Salvo [Release date 27.10.14]
‘Love Songs’ compiles the first three Love albums (minus ‘Emotions’ and ‘Glazing’ from ‘Love’ and the elongated ‘Revelation’ from ‘De Capo’) and replaces the latter with a thrilling Arthur Lee and Jimi Hendrix wah-wah led collaboration ‘The Everlasting First’
There’s also half a dozen extra tracks including 4 from the underrated ‘Four Sail’ album – of which ‘August’ and ‘Singing Cowboy’ are essential – and a well researched 16 page booklet with familiar band photos and single and EP covers.
So what’s not to like? Well having returned to the first three albums for the first time in years, Love’s influences sound even more derivative than ever before. Yet there’s no denying the way they blended those influences into the classic ‘Forever Changes’ album, before ‘Four Sail’ confirmed another step in Arthur Lee’s Hendrix influenced musical progression.
The 37 tracks trace that progression from the band’s initial punk inspired garage rock origins, through chamber pop and psychedelic art rock to becoming Arthur Lee’s full blown rock band.
Back in 1966, Love made the most of their Byrds influenced jangling guitars, The Move, Beatles and Moody Blues inspired harmonies, Stones riffs, Zombies vocals and frequent Floyd influences.
‘Love’ opens with a punky version of Burt Bacharach’s ‘Little Red Book’. The band is a work in progress on ‘A Message To Pretty’ as Arthur begins to find his voice over a sonorous harp and jangling guitars. They evoke The Who and The Kinks on ‘My Flash On You’ and find their own style on Brian McLean’s trippy ‘Softly To Me’ and the psychedelic harmony drenched chamber pop of ‘Mushroom Clouds’. In between those, they revisit The Animals ‘House of the Rising Sun’ on ‘Signed DC’
They broaden their palate on ‘De Capo’ with the harpsichord led ‘Stephanie Knows Who’ – all animated vocals, staccato drums and an unexpected jazz-rock break – and they lurch into a full blown explosive freak-out and bluesy outro on the curiously chosen single ‘ Seven And Seven’
By the time of ‘Forever Changes’, they distilled their music into an album of fully realized musical brilliance, comprising acoustic guitar, expansive string arrangements, Mariachi trumpets and Lee’s fragile vocals
There’s a real depth to ‘Forever Changes’ as it counter-balances the lush strings with a darker lyrical undertow as evidenced by ‘A House Is Not A Motel’
Arthur Lee and Brian Mclean were equally inventive song writers. McLean’s opening ‘Alone Again Or’ is a beautiful acoustic led orchestral arrangement with nuanced vocal and trumpet lines that plant themselves in your consciousness and drift in and out of the album’s interwoven arrangements.
‘Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale’ goes back to their pop roots with light trumpet parts and acoustic guitar, while ‘Live And Let Live’ fleshes out Lee’s poetic lyrics over a harpsichord, to create something unique before heading into a definitive electric solo.
The sharply contrasting ‘The Good Humour Man, He Sees Everything Like This’ is all plucked strings, orchestration and Colin Blunstone style phrasing, while ‘Bummer In The Summer’ employs a Dylan style rap over another rapidly shifting arrangement.
The closing suite ‘You Set The Scene’ is a melange of vocals, pulsating strings and a recurring trumpet motif.
Forever Changes’ continues to mesmerize and frustrate by turns. It remains an enduring piece of west coast art that has unjustly overshadowed the subsequent ‘Four Sail’ album. The latter album provides ‘August’ and ‘Singing Cowboy’ which are splendid examples of Arthur’s ability to aggressively rock out, as well as dabble in psychedelic lounge music.
‘Love Songs’ is a well presented and affordable double CD re-issue. It will appeal more to the casual fan than the die-hard Love fans who will already have most of what is on offer here. But there’s always a place on the catalogue for great music. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00 GMT.
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Each week David Randall presents ‘New to GRTR!’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, with the emphasis on independent artists and labels. During December he replays favourite tracks including power plays featured during the year. This show covers the period January-March and was first broadcast on 1 December 2019.
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