Whatever it was that sparked Sun Ra to investigate the funk between 1976 and 1979, we should all be thankful that he did. Having explored dreamy languid rhythms before ? with off?key arrangements and chants on records like New Steps, Lanquidity, Of Mythic Worlds, and Disco 3000 ? On Jupiter sees Sun Ra really flexing his funk muscles, stretching the group like a rubber band. Blissful flanged guitar threads its way throughout the title track, and Ra throws up piano chords and vamps all over an upfront, but fragmented bass pulse. But while the Arkestra might be getting their oblique grind on in the rhythm section, the music still carries those cosmic messages from the stars. Just as Ra transplanted the big band traditions of Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington into his own cosmic vision, here he takes the back beat of funk and disco, and teleports it into another dimension.
Despite revamping the current musical trends, the emotional core of this LP is something that Sun Ra never forgot. There is a story that when they were rehearsing [UFO], some of the musicians complained when Sonny asked them to listen to examples of currently popular disco records: “This is some hokey shit, Sonny”, they said. “This hokey shit is somebody’s hopes and dreams,” he chided them. Don’t be so hip!"
Something else to note on this singular LP is the way it’s been mixed. Michael Ray, the horn player, was sent back to the Arkestra base by Sun Ra during the mixing session, and returned with “a handful of tapes”, with which he then dubbed all kinds of percussion, guitar, and vocals into the studio mix ? bringing another ghostly, spacey element to the layers. This album stands out in one of Sun Ra’s most exciting creative periods, and it’s incredible to think of Ra, then in his mid?60’s, still pushing the group to further heights, and taking no prisoners. As he chants on UFO: "I know you got a hiding place, somewhere deep in outer space! Watch out! "