Why so many covers in Ra's later years?

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#1 Thu, 1995-01-19 10:38
J Johnson
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Why so many covers in Ra's later years?

In listening to Ra's recorded output, I have noticed that there is a distinct point where the new material stops and the live playing of covertunes takes over. Not that I mind the covers (Prelude to a Kiss, King Porter Stomp) and the Ra "standards" (We Travel the Spaceways, Interplanetary Music, ect.), but I seem more attracted to the original material he composed on such LPs as Atlantis and Night of the Purple Moon and I guess I'm frustrated that this kind of originality seemed to slow down a bit in the later years. By and large, the set- up becomes very familiar from the late 70s/early 80s onward, as many of the latest CD releases on Leo/Black Saint and others have shown. I know Ra felt that he was a bridge between the composers of old and the composers of the future, so I see why he made it a point to play the covers, but on the other hand, he didn't deviate from those tunes after a certain point, with the exception of the A&M albums in the 80s. The Disney tunes were covers too. I am not mentioning this as criticism, rather I am wondering what it was that caused this turn. Was it easier for the Arkestra to get gigs playing more covers? Were there a lot of new compositions around that just were not recorded or played live? If so, why were they held back? Or, was there a lack of new material? I'm glad to have the live gigs coming out on CD but I sometimes feel like I'm hearing the same thing over and over again once I reach a certain point- I don't get the same bang from Destination Unknown as I get from A Magic City for instance. I'd welcome any comments on this.

JJ

Jim Johnson jjohnson@alston.cba.ua.edu