Sun Ra – When Angels Speak of Love (1966/2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 01:07:53 minutes | 634 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Cosmic Myth Records
Originally issued back in 1966 ‘When Angels Speak of Love’ shows Sun Ra and his ever-morphing Arkestra on top ‘out’ form, as he plays gong and pianoforte against cavernous echo effects which become yet another instrument in his repertoire. The liner notes comment on how conscious he was that his music wasn’t ‘free’ (‘because nobody is free’), but you’d be forgiven for lumping this in with Albert Ayler and such other greats of free music. It’s odd but in the last twenty years we’ve seen Sun Ra increasingly mentioned when talking about psychedelic music and when listening to a record as open minded and exploratory as ‘When Angels Speak of Love’ it does indeed transcend the jazz genre and become something else entirely, maybe having more in common with psychedelic or progressive rock than one might usually think. Sure Sun Ra was on his own plain, doing things his own way, but his compositions and improvisations have had so much influence on the genres we are now obsessed with – Sunburned Hand of the Man, Vibracathedral Orchestra, No Neck Blues Band, it would be hard to imagine any of these guys without the great Sun Ra having pioneered the sound early on. A gorgeous collection of still extraordinary and totally out-of-time music…
When Angels Speak of Love, released in 1966 on Sun Ra’s Saturn label, is a rarity, there having been limited pressings (150 copies, by one estimate), which were sold thru the mail and at concerts and club dates. The tracks were taped in New York during two 1963 sessions at the Choreographer’s Workshop, a rehearsal space/recording den with warehouse acoustics. Ra spent countless hours at the CW from 1961 to 1964 sharpening the Arkestra during exhaustive musical huddles. John Corbett calls this “one of the most continuous, best-documented periods of Ra’s work”; much tape from these seminal sessions has survived and been issued on LP, CD and digitally.
William Ruhlmann at AllMusic observed, “Sun Ra’s music is often described as being so far outside the jazz mainstream as to be less a challenge to it than a largely irrelevant curiosity. But When Angels Speak of Love is very much within then-current trends in jazz as performed by such innovators as John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. Walter Miller’s trumpet on ‘The Idea of It All,’ for example, indicates he’d been listening to Miles Davis, even as John Gilmore’s squealing tenor suggests Coltrane; and, on ‘Ecstasy of Being,’ what John Corbett calls Danny Davis’ ‘excruciated alto’ suggests Coleman. Ra himself plays busy, seemingly formless passages that are reminiscent of Cecil Taylor. This is a Sun Ra album that is more conventionally unconventional than most, with tracks you could program next to those of his 1960s contemporaries and have them fit right in.”
Known Saturn LP copies of When Angels Speak were pressed in mono (as was a CD on Evidence), but stereo versions of three tracks have surfaced. Two (the title track and an abridged version of “Next Stop Mars”) were included on a 1989 Blast First/Restless Records release. In 2016, a stereo “Celestial Fantasy” was discovered in Michael D. Anderson’s Sun Ra Music Archive on a session reel.
The mono version of “Next Stop Mars” clocks in at 18 minutes, but the stereo version just 12. Rather than having been cut for space constraints (Ra would have scoffed at the notion that space has constraints), the abridgement might be Ra revisionism. The bandleader was involved with the BF/RR project, having provided tapes (the whereabouts of which are now unknown). The fade is organic, occurring during a rumbling piano sustain after the band stops playing. Perhaps Ra exercised a composer’s prerogative, having decided that from a vantage point of 26 years’ reflection, the piece had climaxed at the 12-minute mark (or that by 1989 advanced interplanetary rocketry had helped the Arkestra more quickly reach Mars).
We found pitch and speed differences between mono and stereo mixes. In fact, there were pitch variations within particular versions—the mono “Celestial Fantasy” alters pitch in the final 40 seconds. For this digital edition, all pitch variants have been roughly normalized (if the word “normal” can apply to anything associated with Sun Ra). But we extend a caveat: if you’re hypersensitive to pitch, don’t listen to Sun Ra.
01. Sun Ra Arkestra – Celestial Fantasy (Saturn mono) (05:50)
02. Sun Ra Arkestra – The Idea of It All (Saturn mono) (07:29)
03. Sun Ra Arkestra – Ecstasy of Being (Saturn mono) (09:50)
04. Sun Ra Arkestra – When Angels Speak of Love (Saturn mono) (04:32)
05. Sun Ra Arkestra – Next Stop Mars (Saturn mono) (17:56)
06. Sun Ra Arkestra – Celestial Fantasy (stereo, previously unreleased) (05:48)
07. Sun Ra Arkestra – When Angels Speak of Love (stereo) (04:24)
08. Sun Ra Arkestra – Next Stop Mars (stereo edit) (12:00)