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"I play the part of a leecher, no one cares for me"
|Main Category:||Lush Pop|
|Also applicable:||Rhythm & Blues, Folk Rock, Psychedelia, Hard Rock|
|Starting Period:||The Psychedelic Years|
|Also active in:||The Artsy/Rootsy Years|
Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of a Love fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Love fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.
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Browsing through the actual reviews, people, and especially the kind of Love fans who consider Arthur Lee to be the coolest person to identify with, might get the wrong impression that I really hate the band and have established this page for a prime example of an exceedingly bad Sixties pop ensemble. That is definitely not so. The critical and sometimes sarcastic tone (so help me, I'm human!) is more of a counter-reaction to the kind of recent hype that has the obvious intention to re-instate Love as one of the BEST bands of the psychedelic epoch, California's near-adequate answer to the Beatles, Cream, Hendrix, and the Zombies all in one. The usual story - a band seriously underappreciated in its time, overappreciated at the present - so it seems; however, this kind of unabashed Love worship just seems really dangerous to me, considering that essentially all that Love did was rip off others' ideas, not always to a good end.I do like the band, actually. The only truly unique thing these guys had going for them was their ability to change face at a pace even more rapid than that of the Byrds and of David Bowie; going from Byrdseysque folk-rock on the debut album to full-blown psychedelia on the second album to orchestrated art-pop on the third one, desperately grappling on to every trend, as if catching up with the times was the main purpose of the band's existence. But in the meantime, they actually proved to possess composing talent, with band leader Arthur Lee and, to a lesser extent, guitarist Bryan MacLean both accomplished songwriters. Not that this fact is so desperately obvious, either: the debut album suffers from a bit too much ripping off, be it the Byrds, the Animals, or themselves, Da Capo is stupidly ruined by an incompetent Stones 'Goin' Home' rip-off that takes up the entire second side, and in the end, only Forever Changes remains as the band's most independent and serious artistic statement. But none of these obstacles should deviate us from acknowledging that the band had some raw talent as well as the ability to translate it onto record with consistently listenable effect. Besides, Arthur Lee had a vision - no doubt about it. Out of all the California bands, Love are perhaps the most intimately-oriented ensemble of all, mainly due to being almost entirely dominated by one main songwriter, but also because that one main songwriter was very keen on capturing his own emotions and changing them into songs. Which, of course, explains why so many people are eager to identify with Arthur's bleeding, paranoid ego on Forever Changes, and to a certain extent, I do, too; songs like 'A House Is Not A Motel' are certainly worthy of appraisal, despite the lack of originality. Perhaps, had some strange calamity suddenly caused 90% of Sixties bands' material to be destroyed and erased from people's memories, and had Love records escaped that cruel fate, the band would definitely be easier to appreciate. As it is, I find Love to be the best example to illustrate the theory that originality and innovativeness IS extremely important when assessing a band. If Love is your first or second Sixties band to get acquainted with, a love affair is guaranteed. As it is, I have heard Love records only after hearing most of their influences - the Beatles, the Who, the Stones, the Byrds, the Animals, the Pretty Things, the Moody Blues, Hendrix, Lord knows who else, and subconsciously, at times when my inner self was supposed to scream 'that's bloody gorgeous', that same subconscience was screaming, 'hey, they're taking that Beatles/Stones/Byrds/Moody Blues idea and turning it into a cliche'. And that pretty much kills off all the fun. The biggest problem is, Love don't actuall expand on the ideas they borrow: Arthur Lee's paranoid personality is simply not enough to make the finished product sound in a radically different or totally idiosyncratic way, apart from maybe just a few songs that I could number on my fingers. In this respect, Love is really just a second-rate band, well worth remembering and enjoying but never really worth the pedestal some are ready to build for them. At the very best, they're hardly any better than, say, such an unjustly forgotten band as the Pretty Things, their rip-offey British equivalent who only managed to somehow break away from under the shadow of the Stones and the Kinks towards the tail end of the Sixties with S. F. Sorrow (just as Love broke away from the shadow of the Byrds and the Beatles with Forever Changes) - yet, for some reason, nobody ever mentions the Pretty Things in the 'genius' row while easily bestowing that honour on Love. I could give out more examples, actually, it's just that I happened to be listening to Love and the Pretty Things at the same time and could not help noticing that 'cultural similarity' between the two. So anyway, don't consider this to be a massacre of the band itself - rather it's just a massacre of an attitude towards the band. I do assume that Love should be listened to only after one has browsed through several dozen of the most important bands of the Sixties, in order to get a clear all-encompassing picture of the epoch and Love's place in it; this does not mean that the music itself is less than enjoyable. Enjoyable it is. Quite a lot. Lineup: Arthur Lee - guitar, vocals; Bryan MacLean - guitar, vocals; John Echols - guitar; Ken Forssi - bass; Alban Pfisterer - drums. In late 1966, Pfisterer switched to keyboards, replaced by Michael Stuart; Tjay Cantrelli added on flute and sax. Cantrelli and Pfisterer quit, 1967. The "new" late Sixties/ early Seventies Love, radically different from the 'first incarnation' and concentrating more on a hard rock/eclectic edge, was: Arthur Lee, Jay Donnellan (guitar), Frank Fayad (bass), George Suranovich (drums). Gary Rowles replaced Donnellan in late 1969.
