Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5
(both 5's for the title track)
After all that talk about Sun Ra back in the Brother Ahh review, I feel like we need to take a look at some of Mr. Ra's music on its own terms. This album is not really one of his best, but as far as I know it's extraordinarily rare. I don't even know what the cover looks like for this one. That's part of the mystique, though. Although Sun Ra left for Saturn (i.e. died) almost 15 years ago, there's at least two or three of his recordings that are reissued every year, and most of them had absurdly low production runs on their original release, so they might as well be new. Space Probe is one that's still waiting to be properly unearthed.
The title track is by far the star of the show here. The 18-minute track features Sun Ra alone except for an arsenal of Minimoogs. If you're familiar with his 70's work, you will understand that this is a good thing. Ra coaxes sounds out of these machines that really do seem to plunge into the depths of interstellar space and sound positively ahead of its time even thirty years later. If you want to consider this track on its own, feel free to crank up both the quality and trip-o-meter ratings to a 5.
The other tracks here don't suck, but I'd rank them as a typical Sun Ra holding pattern. "Primitive" is a short percussive overture with a touch of clarinet bouncing off the walls. This leads into "The Conversion of J.P.," which is pretty much more of the same percussive template, except five times as long, and featuring some abstract, almost R&B sounding, acoustic piano playing from the Sun one.
This album is far from entry level Sun Ra. For that, I'd advise you to search for the still in print Space is the Place (Impulse) or maybe We Travel the Spaceways. Granted those two albums are already worlds apart in sound. However, if you've already been indoctrinated into Sun Ra's spaceship, you know that 18 minutes of Moog-ing Ra is an absolute necessity, and you'll need to hear this.