Drawn from private collections around the world, this is the first comprehensive collection of the Saturn label’s printed record covers, along with hundreds of the best hand-designed, one-of-a-kind sleeves and disc labels decorated by Sun Ra and members of his Arkestra.
Considered the foremost exponent of Afrofuturism, Sun Ra mastered a wide array of styles that spanned jazz, R&B, exotica, Afro-hybrids, electronic, big band, solo piano, orchestral, experimental, and chamber works. In his 45-year recording career, he issued an epic number of albums and he was one of the first Black musicians to own an independent label, which he named Saturn, after the planet on which he claimed to have been born. The covers of Saturn LPs, issued from 1957 to 1988, are iconic—some rolled off commercial printing presses but many were hand-crafted. These records were sold at concerts, club dates, and by mail order. As collectibles, original handmade Saturn covers sell for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. More than just packaging for a slab of vinyl, they are works of art in their own right.
Sun Ra: Art on Saturn is the first comprehensive collection of all Saturn printed covers, along with hundreds of the best hand-designed, one-of-a-kind sleeves and disc labels, decorated by Ra himself and members of his Arkestra. Essays by Sun Ra catalog preservationist Irwin Chusid, noted Ra scholar John Corbett, and Glenn Jones, who in the 1970s signed Ra to a distribution deal that put countless homemade covers into circulation, add unique insights into the interplanetary life and work of Sun Ra and his Saturn partner Alton Abraham.
Historians have written extensively about Sun Ra and his music. This book is a tribute to the covers and to the uncredited visual artists and their rich imaginations. From the simple to the baroque to the absurd, the covers that sheathed Ra's discs reflect the tenaciousness of a genius who refused to compromise or relinquish control of his destiny.
About the Author
Le Sony'r Ra, better known as Sun Ra (1914-1993), was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, and poet known for his experimental music, "cosmic" philosophy, prolific output, and theatrical performances.
Irwin Chusid is a journalist, music historian, radio personality and self-described “landmark preservationist" based in Hoboken, NJ. Since 1975, Chusid has been a DJ on free-form radio station WFMU in New Jersey and he is the author of Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music. He has produced landmark reissues of the music of composer/bandleader/electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott, Space Age Pop avatar Esquivel, the Langley Schools Music Project, and has salvaged the careers of now-celebrated icons like Jim Flora.
Chris Reisman is a longtime record collector and proprietor of Hudson Valley Vinyl in Beacon, NY.