Listenability: 4/5. Almost
no problems with this side of the band, although stuff like 'Revelation'
is certainly abysmal.
Resonance: 2/5. I respect Arthur Lee and his problems, but I betcha anything this band sounds WAY closer to your heart when you don't know anything about Sixties pop in general.
Originality: 1/5. Forever Changes pushes forward this one point, otherwise a big fat zero would it be.
Adequacy: 2/5. Sorry, no dice - for a band that uninventive, they sure had a lot of artistic pretentions.
Diversity: 3/5. Hard to tell the exact number here, as some of their exercises in diversity were pretty lame.
Overall: 2.4 = D on the rating scale.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1966
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10
Nice melodic ideas, total lack of independent direction. (Sssh, don't tell anybody, but not all that much has really changed since then...).Best song: MUSHROOM CLOUDS
Track listing: 1) My Little Red Book; 2) Can't Explain; 3) A Message To Pretty; 4) My Flash On You; 5) Softly To Me; 6) No Matter What You Do; 7) Emotions; 8) You I'll Be Following; 9) Gazing; 10) Hey Joe; 11) Signed D. C.; 12) Colored Balls Falling; 13) Mushroom Clouds; 14) And More.
Let's all join hands around the campfire and agree that this is a nice album. And I'm not asking you to do that just because it has fourteen songs on it, something definitely amazing considering that the record was released in the United States in early 1966 (an epoch in which twelve was the sacred number for most pop bands - and if you had fourteen, you had to put the two best ones on a different album and write ten additional crapfests over a time period of about half an hour); and doubly amazing considering that Love's next album would only have exactly half as much.No, let's agree it's nice simply because Arthur Lee, and to a lesser extent, Bryan MacLean, are able to display songwriting talent no matter how thickly they are engulfed in a sea of outside influences. In a long, fierce battle with the hypnotizing enchantment of the three big B's (Beatles, Beach Boys, Byrds) and one big S (Stones), Lee and McLean, even though Badly Bruised and Battered and Swatted, manage to reclaim some of their own territory and not only prepare the grounds for a decisive counter-attack to be featured later, but also produce several excellent folk-pop anthems that wouldn't be out of place on anybody's stereo, let alone a Sixties junkie. Now let's hold hands some more and come to the conclusion that Love is, in fact, a hideous album. And I'm not asking to do that just because it features a whole bunch of clumsily recycled and shamelessly stolen melodies, something that could be expected at an epoch when pop songwriting was still generally considered non-individualistic in nature and songwriting credits were so loose that in these days you'd be perfectly able to sue on behalf of, say, seventy percent of those. Nor am I bothered by generic lyrics drawing on blues cliches - grating only inasmuch as they stand in sharp contrast with Arthur Lee's ever increasing poetic ambition on later records. Nope, let's reach that conclusion simply because Lee, MacLean, Echols, and whoever else may have been involved, all of them show themselves totally lacking in original ideas. About half of these songs sound as if a Byrds record was constantly spinning on replay all through the recording process, with Love merely adding some extra vocals and minor instrumental modifications. Yet another quarter is the band doing garage-style covers of garage-style songs. (It looks like their version of 'Hey Joe' actually came out the exact same month as the Leaves' version, though, so at least I can't accuse them of stealing something right under somebody's nose. Relieved as I am, I still like the Leaves' variant better). And yet another quarter is the band rewriting its own tunes. Split personality aside, I guess that in the final run there are three things about this album that poisoned my appreciation in a subtly irrepairable way and made me a little "anti-Love" in spirit from the very beginning. Number one is 'Signed D. C.'. No one, and I mean no one, fucks with the original 'House Of The Rising Sun'; no one should have the gall to add new lyrics, throw on an additional pack of theatrical desperation and credit it to one's own name. Is nothing on this planet friggin' sacred? It's not that the listening impression, per se, is so yucky. It's just a matter of ugly decision-taking and generally poor taste in selection of interpretations, if you know what I mean. (Next to the Animals, though, it is yucky because Arthur Lee is no Eric Burdon when it comes to singing and that's not the kind of point you're allowed to take me up on even if you're seven feet tall and I'm seven feet in the ground). Pointless trivia note: the lyrics actually refer to the sufferings of a junkie - which is at least novel for the time - and the D.C. is Don Conka, Love's first drummer who was ousted out of the band for that kind of drug problems. Doesn't make the song any