Arthur Lee was sure he was about to die. The 26-year-old black leader of Love, the coolest rock group on LA’s white underground scene had a premonition that the summer of ’67 was to be his last. So the maestro set about recording ‘Forever Changes’ determined it should be his final testament.
‘Forever Changes’ was recorded in the epicentre of the Californian hippy dream, but the atmosphere around its making offered early proof of how the summer of love would soon sour. Love were already desperately frazzled when they started recording, but somehow they buried their problems (plus some resounding personal enmity) to
fulfil Lee’s apocalyptic vision.
The result is an album of awesome intensity and tenderness. In an era when rock music was evolving weekly, ‘Forever Changes’ still managed to set a new pace. Love used their psychedelic mindset (Lee and co had not only broken through to the other side, they moved a load of heroin in with them) to produce baroque and beautiful folk-rock the like of which had never been heard before – nor been bettered since.
Lee didn’t pull it off alone, however. Guitarist Bryan MacLean weighed in with three fragile beauties of his own, including the brass-scented ‘Alone Again Or’. MacLean later claimed the pair had designed the album’s unusual sound playing acoustic guitars in Lee’s house high in the Hollywood Hills, but the majority of songs belong to the impossibly gifted Lee.
The vessel Lee ferried his supposed last testimony in was smoky acoustic rock powered by wafts of orchestration and punctuated by sunny blasts of Latino brass. It still sounds vacuum-packed fresh, as evidenced by his cheery farewell to the Sunset Strip, ‘Maybe The People…’, the tough rocking ‘House Is Not A Motel’, or the final ‘You Set The Scene’ with its dramatic lyrical [I]adieu[/I]: “The time that I’ve been given is such a little while/And the things that I must do consist of more than style”.
Arthur didn’t in fact die that year, although that classic Love line-up did. This expanded version of ‘Forever Changes’ includes outtakes, alternative mixes, this line-up’s final single (the excellent ‘Your Mind And We Belong Together’), a lost song called ‘Wonder People’, and Lee forcing his band through 20-odd takes of an intro.
You’d think it impossible to improve one of The Greatest Albums Of All Time (™) when one songwriter, Lee, is in prison and the other – MacLean – is dead. But this excellently expanded version updates a timeless classic beautifully.