Sun Ra - Nuclear War (Full Album)

Sun Ra - Nuclear War

I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to talk about one of my favorite Sun Ra songs, "Nuclear War.

I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to talk about one of my favorite Sun Ra songs, "Nuclear War. In comparison to much of Ra's work, the instrumentation for this piece is incredibly bare bones. The song only features Ra's electric piano and Samarai Celestial's drums, in contrast to Ra's often bombastic horn parts.

Ra probably used such simple instrumentation to ensure the focus would remain on the lively, bluesy, call and response chants between Ra and his Arkestra. The track has an excellent mid-tempo dance feel that makes the vulgarity and dark humor go down easier. Even with the vulgar lyrics, I would still consider this one of Ra's more accessible songs.

The track starts out with Ra singing "Nuclear War? Then Ra adds more detail, describing nuclear war as "motherfucker don't you know" something that none of us will disagree with. Then the chant finishes with "if they push that button, your ass gotta go" The Arkestra again offering dispassionate comedic backing vocals. For the next six minutes, we hear variations on this basic chant, with Ra talking about the different aspects of nuclear war.

From the effects of the explosion blasting you "so high in the sky, you can kiss your ass goodbye," the burnt trees and grass caused by the hellfire, and the mutations caused by the radioactive fallout. Most songs talking about how our impending doom could come in three seconds would sound menacing, but Ra's delivery and the light funk backing keeps it from feeling bogged down.

Ra's keyboard comping and Celestials slight variations on the beat also help keep the song from feeling repetitive despite the long-time stamp. The backing call and response vocals shift from going "yeah" to repeating Ra's lines. The majority of the track features Ra and the Arkestra riffing on the main chant, with variations in energy and phrasing. My favorite part of the song is at 4: This acapella section features a false ending, Ra with the choir following him sings, "goodbye farewell" and cuts to white noise.

Then a vocalist sings a single word "and" to restart the track for 20 seconds. Ra and the Arkestra passionately screaming the second part of the main chant, before the song finally ends. It's interesting to hear Ra, who followed a personal philosophy of optimistic Afrofuturism, sing about a dystopian future. Perhaps by , he lost his optimism toward the world, and now the futuristic world where you "Do what you want, be what you want to be" from 's Space is the Place seems more distant.

On both albums, "Nuclear War" was paired with its twin "Retrospect. Like "Nuclear War" it starts with an electric piano, but that soon is replaced by a creeping horn ostinato.

Unlike the previous track, this song is entirely instrumental and is much freer with several solos. Tenor saxophonist John Gilmore provides a melancholy dissident solo, while Ra adds accents with his synthesizer.

Ra then comes in playing a solo on electric organ, sounding like a Jimmy Smith gone mad. The two trade solos throughout the song, before the piece, ends in a chaotic barrage of organ notes from Ra. Both albums that these tracks are paired on are worth a listen.

A Fireside Chat with Lucifer, on the other hand, is defined by chaotic free improvisation at its highest level. Although it's enjoyable, I feel like Nuclear War's tracks fit together more. If nuclear war does engulf us, you can find me drinking a shot of whiskey with this song blaring in the background.

Nuclear War Lyrics: Nuclear war / Yeah / Nuclear war...
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