Celestial Love contains recordings made in September 1982 at New York’s Variety Studios, which had hosted countless Sun Ra sessions since the late 1960s. This was one of the last extended sessions at Variety, and these recordings were the last studio works released on Sun Ra’s own Saturn label (though the label did continue to press concert recordings, and new studio recordings did appear on other labels). Aside from their inclusion on Celestial Love, tracks from these sessions landed on the albums A Fireside Chat With Lucifer and Nuclear War. Since Nuclear War’s contents overlapped with both Fireside Chat and Celestial Love, we have reconstituted the latter two as complete albums, thus covering all titles from these Variety dates.
The music on Celestial Love is mostly “inside” Ra, veering towards mainstream jazz (the lengthy and adventurous “Fireside Chat,” not on this album, being an exception). Ra’s early hero, Duke Ellington, is represented twice with “Sophisticated Lady” and “Drop Me Off in Harlem,” and two other standards (“Smile” and “Sometimes I’m Happy,” both sung by June Tyson) are given snappy Ra arrangements.
The album contains the only known recordings of “Celestial Love” and “Blue Intensity.” “Interstellarism” is a reinvention of “Interstellar Low Ways,” a composition Ra first recorded in 1959 (with reed stalwarts John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, who are on this version 23 years later). “Nameless One #2,” a blues workout, is reprised on “Nameless One #3.” (“Nameless One #1” has apparently not been written, but could yet arrive from a distant galaxy.)
Though Sun Ra was renowned for outrageous music and performances, Celestial Love is a reminder that he was a man of many moods, with a deep respect for jazz history. His embrace of Futurism never implied a rejection of the past. Even rocket ships were constructed with raw materials discovered eons ago.