demand
Peace and Happiness through all the land

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”

That’s it? That’s The Master Plan? Peace and Happiness, for Everyone? 

Yesss Sir. Everyone. Throughout the land. No-one’s disagreed with it so far. No-one has said, I like the sound of Happiness, I’m just not sure about Peace.  It’s a slam-dunk. 

Tell me, this Creator, does he have any kind of track record in Plan delivery – on time and within budget? Is there an Off-Plan option, like an opportunity to get in before the Master Plan is actually completed? Yeah, I guessed not.

What if I don’t like either, neither Peace nor Happiness?  What then?

You could always emigrate to Canada, Sir, it’s outside The Land. That’s an option. How’s your French? 

What if I decide I don’t like The Master Plan, can I send it back? 

Certainly, Sir. If not completely satisfied with Peace and Happiness, you can return The Plan before the end of the trial period. Normal life will be restored: War, Pestilence, along with Famine, Death, and Digital Audio.

Peace and Happiness sound great, count me in!

Terms and Conditions: Peace, Happiness and The Creator™ are registered trademarks of Now & Zen Productions Inc. Peace may not be available in all territories; exclusions apply.

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Prize Draw! A free chance to win the latest Toyota Karma Special Edition, featuring N-lightenment on-board “Spiritual Guidance System“, hands-free self-driving, with unlimited mileage. Just “Like” post to enter.


Karma, some love it, some loathe it. Canada’s Amazon verified-purchase reviewers have their say: 

Reviewed in Canada on 22 April 2019: 1.0 out of 5 stars “Don’t buy this album. Opening track is almost 33 mins. of the most annoying noise I have ever heard. Get some Art Pepper stuff and you will be happy.” One person found this helpful. (Laurie Pepper? Just askin’)
Reviewed in Canada on 2 June 2021; 5.0 out of 5 stars “Heavy and deep. Amazing artist that takes me far, far away to another world…love it!” (That would be another world far away from Canada. Understandable)
That’s the thing with music. There is just “it”. Someone liking or disliking “it” doesn’t tell me about “it”, but about them, about their listening tastes, it’s the same music. Which is why I don’t take too much notice of “likes” and “dislikes”, the universal currency of customer reviews. More likes = better music.  What I want is people to articulate what it is that they like or dislike about “it”. What is it about the music that annoys you, or that you love? Get started, reach for the words, tell me something I can use. 
LJC says:
Sander’s formula works through contrasting segments: a dramatic point of entry, the establishing passage, mounting intensity, rising to tumultuous distortion, exorcism via the brass tube, and a descending path back to peace. It works for me in a different way to conventionally structured jazz compositions and performance. It is life at a different pace, an escape room, and oddly therapeutic.
Leon Thomas’s yodeling I take light-heartedly. Pharoah wanted him on board, part of his artistic vision. It’s difficult to disagree with Peace and Happiness. Musically, it is like a relaxing soak in a spirit-cleansing warm bath, rather than a bracing cold shower, though I am not sure Pharoah would have approved of the description.

Vinyl ♥♥♥♥♥ AS-9181 – 2nd press

Stereo Impulse original; black/red rim label, Product of ABC Records Inc., Impulse ABC two-box logo 2x ®, gatefold, laminated cover, original inner sleeve. The ® and two-box give it away, pressed after the Impulse ABC registered trademark, and after the unified logo-box. (The first pressing fundamentalists are out in force today!)

Harry’s Place

Harry M always managed to be in the right place at the right time, the underappreciated part of photographer’s art, (admittedly a press pass helps) and captured Bob Thiele (right) in conversation with Claude Nobs, founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival (pictured at Montreux 1971). Also, Leon Thomas in performance, great portrait, cool hat, forgive the yodelling.

Photos © Harry M

Collector’s Corner

For collector’s reference, David B has sent in the first pressing label, with single box logo, no ®.


Also, a signed copy of a Pharoah concert at London’s Half Moon Theatre in1988, £8, no Cost-of-Listening Crisis then, but smoking prohibited.

An “Audiophile reissue” is around the corner: cost-of-listening crisis, a tad expensive? UPDATE: most likely a misprint by Juno – intended as £39.99 in line with other recent import AAA titles

Industry advance news: “It was announced that the late Pharoah Sanders classic 1969 album Karma will be pressed on 180-gram black vinyl as part of Verve/UMe’s Acoustic Sounds, an acclaimed audiophile vinyl reissue series. The LP is set to be mastered by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound from analog tapes, overseen by Acoustic Sounds’ CEO Chad Kassem and released on Dec. 16, 2022.”

