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Sun Ra’s ‘Happy New Year to You’ doowop single (and a Christmas song too!)
12.28.2017
08:37 am
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Sun Ra’s ‘Happy New Year to You’ doowop single (and a Christmas song too!)


 
Sun Ra had his share of offbeat and amusing records—his Batman and Robin album and his limbo album spring to mind as typical (atypical?) Sun Ra curiosities.

Sun Ra was born Herman Poole Blount, but he was universally known as Sonny in the first decades of life. Sonny Blount moved from Birmingham, Alabama. to Chicago in 1945—it was there that his interest in Egyptology and Afrofuturism took root. On October 20, 1952, Blount had his name legally changed to Le Sony’r Ra. By this time his Arkestra was set up—in 1956 he founded his label El Saturn Records, a reference to a profound vision Sonny had experienced in which he visited a planet that he perceived to be Saturn, where creatures with “one little antenna on each ear” and “each eye” informed him that his mission was to speak to the world using through music, and that “the world would listen.” The aliens were well informed in this instance.

El Saturn released two LPs during the 1950s, Super-Sonic Jazz and Jazz In Silhouette, but before either of those, Sun Ra released an amusing doowop holiday single by a combo called the Qualities on Satur Records (sic). The single was super basic and clearly manufactured with the intention of making a quick buck. The A side was called “It’s Christmas Time” and the B side was called “Happy New Year to You.”

According to Anton Spice at the Vinyl Factory, the songs were recorded “at home.” Sun Ra is on the harmonium with “sparse backing from unknown players of guitar, bells and wood block.”

Both tracks sound as if they were recorded in single take (and indeed, probably within ten minutes of each other), but they are no less enjoyable for that. Norton Records reissued the single in 2011; it’s their packaging that you see at the top of this page; below is the way the singles looked in their 1950s releases. (There seems to be some confusion about the date of the recording. Norton Records uses O.G. packaging that asserts the year to be 1960—however, on Norton’s own website the descriptive text uses the year 1955. Meanwhile, Discogs says that it’s 1956.)

On that Vinyl Factory page, a single commenter has deigned to weigh in; fortunately “Local Mojo” thoroughly approves of the mellifluous tones of the Qualities’ endeavor: “This is, without doubt, the finest Christmas song ever recorded. Sun Ra may be the greatest American of all time.” As long as we’re sure to include the New Year’s ditty in with that, I see no reason to disagree.
 

 

 

 

 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Danna nanna nanna nanna SUN RAAAAAA: The space-jazz guru’s astounding ‘Batman and Robin’ LP
Sun Ra’s limbo album: ‘How low can you go?’

Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.28.2017
08:37 am
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