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Mort Garson's Journey to the Moon and Beyond, long presumed lost, came to light when an archivist came across a copy of the master tape while going through the archives of the late poet Rod McKuen.Handout

On July 20, 1969, famed CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite waxed poetic about the significance of the lunar landing: “The least of us is improved by the things done by the best of us,” he said, “because if we are not able to land at least we are able to follow.”

As part of the network’s broadcast, ebullient synthesized music composed and performed by Canada’s Mort Garson soundtracked the momentous Apollo 11 achievement: Astronauts had landed on the moon; Garson had landed on the Moog.

Fifty-four years later, Garson’s space symphony has finally returned to Earth. The audio was presumed lost until archivist Andy Zax came across a copy of the master tape while going through the archives of the late poet Rod McKuen. The six-minute Moon Journey is the zero-gravity centrepiece of Journey to the Moon and Beyond, an esoteric collection of resurfaced electronic music from Garson, a Saint John native who embraced the exciting capabilities of the Moog synthesizer, which debuted in 1964.

The album, put together by New York’s Sacred Bone Records, arrived last month, exactly one day after both the anniversary of one small step and what would have been Garson’s 99th birthday.

In a digital age when music is more accessible than ever, the reappearance of music thought to have disappeared, or the release of an album long stashed away in a vault, holds a special kind of magic for completists and casual fans alike.

Neil Young in particular has obliged his followers in the past few years by issuing a steady stream of live albums recorded in his prime and by finally releasing “lost” studio albums including Hitchhiker (in 2017), Homegrown (2020) and Toast (2022).

This week sees the release of Chrome Dreams, originally scheduled to come out in 1977 but shelved for reasons known only to the maestro from Omemee. (A sequel, Chrome Dreams II was released way back in 2007.) “Quite often I’ll record things that don’t fit with what I’m doing,” Young once said, “so I just hold onto them for a while.”

But where Young’s vault emptying has been well-received, the fascination is mostly held by rock critics and obsessive fans. The stories that resonate more broadly involve forgotten music from obscure artists whose careers are often revived by the reappearance of music from the past.

The 2020 reissue of 1982′s Disco Jazz, recorded on a whim at the University of Calgary during a holiday trip, sparked new interest in India’s Rupa Biswas. In the same way, the 2017 reissue of 1986′s Keyboard Fantasies (originally limited to a release of 200 cassettes) gave new life to Beverly Glenn-Copeland, a U.S.-born, Canada-based trans icon and electronic music pioneer. Copeland just released Ones Ahead, his first new studio LP in almost 20 years.

As for Garson, his profile was posthumously raised by the 2019 reissue of Mother Earth’s Plantasia, an ambient album designed to be experienced by plants. Prior to his discovery of the Moog device, the Julliard-trained composer/musician/arranger worked with pop crooners such as Bobby Darin and Doris Day. He also wrote the music to Our Day Will Come, a No. 1 hit for the R&B group Ruby & the Romantics in 1962.

With the release of Journey to the Moon and Beyond and the reissue of Mother Earth’s Plantasia (both by Sacred Bones Records), Garson’s day has come once again.

Upon its original 1976 release, the cult classic Mother Earth’s Plantasia was only available to those who bought a house plant from a store called Mother Earth in Los Angeles or a Simmons mattress from a Sears outlet. (What might seem bizarre today made perfect sense in the seventies.)

In addition to the single Moon Journey, the just-out Journey to the Moon and Beyond contains the end-credit music to the Fred Williamson-starring blaxploitation film Black Eye, various advertising jingles and the exotic soundtrack to the 1970s National Geographic special, Zoos of the World.

Last week in Washington, three former military officials told Congress they believed the U.S. government knows more about unidentified flying objects than it has let on publicly. Garson’s funky Captain DJ Disco UFO (Pt II) makes a compelling case for full disclosure.

New lost albums and live recordings from the vaults

Rumours Live, by Fleetwood Mac (Rhino) Now here we go again, Stevie Nicks and company see the crystal vision. Recorded in 1977 at the Forum in Los Angeles at the height of band’s fame, creative power and romantic complexities, the album will be released on Sept. 8. The 18-song performance, which concentrates on a self-titled LP from 1975 and the blockbuster Rumours, includes a live version of Dreams.

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John Coltrane performs with Eric Dolphy in 1961. An archival recording of the two jazz greats (below) was recently discovered and released.Herb Snitzer/Handout

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Evenings at the Village Gate, by John Coltrane with Eric Dolphy (Impulse!) Four years after the surprise release of Blue World (37 minutes of soundtrack jazz that the legendary saxophonist provided for the 1964 National Film Board feature Le chat dans le sac), another Coltrane archival recording sees the light of day. The tapes from 1961 feature a lineup that included McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman, Elvin Jones and fellow sax phenom Dolphy. The recording was recently discovered at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and released last month.

Chrome Dreams, by Neil Young (Reprise) The dozen songs recorded between 1974 and 1977 have already found their way onto other Young albums in one form or another, including Sedan Delivery and three that ended up on another shelved album from the same era, Hitchhiker. The 77-year-old rock troubadour recently completed an 11-date tour of California, Oregon and Washington, his first extended jaunt since the pandemic.

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Nina Simone in concert at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1966, a performance that until recently went unreleased.New York Daily News Archive/Handout

You’ve Got To Learn, by Nina Simone (Verve) The previously unreleased recording of the American singer and civil-rights activist’s performance at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival had been donated by festival founder George Wein to the Library of Congress. The six-song collection includes Simone’s first-ever recordings of Music For Lovers and Blues For Mama. She adapts the lyrics of Mississippi Goddam to include a mention of Watts, Calif., where riots had erupted the previous year.

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