better, though. Second problem: they're so good at getting all garage-like that all their garage anthems sound the same. Okay, two at least - Lee's "original" 'My Flash On You' and the cover of 'Hey Joe' (the second song is wisely placed on the second side of the album so it'd be harder for you to tell who copied who). Now garage rock may not be about complexity, but it sure as hell ain't about always exploring the exact same chord sequences either. What's most ironic, though, is that both these tunes would be made completely obsolete before the year's end with the release of the third, and ultimate, rewrite, 'Seven And Seven Is'. But the damage has already been done. Finally, problem number three is that Bryan MacLean's ballad 'Softly To Me', frequently lauded as the album's most gorgeous moment, totally destroys my ears with vocal harmonies that I can only qualify as UGLY. As subjective and insignifcant as that may seem, it's more than just a passing quibble. The way I see it, you either have a real good ear for vocal harmony - like Paul McCartney or Brian Wilson - or you don't have it, and even one very obvious case of ugly vocal harmony can serve as evidence for your not having it. Agree or disagree, I cringe every time I hear the 'dance and sing my life away - life away...' line, where the backing vocals "trip" the main part and break up the flow in a most violent manner, and a reaction is a reaction. I'd much rather envision 'Softly To Me' as a quiet, relaxed soft-jazz instrumental. As a ballad, it just speaks W-E-A-K in my ear. All of these quibbles can be resurrected on a global level. Clumsy arrangements and copycat syndrome never really helped anyone. Of course, there's talent involved, too, and with fourteen songs laid out in a row, much of it is bound to be good as well. Garage stylistics may not work so well on 'My Flash On You', but it's perfect on their cover of Burt Bacharach's 'My Little Red Book' - the album's best known song and the famous inspiration for Pink Floyd's 'Interstellar Overdrive' (don't even ask me, though, about what's so similar between the two - according to legend, Syd Barrett picked the melody up from the ears of band manager Peter Jenner, which would certainly explain a lot). The more direct Byrds imitations are quite pleasant as well, since there's more stylistic borrowing involved rather than good old plain ripping off, and also because Love have too much energy to allow themselves to be as openly lethargic as the Byrds could often be. Check out, for instance, the frantic - and surprisingly lengthy - soloing on 'Gazing', where they manage to turn the patented Byrds jangle into overdriven, hot-rocking guitar pummeling, with a crescendo that's as well thought out as it is loaded with spontaneous energy. We might even overlook the fact that the melody copies... nay, not the Byrds, but rather the universally known Phil Spector 'And Then He/She Kissed Me/You/It/The Thing' number, remember, the "dum... dee-dum dum dum... dee-dum dum dum..." sequence? Because they're really getting it on, and I wouldn't allow myself to condemn anybody in the process of really getting it on. 'Can't Explain' is a minor highlight as well, despite stealing the title from the Who, a couple melodic lines from the Stones, and... ah well. There's also a bunch of straightforward folk-pop songs that pretend to little other than simply stating the hook a few times and going away - nothing wrong with that kind of honest-to-goodness approach. 'No Matter What You Do' may not be as immediately overwhelming as the later Badfinger song of the same name, but it eventually gets there, and there's more of those delicious 'Gazing'-like solo trills in the middle. 'You I'll Be Following' is happy, anthemic, and sing-alongable. 'Colored Balls Falling' and 'And More' are, well, and more of the same - for some reason, both start with the exact same chord sequence, though, a problem not atypical of the album in general, as you already know by now. In the end, though, as hard as it is to choose when you're in the three-minute-idolising Sixties, I'd give my overall preferences to 'Mushroom Clouds'. Not only is it credited to four band members at once - and in the case of Love, that's always a plus, because all of the individual members have their serious limitations - it's also the closest in style to Forever Changes, with a delicate, graceful acoustic versus acoustic arrangement and soft, airy, vaguely medievalistic vocal arrangements that are as much "not of this earth" as the ones on their garage songs are of this and this one only. It's the only song off the album that, at that particular time, could only have been recorded by Love and nobody else. Which is not saying much, but then aren't Love overrated in the first place?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9
Nice slant of psychedelia on side one, ugly slant of dumb ripping-off on side two.Best song: QUE VIDA!
Track listing: 1) Stephanie Knows Who; 2) Orange Skies; 3) Que Vida!; 4) Seven & Seven Is; 5) The Castle; 6) She Comes In Colours; 7) Revelation.
