Love – Black Beauty (High Moon Records)


Led by Arthur Lee, Love made some of the best music to come out of Los Angeles in the ’60s. But if you’re expecting Black Beauty to sound like their trio of classic albums from 1965-1968, you’re in for a major disappointment. It was recorded in 1973 (but never released due to record company problems), by which time Arthur Lee’s fortunes had gone south and all of his old band-mates had long since skipped out on him. Taking their place was a brand new, all black, line-up of Love. Lee too had changed in the years since Love’s peak, and the album finds him searching desperately for a new musical identity. Unfortunately the one he settled on was that of his old friend, and occasional musical partner, Jimi Hendrix. Lee and his heavily-afro’d band try their best to fill the huge hole left by Hendrix’s death, but lacked the technical abilities to pull it off convincingly. Lee’s vocals in particular sound ragged and cracked, worn down from years of cocaine and cigarettes. Even his lyrics and songwriting suggest that whatever mojo he once possessed had left him. The only song with anything going for it is “Beep Beep”. It’s a slight piece of Calypso-pop, but at least Lee and the gang sound like they’re having some fun with the track – something that can’t be said for the rest of Black Beauty. No wonder it sat on a shelf for the past 38 years.

Tracklisting:

  • Good and Evil (Young and Able)
  • Midnight Sun
  • Can’t Find It
  • Walk Right In
  • Skid
  • Beep Beep
  • Stay Away
  • Lonely Pigs
  • See Myself in You
  • Product of the Times
Advertisements

Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love (Jawbone Press)


Forever Changes is a book on the life and music of Arthur Lee, one of the most mercurial figures in an era defined by eccentric characters. Author John Einarson does an excellent job of presenting the two sides of Arthur Lee: The gifted songwriter who, with his band Love, made one the greatest albums of all time in Forever Changes; and the cheap street hustler who self-sabotaged almost every opportunity that came his way. The rags to riches and back to rags again arc of Lee’s life may be familiar to regular rock biography readers but it’s no less interesting here. The story is enhanced by first-hand accounts of Lee’s rise through the ranks of L.A.’s music scene, and how he ultimately did himself in through stubborn resistance to touring (including turning down a spot at the Monterrey Pop Festival), drug abuse and an overall ornery disposition towards his bandmates, record companies and just about anyone else who crossed his path. Lee’s bad karma eventually caught up with him in the form of a five-year prison stint and the health problems that ultimately killed him, cutting short his resurgence on the touring circuit in the early-2000s. The well-researched book includes interviews with many of Lee’s contemporaries and pieces written by Lee himself, taken from his unpublished memoirs, and is worth checking out.