BRYAN MCLEAN, former guitarist and singer with seminal West Coast band LOVE, died on Christmas Day, apparently from a heart attack in a Los Angeles restaurant. He was 52.
McLean‘s songs were overshadowed by those of Love‘s flamboyant frontman Arthur Lee, though he wrote and sang Alone Again Or, the anthemic opening track on the band’s seminal third album ‘Forever Changes’, which is perhaps their best known song.
McLean tempered Lee‘s more inspired and occasionally insane songs with a sweeter, more melodic side that was at times closer to the mainstream easy listening pop of Burt Bacharach or Jimmy Webb than the acid-fried Los Angeles psychedelic scene. In fact Love stood apart from contemporaries like The Byrds, The Doors and The Jefferson Airplane in many ways; they fused jazz, folk, Latin-American music and middle of the road music, moving as far away from the cliches of rock and roll as it was then possible to go.
When Mclean left the group after recording one final single (‘Your Mind And We Belong Together’), Lee continued with a new line-up, but never really recaptured the indefinable heights of ‘Forever Changes’, with its lush orchestration, impeccable production and songs that ranged from innocent California sunshine ballads to the pits of drug-frazzled despair.
McLean recorded several demos, which surfaced a few years ago but were never released at the time; he quit the music business in 1970, returning only briefly in the late 70s for a Love reunion. McLean continued to write songs, and composed ‘Don’t Toss Us Away’ for half-sister Maria McKee‘s band Lone Justice in 1985. It also became a hit on the country charts for singer Patty Loveless in 1988.
McLean had long given up the destructive rock and roll lifestyle that eventually diminished former bandmate Lee’s talent. He had become a Christian and was planning to make an album of Christian music. There had also been talk of another Love reunion with Arthur Lee, prior to the frontman going to jail in 1997.
The influence of Love, particularly of ‘Forever Changes’, is undiminished over the years and songs like ‘Alone Again Or’ and ‘Old Man’ continue to sound as timeless and heartbreakingly sad as they did 30 years ago.
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