Love – Dreamscape
Most of the finest seminal sixties bands emerged from Sunset Strip LA such as the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Doors, but none so poignant and influential as LA band Love, headed by Arthur Lee. Arthur Lee’s roots started in Memphis with his local Booker T influenced Lags, with Arthur on rhythm and vocals churning out groove ridden instrumentals like “The Ninth Wave” and “Rumble-Still- Skins”. Arthur Lee’s debut recording “Luci Baines”/ “Soul Food” was put out when he was still operating as the American Four, backed by Lags guitarist Johnny Echols and bassist John Fleckenstein. During Lee’s 1964 ‘Grass Roots’ phase (Name taken from Malcolm X quote -(Grass Roots being people in the streets doing something for themselves), he penned his debut “My Diary” written for Rosa Lee Brooks. These early ‘Grass Root’ sessions which included “Midnight Sun” featured the first recordings of a young Jimi Hendrix while jamming in a studio. Shortly afterwards ex Sons of Adam drummer Michael Stuart joined the short-lived Grass Roots while Fleckenstein departed, later to join the Standells. (Also included was recently departed Byrds roadie Bryan Maclean)
Inevitable ‘Dunhill’ pressure forced Arthur to give up their name due to P.F. Sloan & Steve Barri owning the rights. Sloan’s Grassroots had already cleaned the charts with “Midnight Confessions” and “Lets Live for Today” and ‘Dunhill’ wasn’t going to take a chance on Lee’s esoteric ambitions. The latter stages included bassist Ken Forssi who had played for the Surfaris during their “Wipe Out” period, drummer Alban Pfisterer who played on “Seven And Seven Is”, guitarist John Echols and flautist/saxophonist Tjay Cantrelli. Love were a combination of flower-children and their first album (folk/rock) sold a 150 000 copies. (Jim Morrison was obsessed with Love citing them as masters of the esoteric mansion and wilfully hoping to join their level of status) With Arthur often quoting Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain to being his primal influence with its surreal vibrations, Love were the coolest band on the Strip, quote Peter Fonda – ‘It was an awesome sight to see Johnny Echols wielding the double neck Gibson and steering the group into worlds beyond the tangible format’. Their late night sessions at Bido Lito’s were out of this world. The group’s 1966 eponymous debut churned out a devastating jazz version of Burt Bacharach’s “My Little Red Book” previously read by Manfred Mann in the soundtrack What’s New Pussy Cat.
Arthur was bent on mission and the first was to send a message to a friend/ group member Don Conka about his cocaine habits. The message was in dirge demeanor and harshly smacked on “Signed D.C.” or even more reckoning when performed live. “Signed D.C.” with a borrowed riff from Josh White’s “St. James Infirmary” is undoubtedly the most terrifying anti- drug song ever applied to wax. Meanwhile Arthur also launched an epic, one of the longest tracks in rock (20min ‘Revelation’) which featured on the De Capo. Paul Rothchild handled production having dealt with lengthy excavations, namely “The End” (Doors) and “East-West” (Paul Butterfield Blues Band).”Revelation” could quite easily have been one of the first songs to express twin lead guitar. De Capo now belted out the speedy rhythms of ex Sons of Adam drummer Michael Stuart. and saxophonist / flautist John Barberis backing ‘Snoopy’ Pfisterer’s harpsichord. Shimmering time signatures cross through the sensational “Que Vida”, “She Comes In Colours” (Originally “By The Clothes She Wears”) and “The Castle”, spearheading Lee’s tunneling vox. The paisley times were upon them and Maclean was the conduit spawning the Tolkien flavoured “Softly to Me” and later “Orange Skies”. The blues ballads weren’t always a drugged “Signing” but far more charismatic in the harp blowing “A Message To Pretty”. De Capo gave Love their only #40, the mindblowing “Seven And Seven Is”.
The climax of Arthur Lee’s erratic genius was the surrealistic Forever Changes (1968) considered to be America’s answer to Sgt. Pepper’s. The urgency of this dimensional masterpiece was strengthened by the fact that Arthur truly believed he was about to die. At the age of 26 these were his last words and testament, nothing else mattered.