The first side of Da Capo is probably the best side ever to have come out from under the hands and instruments of the Love guys - the best in that it has a certain identity. A clumsy, mixed-up, and essentially clueless identity, but still... nice. By now Love sported the hugest line-up - seven persons, including Tjay Cantrelli on brass and new drummer Michael Stuart ("Snoopy" Pfisterer moved to keyboards), and were intent on actually adding something to rock's musical legacy. In terms of musical innovation, there was very little to add here, but the album does sport this folksy-psychedelic vibe that the Byrds, Love's chief inspiration for their first album, didn't really share: the Byrds preferred to separate their 'folk-rock' and 'psycho' sides, while Love try to incorporate the two within a single song. So you get all those essentially folksy songs, with acoustic rhythm tracks and countryesque vocals, on top of which they slam harpsichords, ominous groovy basslines, special effects, add occasionally trippy lyrics, etc. The result is not exactly breathtaking, but it's really nice, and it's certainly a far more significant advance for the band than their "masterpiece" Forever Changes, with its generic orchestration and easily recognizable Moody Blue-isms and Brian Wilson-isms, could ever hope to be. There's a certain strong idiosyncrasy here which makes this style unmistakable, and that gladdens my heart.All of the six songs on the first side are written by Arthur Lee, and they're all good, if, granted, not equally memorable. Two of the tracks are 'psycho rockers', and it's funny to notice how the menacing riff that drives forward 'Stephanie Knows Who' is actually similar to Pink Floyd's 'Astronomy Domine' - coincidence, most certainly, but a typically sixty-sevenish type of coincidence. Can't say I'm enamoured of the song otherwise, though: Arthur's punkish screaming is contrived and uncertain, and hardly compatible with the gleeful waltz tempo of the song and the careening harpsichord. However, 'Seven And Seven Is', the band's only single that managed to scale the middle ranges of the charts, is a different thing - the drumming alone is worth a shot, but there's also all these angry riffs and this mad rush to the end that climaxes in a 'nuclear explosion', making the song a superb blast of proto-punkish anger. The 'psycho ballads', though, are really up a notch, with Lee reaching a peak of sorts. He's throwing out all those cute vocal hooks, his pleading gentle vocals can't be beat, and the arrangements are as romantic and honestly beautiful as possible. For instance, 'She Comes In Colours' is not as much driven forward by the guitar as it is by that nuage-abiding flute in the background, and the harpsichord, as predictable as it is (there's a harpsichord on almost every track on here - as if it was the presence of a harpsichord that determined the 'psycho' status of a song!), adds further grace. 'Orange Skies' and 'The Castle' aren't as memorable, but they're also trippier, with Lee's mind firmly rooted in the psychedelic vibe. Hmm, 'The Castle' is essentially a fast-paced country song - can't you hear it? Give it some banjo to make it more obvious! Or better not, because it works fine as it is with the choppy bassline and the harpsichord. My favourite on here is still 'Que Vida!', as the melody of that number is firmly established from the very first seconds and Lee's singing along with the flute/organ is quite endearing. Note, though, that the organ again plays that much-abused 'descending' pattern so typical for psychedelic arrangements - these guys didn't have that much imagination, after all. Flute and harpsichord, again. Still, diverse or no, these are six good songs, definitely dated but in a good way at that (i.e., in a 'nostalgic' way, if you wish). A hint of originality, a touch of genuine emotion, you know the score. Oh, and an ounce of talent, of course. Which, however, is nowhere to be seen on the second side. So far, I haven't yet met a single person who hasn't condemned the nineteen-minute long jam 'Revelation' as a boring piece of crap, and I'm not gonna play the fool and pretend that it's a work of genius, either. The only excuse that's usually offered for it is that 'Revelation' was the first example of occupying an entire album side with just one song, but that's plain wrong - Dylan's 'Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands' came out at least half a year before. Moreover, what 'Revelation' essentially does is completely rip-off the Rolling Stones' 'Goin' Home', right down to Arthur Lee's hysterics in the studio as he sputters out 'I feel all right, I feel so good, so good'. Trust me, does he ever sound like a complete idiot on that one, especially if you've heard the truly groundbreaking 'Goin' Home' before. Sure, 'Revelation' is longer, has a different melody and includes several lengthy instrumental passages (most of them totally incompetent, kinda like a blueprint for the VU's 'European Son'), but the principle is the same. Only 'Goin' Home' was subtle and inventive, not to mention dark and menacing - towards the end, Jagger effectively transformed the simple blues number into a creepy shadowy thing, while Lee just plays the idiot throughout. One thing this guy should have been prohibited is screaming - every time he bellows 'Yeaaaaah!' I get visions of rabid bulldogs biting off somebody's testicles. Or something like that. Too bad, since predictably, the second side just totally ruins the entire experience. Yep, it was 1967, and everybody wanted to experiment; problem is, some guys experiment better than others, and with such an ultra-stupid 'experimental' piece as 'Revelation' I can easily understand that Love didn't want to take any more chances in that direction and retreated to safe and sound territory on Forever Changes. As such, I find a real problem in recommending Da Capo to anybody - you'd probably be better off by following David Goodwin's recommendations in his comments to the next album and getting all the good stuff on a compilation. Why waste money on nineteen minutes of universal despisal?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 12
If these guys didn't have such a nice feel for melodic flow, I'd have sued them for lack of imagination...Best song: A HOUSE IS NOT A MOTEL
Track listing: 1) Alone Again Or; 2) A House Is Not A Motel; 3) Andmoreagain; 4) The Daily Planet; 5) Old Man; 6) The Bed Telephone; 7) Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale; 8) Live And Let Live; 9) The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This; 10) Bummer In The Summer; 11) You Set The Scene.
