This is the great late-night Sun Ra chillout album you never knew about. The band had been working in a more groove-oriented setting off and on for over a year, as evidenced by the albums Lanquidity and On Jupiter, with both featuring prominent electric bass and electric guitar. Sleeping Beauty picks up right where On Jupiter left off, with the gentle, swaying "Springtime Again" echoing the same mellow vibe of "Seductive Fantasy" from On Jupiter. A skittering intro coalesces as different instruments pick up bits of the melody, which is then fully expressed by the horn section and ensemble vocals. It's a simple two-chord vamp, with beautiful solos that seem to embody the reawakening and rebirth of springtime. "The Door of the Cosmos" starts with a gospel-like chant and handclaps, with comments from Ra's electric piano and electric guitar. A strong bassline enters, very reminiscent of "A Love Supreme, Pt. 1: Acknowledgement," but the accompanying chant celebrates the mysteries of the unknown rather than the universal truth of A Love Supreme. This track builds in intensity, but never loses its groove or becomes nearly as raucous as the Arkestra is sometimes known for. "Sleeping Beauty" is the album centerpiece, taking up all of side two. Ra's beautiful electric piano gets things rolling, and the band falls into a peaceful groove before the vocals enter, led by the wonderful June Tyson. These songs are all built on the simplest of structures, and the playing from everyone is understated and sublime. Sleeping Beauty is truly a high point in an unwieldy discography, and something of an anomaly at the same time. There's a good reason copies of this album go for several hundred dollars on the collector's market, but it really deserves a proper release so more people can hear it. Outstanding. ~ Sean Westergaard
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