Forever Changes had a flexible breathing space unlike Sgt. Pepper’s that expressed an audible individualism and tension. The fundamental character of Forever Changes is the expansive orchestration coupled with acoustic and electric fusion.The horns of the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra are strongly emphasized during the entirety of the album. The album expressed complex changes augmented by maraschino brass and outstanding production. Much of the recording was done at Leon Russell’s home studio. Melodic sounds are carried beyond human ear on “Andmoreagain”, while strong classical influence from Prokofiev feature on “Old Man”, Maclean’s Elder counselling. The genius of Arthur Lee, although highly overlooked during the chemical pressure held a steady grip on the band but have finally found fortitude and acceptance after fifteen years of ignorant dismissal. Lee’s flamenco influence is clearly reflected on the opening “Alone again Or”, while the Tijuana brass influence had much to do with production master Bruce Botnick who was also working with Herb Alpert. “A House is Not a Motel” is the tour de force with its tapestry of sensual breath. Lee makes use of the reference to a tale of a Vietnam veteran who claims blood mixed with mud turns grey.
The Forever Changes effect had a major influence on the neo-psychedelic bands of the eighties and still regarded as one of the most influential albums to come out of the flowerpower explosion. In fact, explode it did as various members of left due to excessive drug use. Love was the coolest group on the strip but now the kingdom was slipping. Much of this happened during the sessions of Forever Changes and although not mentioned, the talents of bassist Carole Kaye, guitarist Billy Strange and drummer Hal Blaine were used. Producer Bruce Botnick was responsible for pulling in the Phil Spector Wrecking Crew who recorded “Andmoreagain” and the Neil Young produced “The Daily Planet” strongly evangelised by Hal Blaine’s cross drumming. Neil also assisted Arthur on his average 1969 Four Sail where Arthur does a superb take on Paul Simon’s “Richard Cory” processed as “Robert Montgomery”.Four Sail’s brightest breeze was the superb “August” that again charged electrically with Donnelan’s flowery speed. The changing rhythms of “Your Mind And We Belong Together” with it’s sizzling lead solos gyrate and energise in all the right places.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that Bryan Maclean, a bourgeois child in the making could exonerate some of the most persuasive rhythms when it came to complex guitar work. Strengthened by the surf guitar energy of Ken Forssi, these sunset strip hippies were no slouch on the guitar. It was only during the ailing days of acid that their urgency and brightness dimmed, epitomised in “Listen to my Song” (Forever Changes Sessions ). Arthur then proceeded to record a full album with Hendrix, but it was never released due to legal problems. In one moment Arthur was the gentle breeze and without warning a defiant storm angry and trembling. After a successful UK tour with guitarist Donnollan and ex Skyliners drummer George Suranovitch who was replaced by ex Measles / Arthur Brown Drachen Theaker, Love put out various lost sessions as Out There , also featuring ex Noony Rickett bassist Frank Fayad & Gary Rowles. (replaced nimble fingered Donnellan) Out of the lost sessions “The Everlasting First” blazed furiously with the fretwork of Jimi Hendrix. The Dylan pollen found easy discourse in the savouring “Gather Round” and “Bummer in the Summer” while slant jazz rhythms groove out of “Nice to be”.
The finest Lee rivers were far from a False Start, namely “Willow Willow” and “I Still Wonder”, complete with Irish dexterity from the nimble future Morning guitarist Jay Donnollan.Arthur also recorded Black Beauty on ‘Buffalo’ raging with the psychedelic “Stay Away”, superb “I’m Good & Evil (Do What I Do)” and a cover of the Rooftops’ “Walk Right In”, but sadly the album was shelved. Arthur re-assembled Love with a group called Band Aid initially intended for Steve Winwood and Hendrix. A solo album in 1981, where he recruited Shuggie Otis, seemed to express a return to the Forever expression. The album sold well and Arthur seemed to finally stabilise his lifestyle and vision. Described by the brotherhood of fellow musicians as more of a gangster than an emblem of flowerpower, Lee continued to tour extensively in the UK and Holland. Lee’s private collection of firearms would be his final undoing. He was sentenced to a 12-year prison term for threatening behaviour and although the firearm was never recovered, the colour of his skin seemed reason enough to incarcerate him.
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