It is symbolic that the album appeared on the American market in December 1967 - with all of its multiple facets, it was a perfect "summary" for all the trippy excesses and psychedelic fantasies of rock's most imaginative and 'liberatory' year. Unfortunately, the same time of appearance also hints at a thorough lack of imagination and new ideas, a thing that most American Love fans don't seem to realize. With Forever Changes, Love carved itself an artsy/psychedelic identity which was one hundred percent derivative of just about everybody who mattered in 1967.Truly and verily, hearing Forever Changes before everything else and out of chronological context would certainly lead somebody to assuming the record's "uniqueness" and placing it into any kind of personal Top Tens. But upon hearing this stuff for the first time, I was certainly underwhelmed, and, contrary to my expectations, this feeling of "cheat" didn't grow any less with subsequent listens. What I hear is a band desperately trying to hang onto the coattails of their betters. Influences on here include the Beatles (naturally), the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds is like a blueprint for half of these songs), the Moody Blues (don't tell me these guys hadn't studied Days Of Future Passed throughout!), Pink Floyd (in certain of the more 'trippy' passages), Hendrix (the fiery guitar workouts), and even the Jefferson Airplane ('Bummer In The Summer' is essentially just a rip-off of 'Plastic Fantastic Lover'). And I'm sorry, Love fans out there, but not in a single case are Arthur Lee and company able to beat any of the bands/artists named above on their own ground. Which is not to say Forever Changes is a bad album - it just isn't the "epochal lost classic" it's always made out to be by fans. The fact that the album stalled at around #150 on the charts back at the time of release was a crime, but it definitely wasn't criminal enough to justify all the hype out there; and even today, I can fully understand the reasons for which Love are so revered for this album in their homeland, yet almost entirely neglected in Europe: in Europe, there's simply no need for an album like Forever Changes, whereas the American public certainly needs its own Sgt Pepper of 1967 - and this is the most obvious choice. Now don't crucify me, because all the previous paragraphs were actually concentrated on discussing one idea: "this album ain't worth a fifteen/fourteen". It is certainly worth a twelve, though, and it certainly contains its share of magnificent pop songs worth having in anybody's collection. The emphasis throughout is on "orchestrated pop" - for the most part, acoustic pop, with a few electric lines thrown in now and then and a brass section stepping in from time to time. However, the primary difference from Pet Sounds is that everything is mighty surrealistic - from the album cover, with the band's faces all slammed into one large face, to the lyrics, that are hippiesque and often nonsensic to the core (but, unlike the Beatles, the band never really had a nice sense of humour, so you won't be smiling all that often while listening to this). The saving grace are the vocal melodies, which range from well-written and memorable to just mood-setting, and Arthur Lee's gorgeous singing, which is often able to elevate even something lightweight into something grandiose. As far as instrumentation goes, the orchestral arrangements by David Angel are definitely nice, and "dated" only inasmuch as they naturally pinpoint the album to a specific epoch, that is, in the same way that J. S. Bach's music is "dated" by definition. But the band's playing is so-so; with most of the players hiding behind the endless orchestral passages and simplistic acoustic strumming, there are hardly any hints at the lineup's potential. Which is probably my favourite song on the album is 'A House Is Not A Motel' - for those who've never heard Love, it's like a Moody Blues rocker crossed with Cream guitar heroics, but it certainly gives the guitar players a chance to really stretch out on the blazing coda, and Michael Stuart's fast martial style drumming is near-perfect, while Lee's trembling, wavering vocals create an atmosphere of paranoia and weird desperation. Apart from that, there are only two songs that have any 'rockin' potential' - the best of which is 'Live And Let Live', forever distinguished by the "all the snot has caked against