Sunday, February 2, 2020
DIGITAL RE-RELEASE OF SUN RA'S SOLAR-MYTH APPROACH, VOL.1
"New release from Sun Ra and His Solar-Myth Arkestra"
The Solar-Myth Approach Vol. 1
Sun Ra and His Solar-Myth Arkestra
The Solar-Myth Approach was first issued in 1971 as a double LP set on the French BYG/Actuel label, then repackaged as two stand-alone volumes in 1972. Founded in 1967, BYG was associated with the maverick arts journal Actuel. The label issued dozens of fascinating and groundbreaking free jazz, experimental, and psychedelic releases before a seemingly abrupt—and controversial—late-1972 bankruptcy. The pot-head pixies in the band Gong recalled that "during the making of [our album] Flying Teapot in January 1973, the band learned that the record company had gone bust, its Paris office stripped bare, no phones working. The band was abandoned at the Manor Studios midway through the album." The label died without a lawful successor—but not without litigation and lawsuits.
Sun Ra had licensed or sold the Solar-Myth recordings to BYG. (The terms of the agreement are unknown because no copy could be located for review, but the distinction between license and sale has been rendered moot by subsequent events. It's even possible there was never a written agreement. See below.) In the absence of any valid successor label claim, rights to both Solar-Myth albums reverted to the artist (and later, to his heirs). However, through a series of subterfuges, a label that rose from the ashes of BYG, Charly Records, founded by one of the BYG partners, assumed ownership of countless BYG releases without any provable chain-of-title. BYG and Charly are separate and unrelated companies with one overlapping principal on their letterheads. It's possible (we're agnostic) that some artists who appeared on BYG were later signed to Charly. Gong wasn't. Neither was Sun Ra. Search online and you'll find allegations of impropriety against Charly for non-payment of royalties, false ownership claims, infringement, and illicit releases. Besides Gong, plaintiffs and accusers included Nina Simone, George Clinton, Ian McLagan, and MCA Records. A number of these complaints went to court. According to a well-known indie rocker, "At the 2005 Ponderosa Stomp in Memphis, Syl Johnson went on a tirade from the stage about Charly putting out his music without proper authorization. His rant was so hilarious that I felt compelled to purchase the Charly CD from the merch stand after his set."
Since the demise of BYG, the Solar-Myth Approach albums have been reissued without legitimacy in a series of ever worsening-quality packages in various formats. The Charly reissues were inferior to the BYG originals (and displayed different cover art), and a dreadful off-pitch, out-of phase 2-CD bootleg appeared on the Fuel label in 2001.
On a qualitative level, this 2020 Cosmic Myth remastering from best-available sources (tapes and discs) constitutes an upgrade. Are they perfect? Of course not—these are Sun Ra recordings. But countless audio flaws—some dating from the original sessions, others from careless mastering—have been repaired.