Ellis recorded Music from Other Galaxies and Planets (1977) after returning from a hiatus caused by a severe heart condition. With this new ensemble – appropriately named "Survival" – Ellis covers very little new musical territory on the release, which has become maligned by many Ellis fans. However, according to Hank Levy, the album is the result of hasty decisions made by Ellis's new label Atlantic Records.
Prior to its release, Atlantic had agreed to commit the funds necessary to send the Ellis Orchestra to the 1978 Montreux Jazz
Festival for a new live recording and an ensuing tour. In anticipation for the festival, Ellis began feverishly preparing and rehearsing new compositions that would ultimately appear on the live recording at
Montreux. However, in the middle of Ellis's preparation, Atlantic demanded that Ellis record a version of the popular main theme to Star Wars by John Williams in order to capitalize on the commercial success of the film. Ellis complied and recorded an arrangement of the theme as a single, with "Princess Leia's Theme" on side B. Atlantic then expressed concern that the single could potentially receive significant radio airplay, and there would be no associated album to sell in order to capitalize on its popularity. Thus, prior to Montreux, Ellis was compelled to compose new selections – not duplicating any of those slated for the live recording at the festival.
Ellis completed the compositions and recording of the new album in a matter of days.
The result was Ellis's most-commercial and least-inspired recording of his career.