my pants, it has turned into crystal" line; the vocal melodic power of the song is irrefutable, the guitar solos are smokin', and the acoustic riffage of the song defines the word "dreamy" - which means that all the necessary ingredients are in place. The second one is 'Bummer In The Summer', whose vocal melody, as I already said, had been taken from the Airplane's 'Plastic Fantastic Lover' - and, for some reason, interchanged with a Bo Diddley beat. To be frank with you, I don't like the song at all - short, pointless and derivative. Not to forget that Arthur Lee wasn't the only songwriter in the band: 'Alone Again Or' is Bryan MacLean's masterpiece, an Eastern-influenced chant that's based on an excellent "vocal crescendo", you could say. His second contribution, 'Old Man', has even more angelic vocals (MacLean sings lead vocals himself - and he's hardly got a worse set of chords than Mr Lee), but maybe is a little less developed musically, more like a simple folkish melody, lacking the inventive strings arrangement of 'Alone Again Or'; still, I like the Byrds, so I find myself obliged to like this. Other highlights (and yes, there are more highlights than lowlights on this record - okay, you caught me, I am saying this! Hey, I never said I didn't like the album! What's all the fuss about?), anyway, other higlights include: 'AndMoreAgain', which is the one case of Mr Lee being able to prove that he is able to beat Roger McGuinn and Justin Hayward at a hyper-romantic ballad extorting pools of tears from the eyes of the more sensible listeners; the funny pop shuffle 'Daily Planet', in which the vocal melody is taken off George Harrison's 'If I Needed Someone', but let's pretend we never heard that; the Floydish 'Red Telephone', with all of its otherworldly fade-in vocals and mysterious harpsichord; and 'The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This', where the main attraction is that enchanting harp riff plucked between the verses. The song with the lengthy ungrammatical title didn't seem that great to me, but in any case, the only tune I actively dislike on here is the final 'You Set The Scene' which certainly doesn't deserve a seven-minute running time. Not for a song that begins with such a trivial pop melody and has no audible hooks - nothing but "the ingredients": i.e., there's lots of acoustic guitar, soulful vocals, orchestration and brass, but they don't combine together to produce anything of substance. A very poor ending for such an overall nice album. That said, Forever Changes is certainly a record of some appeal. I certainly hold the middle ground on it, but it's made in the vein of Pet Sounds, which means it is an album that's supposed to create almost religious adoration - it will either speak to you on the most gutsy level, which will turn you into a Love fan in no time, or it won't speak to you at all. It doesn't really speak to me; I find the unoriginality factor a bit too high to let it sink too deep, and Arthur Lee's stupid lyrics (and they are stupid! At least the Doors had some kind of message - these guys don't have anything) really get on my nerves. In other words, I have all the reasons to doubt the 'sincerity' of the album. But if YOU happen to find these reasons unsubstantial and 'overlookable', feel free to raise this rating as much as you want. But don't go on spilling rubbish about how Forever Changes is one of the greatest albums of all time. If there ever was something like an objective approach to albums, such a statement would be blasphemous to the core. P.S.: My greatest thanks go to Mr Fredrik Tydal, who was kind enough to mail his copy of the album to me all the way from Sweden. Apparently, Russians tolerate a lot of music but not Love, which is why it's virtually impossible to find any Love albums here. Not yet, at least.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11
The double format is actually good for Mr Lee - that way, you can always select whichever things you like him the most for.Best song: gee, would be easier to pick the worst song.
Track listing: 1) I'll Pray For You; 2) Abalony; 3) Signed D. C.; 4) Listen To My Song; 5) I'm Down; 6) Stand Out; 7) Discharged; 8) Doggone; 9) I Still Wonder; 10) Love Is More Than Words Or Better Late Than Never; 11) Nice To Be; 12) Car Lights On In The Daytime Blues; 13) Run To The Top; 14) Willow Willow; 15) Instra-Mental; 16) You Are Something; 17) Gather Round.