Sigh.. .”Mastered … from analog tapes” Oh whoopee, mastered from analog tapes. Not “from the original tapes“? Could be just sloppy writing, like the 180-gram schtick, or a more sinister cover up.  A counsel of perfection, I know, but I expect people who write for a living to use words with more care. However, this is the music industry. 

Ryan K Smith seems Sterling Sound’s answer to Kevin Gray, and what I have heard sounds pretty good. I won’t be in the running myself. As some people have commented on the Hutcherson Stick Up! title, if you are happy with what you already have, no need to rush out for the reissue. Comments welcome from collectors after the release of Karma. 

Personally, I am still looking for Tauhid, Pharoah’s only Van Gelder recorded and mastered title for Impulse, at a reasonable price. No sign. Bummer. 


17 thoughts on “Pharoah Sanders: Karma (1969) Impulse

  1. Atop the American dollar’s back, sits the pyramid and eye. Jazz had to die for the dollar. That must have been part of this plan. Not saying this is bad, but it simmers with little boil.


  2. Please keep in mind, all the Impulse! Master Tapes were destroyed in a warehouse fire at Universal Studios (See the NY Times story ‘The day the music burned’), so mastering ‘From Analog Tapes’ is better than the digital files that Universal has on hand. I heard the Ray Charles was done from a tape found in his estate, complete with brail on the reel to reel box! Better a first generation than a digital file, I imagine!


  3. In case you might have missed the listing, there a rare Tubby Hayes documentary on TV tonight/tomorrow at 3.40 am called Tubby Hayes: A Man in a Hurry, on the Channel, London Live, Freeview 8, Sky 117, Virgin 159.
    Sorry to be so late – I’ve just spotted it. Maybe consider setting a recorder.


  4. Bob Simpson also did a great job by engineering tijuana moods and the 3 impulse sessions by Mingus.
    Tauhid was Pharoah’s favorite Pharoah on impulse because he happened to have free hand in music choice and so forth


  5. There is also a version with the logos double boxed together without the (R) copyright symbols that was released earlier. I believe the separated boxes with copyright marks was released later.


      • No hubris. Plenty of pages here about first v. second pressings. Particularly the John Coltrane “A Love Supreme” without label matrices but identical labels to simultaneously pressed variant with label matrices (-A/-B) that is somehow considered a second pressing although pressed at the same time by different plants. Who knows for sure, right? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Little more than a year passed between the single box logo first pressing of Karma (late summer 1969) and the introduction of the ® two-box label (in around Autumn 1970). Who held stocks of which Impulse labels, when more labels were printed, and who pressed how many copies, and when, is unknown. We don’t know what actually happened, but we do know the label design changed, prima facie evidence of one copy using an earlier printed label than another. For me, this is not a hill worth dying on.


        • “…“A Love Supreme” without label matrices but identical labels to simultaneously pressed variant with label matrices (-A/-B) that is somehow considered a second pressing although pressed at the same time by different plants…”

          This is something that I’ve often considered as the version with no “-A/-B” has matte labels, which is considered a later attribute, while the version with “-A/-B” has semi-gloss labels, which is considered an earlier attribute.


        • I bought a copy of A Love Supreme recently on 1970 s UK Impulse . I didn’t have my phone to check LJC ,as I always do.

          Mistake! It sounded really poor , even through my recently upgraded speakers. Fortunately ,the shop took it back and gave a refund.

          I see now that LJC have warned about these Impulse re issues.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. The flyer in each AS jacket and their site state: “mastered from the original analogue master tapes”. And I know that doesn’t therefore say “cut from”. Chad has stated many times that they are and especially so since the Mofi debacle. I know, I know, it would be better if it was written that way but it is what it is and I’m happy this series is ‘all analogue from the original master tapes’ with no digital step; If you are going to knock reissues it would be worth a little research time. Clearly Juno have cocked up their pricing as I’ve the AS version on order from Amazon for £35.55 or less.


  7. Must be karma but I listened to two alternative versions of this last night.

    Norman Collins from the LP You Are My Starship and Jef Gilson’s version from a Jazzman compilation LP The Best Of..

    Despite the Collins LP being almost disco schmaltz in large parts the rendition of Master Plan is quite true to the original but sans yodelling. Must admit I find it difficult to take Leon’s contribution, light-heartedly or otherwise.

    Pharoah’s original used two bass players Richard Davis and Reggie Workman, Connors’.version also has two but not quite of the same quality.

    Gilson’s version is much rougher, recorded I think in Madagascar with a band of itinerant ring tailed lemurs, or maybe some local musicians.

    Wiki says that Thomas’ yodelling was inspired by African pygmies, I think I prefer the lemurs.


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