Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Arthur Lee And Love-The Classic Years

The Velvet Underground of the Los Angeles music scene, Arthur Lee and Love made some of the more different styles of albums that was part of that long ago and far away 60s.  The first album was a Byrds tribute all the way through, but with Lee's oddball lyrics this side of Bob Dylan.  Before the CD era happened, only Forever Changes remained in print whereas everything else came and went, you could get them via imports.  They were originally The Grassroots but since a certain band had that name and was making AM pop hits, a name change was in order and Lee settled for Love.

The first Love album was, as mentioned before a Byrds tribute album all the way down to the chimey 12 string guitar work but they had a minor garage rock hit with a cover of My Little Red Book.  Bryan MacLean would write one song or two and covered a classic garage rock song like Hey Joe, which was better than The Byrds version to these ears but pales next to the Leaves version. The album would sound pretty good after the likes of Turn Turn Turn or Mr. Tambourine Man.

Arthur and company would make a great 2nd album, with side A the best songs but side B gave us the overlong jam that was Revelation, a lotta people hated it, I can listen to it from time to time but it was Side 1 with Stephanie Knows Who, with a prog like break in the middle of the song and who thought of playing a harpsichord through the song (Genius!). TJ Canterrelli adds horns and gives more music personality on Orange Skies and She Comes In Colors but the standouts remain a blistering 7 + 7 = ? and the moody The Castle.

Lee topped himself with Forever Changes, an album that was much more different than the Byrds tribute first album and the experiments of Da Capo and going with a more acoustic guitar sound and David Angel's arrangements. New drummer Mike Stuart (who was on Da Capo) added a steady beat to the odd time changes of The Daily Planet or House Is Not A Home.  Forever Changes is that perfect album, from start to finish every song is worthy of a place on the record concluding You Set The Scene to which the finale may have been Lee's way of saying that this OTT ending would be the end of the original Love.

MacLean left, and Arthur Lee would dismiss the rest of the band in favor of a more striped down and more rock and funk version of Love and Four Sail and Out There was the end result. In some ways, Lee was turning Love more into what Jimi Hendrix was doing with his band and what fan based he got with Forever Changes, he lost on Four Sail and Out There.  For me, Four Sail was their least interesting, it may have been the poor mix or recording although Singing Cowboy is the best example of what Lee was trying to achieve.  Out There, was issued through the new Blue Thumb label and has some of the better songs (I Still Wonder, Doggone before the 11 minute drum solo put everybody to sleep, Stand Out (a song that Lee liked so much he remade it on False Start), Better Late Than Never which goes into a 10 minute Gary Rowles  guitar freakout).  But as a 2 record set it's all over the map.  False Start, has Gary Rowles taking over for Jay and best known song The Everlasting First has Jimi Hendrix playing guitar although the song itself isn't that great. The rest of the album is so so.

Lee would disband that version of Love (except to revive it in 1982 for a spell), made a solo album that I never heard but made one more go around with a new version of Love, to which became more of a R and B band, somewhat in the Sly and Family Stone Vibe. While reviews of Real To Reel was blah, I liked it better than False Start with a good cover of Be Thankful Of What You Got, a soulful Singing Cowboy but the track I remembered most was Everybody's Gotta Live, which got some airplay on the radio for a time. Out of all the Love albums, this has yet to see the light of day on CD, but hardly anybody knows about it except for the hardcore. Even the Rhino/Elektra best ofs simply have ignored it.

In 1982, MCA put out a cheapo comp Studio/Live  to which one side was live and the other side were selected songs off Out There (with a edited version of Doggone without drum solo, and Better Late Than Never without guitar solo, edits done by Leon Tsilis-who says the live part came from the 1970 Fillmore concert).

In the 1990s Elektra did reissue the first three albums on CD, but the first generation Forever Changes CD suffered from a bad mastering job (Alone Again Or and the Daily Planet suffered from this) but later Rhino reissued the whole album and the sound was much better.  An extensive 2 CD set Love Story combines most of the hits as well as side 1 of Da Capo and all of Forever Changes plus selected stuff from the Blue Thumb albums.  The Best Of Love is a good introduction but really the first three albums are worth getting on their own.  Later in life, Arthur Lee would reform Love and go on tour before he passed away, but John Echols continues with his own tribute band Love Revisited, Michael Stuart-Ware did perform on some 2009 dates.  But even after the passings of Lee and MacLean, the Love legacy continues.  They were ahead of the times but after Four Sail, Lee either fell behind or just contented to do simple rock and funk.  But no denying the fact, that Love was blazing their own trail in the 60s.


Love (Elektra 1966) A-
Da Capo (Elektra 1967) A
Forever Changes (Elektra 1968) A+
Four Sail (Elektra 1969) B-
Out There (Blue Thumb 1969) B+
False Start (Blue Thumb 1970) B
Best Of Love (Elektra 1981) B+
Studio/Live (MCA 1982) C+
Love Story (Elektra/Rhino 1995) A-

Love Lost (Sundazed 2009) B
Black Beauty (Buffalo 1972, reissued Blue Moon Records 2012) NR
Reel To Real (RSO 1974)  B+  (The only LP not on released on CD)