It is my deepest conviction that as much as the 'early period Love' can be overrated, the 'late period Love' can be underrated. No, it's not as if Arthur Lee suddenly prayed to his preferred deity and was rewarded with an increase in genius potential; it's just that overall, there aren't any fewer ideas on here than on Forever Changes. Maybe it's the lack of Bryan MacLean that pisses off fans, I don't know. Anyway, Out Here was the second "new Love" album, and formally a throwaway, comprised of outtakes and leftovers from the sessions for its predecessor, Four Sail. And a BIG bunch of leftovers it was, enough to make the end product a double LP, although to be fair, it is padded with two lengthy tracks, one including a drum solo and another one including a guitar jam.This could be a disaster, but it hardly is; in fact, I like the very idea because it gives the band enough opportunity to stretch out and try their hand at all kinds of genres, from the usual lush pop of the days of yore to psychedelic blues to funk to country-rock to ska. Need I add that the old "derivative factor" strikes again here? Formally, this is nothing short of a Love' White Album, and substantially, Lee again draws on a whole ragbag of influences. Doubtlessly, he got one of his cues from the 'new Byrds', with their strange "twin schtick" of mixing hard rock tunes with light countryish material. Another cue, without a doubt, was taken from Eric Burdon and his Animals, and a bad cue at that. If the old version of 'Signed D. C.' was ripped off of 'House Of The Rising Sun', then the remake of the tune, bravely posted as Track 3, is ripped off of Eric Burdon's contemporary 'soulful' deliveries and is far more hideous - didn't 'Revelation' teach Arthur a thing or two? No, he prefers to wail and shriek again, and the song, already dead at the time of birth, is killed once again. Why does the intro sound like 'Nights In White Satin', anyway? Ah shit. How come he includes a blazing funk number and calls it 'Stand Out'? Who does he think he is? Sly? Never mind. Let's just close our eyes and pretend rock music never existed before Out Here, and the good thing is, apart from the bullshit vocals on 'Signed D. C.', every other song has something to offer. Yes, even the two lengthy numbers. 'Doggone' actually starts out as a pretty folksy ballad, with gentle seducing vocals and a totally authentic acoustic part; as for the main part of it, which is a drum solo, is actually fun for a while because they use these stupid electronic enhancements on the drums to make it sound like they're being played underwater. Pretty weird, too. Love might be an unoriginal band, but you gotta admit nobody had ever tried merging a pretty acoustic ballad with an electronic drum solo before. Give 'em props. MAD props. The second lengthy track, 'Love Is More Than Words', likewise starts out as a slightly clumsy pop number before turning into an echoey ominous guitar fiesta, obviously inspired by Hendrix. Is it good or bad? You should ask a technician; me, I like the energy level, but, of course, twelve minutes really try my patience. You could argue the guitar part was so good that Jimi himself, inspired and awed, payed the guys a tribute by appearing on their next studio album. Then again, you could also argue Jimi was so disgusted he preferred to play on the next record himself rather than allow his style to be profanated once more. Kind of an indirect blackmail thing, if you get my drift. The shorter tracks are all decent, though. There's some first-rate power-pop like 'I'll Pray For You', whose somewhat incoherent verses are a nice match for the catchy funny chorus, or the Pretty Things-ish 'I Still Wonder' with shiver-sending blasts of feedback perfectly contrasting with the heavenly vocal harmonies. 'Run To The Top' is a bit bubble-gummy, but only a little bit. You couldn't really blow a bubble with it. The "rootsy" side of the band is well represented with the country shuffle 'Abalony', which is as stupid as it is charming, and occasional goofy throwaways like 'Car Lights On In The Daytime Blues' or the ridiculous anti-war sendup 'Discharged' ('I just killed all the enemy so you can sleep tonight'!). And the rockin' side is well-edged on 'I'm Down' which, strange as it seems, is NOT a Beatles cover despite having the lyrics 'I'm down, down on the ground' as well. I won't list every song on here - some more nice ballads, a funny ska ditty, etc. - but the thing is, it's obviously a consistent effort. The very fact that Arthur Lee could release a double album on his own, without any songwriting assistance from Bryan MacLean (lead guitarist Jay Donnellan co-works with Lee on a couple of tracks, but that's all) obviously proves the thing I have always assumed to be true, namely, that Arthur had a good deal of songwriting talent. True, there's no identity whatsoever to this album; you could hardly believe that 'Abalony' and 'Signed D. C.', following each other, were written by the same person. But at least, except for a few numbers with presumably generic melodies, I can't really accuse Mr Lee of directly stealing anything on here. I find the album a total gas as a result, and seeing as it's available on a single CD, the best thing you could do at the moment would be to go out and grab it, leftovers or not. It doesn't get a 10 because it's not the best listening Love experience, and besides, no album with an abomination like 'Signed D. C.' should get a ten, but... it's close.
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Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11
The funny thing is - the more Arthur Lee tries to recapture 'the roots', the more independent the sound is.Best song: SLICK DICK
Track listing: 1) The Everlasting First; 2) Flying; 3) Gimi A Little Break; 4) Stand Out; 5) Keep On Shining; 6) Anytime; 7) Slick Dick; 8) Love Is Coming; 9) Feel Daddy Feel Good; 10) Ride That Vibration.
