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LOVE Forever Changes Rhino R2 428796 (2008)


Love's 'Forever Changes: The Collectors Edition' gives us another unexpected opportunity to dip into one of the classic psychedelic albums of the 60's. Perhaps best appreciated as a suite that comprises interlocking themes, eclectic lyrics, carefully arranged instrumental passages, rich fragments of orchestration, staccato rhythms, startling chord changes and west coast harmonies, 'Forever Changes' parallels the good and bad elements of an acid trip. You need look no further than the contrast between the gentle music and startling imagery of 'A House is Not A Hotel'. The song is but one example of the way the band aligned their well crafted delicate musical style with darker lyrical concerns as well as some out and out impenetrable imagery.

Most of the music came from the troubled mind of Arthur Lee, though one of the album highlights 'Alone Again Or' and the delicate timbre and acoustic wash of 'Old Man' came from the chemically challenged guitarist Bryan Maclean. An d as Andrew Sandoval's excellently researched liner notes briefly touch upon, there remains a question as to why the two main proponents never really developed a song writing partnership. Perhaps the answer to that lay in Arthur Lee's darker elements which seemingly became a function of the band's virtual implosion.

Critics have long heralded 'Forever Changes' as a masterpiece which of course became a staple for all lovers of late 60's post flower power psychedelia. But in spite of the landmark nature of the album Love stood outside of the burgeoning hip scene. In fact when not dealing with their own drug influenced problems which necessitated session players to help out vocalist Arthur Lee on the complex 'Andmoreagain', they came up with songs indirectly dealing with the horrors of Vietnam on 'A House Is Not A Hotel' and cold war paranoia on 'The Red Telephone'.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Love was the way they managed to turn Lee's lyrical and musical vision in to reality in spite of record company politics and the fragile relations between band members. Lee compositions such as 'The Daily Planet' and the closing 'You Set The Scene' sound like they influenced the British take on psychedelia offered by the likes of Syd Barrett, The Move, and The Yardbirds while the contrasting lyrical moods of paranoia, evident on 'Live & Let Live' and the summery idealism of 'The Good Humour' - all wistful vocals, plucked strings, simpatico trumpet lines and choral verse - illustrate the two polar opposites of the band.

The superbly packaged 2CD 'Collector's 'Edition' offers completists the opportunity to hear a masterpiece in progress. On CD 2 though, some of the alt. takes and demos like the stoned laugher on the tracking session highlights of 'The Red Telephone' and the rambling almost spontaneity of 'Woolly Bully' would probably be left to rest. The remaining points to clear up are whether the music has stood the test of time and whether this elaborately packaged double CD offers anything new? In fact the 20 page booklet gathers together a composite of previously used quotes and photos, but they are meticulously compiled by Andrew Sandoval who painstakingly details the lyrics, different incidents, recollections and chronological quotes from members of the band to help piece together the disparate elements that underpinned their masterpiece.

Of course it can be argued that if you have already bought the 1991 CD release, why buy this? Perhaps the answer is that the people who love this album will seek every last extra insight to go along with their original purchase. Arthur Lee's sad passing also makes the 'The Collectors Edition' release ever more poignant. And 17 years on from the single Rhino CD re-issue the music may once again be reappraised and enjoyed by the next generation of alt 60's music fans. Either way, 'Forever Changes' is the kind of work that you suspect will retain its musical integrity for years t o come whatever the circumstances of its making.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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