Again, not too many Love fans are pleased with this record, and for obvious reasons: if you're looking for anything even remotely tied in with Forever Changes, just forget it. THIS is different. The previous "Mark II" Love albums started the trend, this one brings it to a logical conclusion: False Start is, from beginning to end, what we call a 'roots-rock' album, albeit with a few poppy overtones from time to time. It's also quite guitar-heavy, screaming-heavy, funk-heavy, whatever, and also very short, barely going over thirty minutes with but ten songs.But dammit, it's good. As uncool as it would be to say so, this, not psychedelia and Byrdsey folk-rock, is what Arthur Lee had an inborn talent for. All of these songs sound natural and easy-going, and for the first time I can't really accuse Arthur of pilfering any ideas to use them for inferior purposes. I mean, occasionally the music is formulaic - the barroom blues-rock jamming of 'Flying' isn't a particular eye opener, nor is the country blues stylization on 'Keep On Shining' something previously unheard of - but it's one thing when you drool at a freshly produced musical revolution (Byrds, Sgt Pepper) trying to simulate it as soon and as rough as possible, and another thing when you exploit the blues pattern like a nice traditional lad, without too much fuss. All of the songs are good as a result, and since there are no lengthy jams to try out your stamina, just short snappy hook-filled songs, this has almost immediately - on second listen, actually, which is a marvel - taken its place as my second favourite Love album. Too bad it's so short. But you know an album must be good when Jimi Hendrix in person makes a guest appearance on the first track ('The Everlasting First' - indeed!), and the track actually is the worst on the record, because while Jimi's wah-wah breaks are fabulous as usual, there's not much else going on in this rocker, messy and jagged as it is. Almost sounds like it was cut out of a sloppy jam session... probably was, actually, seeing as how after the initial weird noises (sounds like some tape chewed up) the track breaks straight inside your speaker with a wild but non-introductive scream and a Jimi break without a warning. But who cares? The best song here is still 'Slick Dick' - how often have you heard a song so fucked up? Begins as a totally innocent bystanding fast country rocker, then just a minute into the song changes pace and becomes a violent funker with explosive 'psychedelic' playing from Gary Rowles before changing pace once again and this time becoming a firm steady blues-rocker with some of the most violent screaming ever captured on tape by Arthur. You just gotta hear him go 'DRIVE ME INSANE! DRIIIIIVE! DRAAAAAAAIVE!' Man, where was that scream when the original Love were recording 'Revelation'? Likewise, 'Ride That Vibration' is also a pretty deceptive number - beginning like a basic pop-rocker a la Hollies or early Beatles, it makes the transition to aggressive blues/funk jamming and backwards so quietly you sometimes catch yourself on a thought like 'hey... when the hell did they change tracks?' The less "adventurous" tracks also have their hooks. 'Flying' would seduce you through its very repetitiveness - by the n-th time Arthur chants 'oh, flying's a wonderful thing', you're ready to take off (I mean it!). 'Gimi A Little Break' (sic! was the spelling inspired by Jimi's visit into the studio or what?) isn't a highlight but you gotta love the way Lee sings 'sha-ee-aaa-ee-aaa-ine'. The live version of 'Stand Out' displays energy and drive, and amazingly fluent distorted bass from Frank Fayad. 'Keep On Shining' I could describe as a 'country-blues shuffle sung in a typically black voice', if that would mean something to you - I know the vocals on the song really do it for me, personally. And 'Love Is Coming'? What the hell is THAT? Soul? Funk? Poppy psychedelia? Whatever. The album's all over the place. The songs are SO messy your head will be swoosh-going round in a minute. No melody lasts longer than thirty seconds... it may eventually come back, of course, but there's so much turbulency and so many unpredictable surprises around each corner that False Start seems like a pretty good title. But boy is the album cover a rip-off of The Soft Parade. In short, False Start really displays some awesome creativity from a band (a man?) who had by then already dismissed as pretty much a lame remnant of the hippie epoch - it's up to you now, oh listener/reader, to realize that this late period Love was not at all a "profanation" of the original band as is sometimes suggested, but rather a typical reaction to the musical process of 'getting back to the roots' going on at the time. Like the Beatles, Beach Boys, Byrds, Rolling Stones, and others, Arthur Lee came back to a psychedelia-free world, and thus found new creative freedom - of course, this was the kind of freedom that's mixed with paranoia and musical uncertainty, but I'd better have Mr Madman running around without getting the uneasy feeling of his licking the boots of his superiors/peers. Whatever. That last line wasn't very good, but the actual music of the album doesn't exactly help my writing style. In fact, IT IS DISORIENTING ME RIGHT NOW! So let me just put an end to this endless review of the Rolling Stones' Larks' Tongues And The Moneygoround and get back to planting cabbage.
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