I happened to be in Tower
Records (R.I.P.) in the fall of 2005, and I noticed the CD
"Forever Changes," by Love, with its very trippy cartoon
cover that combines the faces of the band members. I had
never heard anything from this album, except covers by UFO
and the Damned of the song "Alone Again Or." Over the
years, I had seen it listed in numerous "best album of all
time" lists and the like, which frankly made me suspicious.
After all, if it was so great, why had I not I heard it? It
was on sale for $8.99, so I decided to take a chance, and
bought it. When I got home, I listened to it straight
through. By the time the second song began, I was in awe.
And I was ashamed. I should have been listening to this for
So what does the record sound like? It's been labeled "psychedelic," but that sells it short. Maybe "folk pop"? But that sells it short as well. Basically, the music is unique: melodic, pulsing acoustic guitar, combined with electric lead, a strong bass, and clear beautiful vocals singing cool, thoughtful lyrics. Although much of it is beautiful-sounding music, the lyrics are often bleak. This was the dark side of the summer of love. "Sitting on a hillside, watching all the people die. I feel so much better on the other side." The opening lyrics from "The Red Telephone." The title of another great song, "Bummer in the Summer," is a reference to would-be Love rhythm guitarist, Bobby BeauSoleil or "Bummer Bob." The nickname came from all his bad acid trips. Instead of becoming a member of Love, he went on to become a buddy of Charles Manson, and tortured and murdered a music teacher. But the song doesn't sound like a Manson Family murder. "Well we're walking along, baby hand in hand, I'm thinking about you momma and you're thinking 'bout another man." Yes, another break-up song, but great lyrics sung in a style that clearly influenced a young Robert Plant, reflected in songs like "Over the Hills and Far Away" and "Gallows Pole," among others. It's easy to imagine Robert Plant singing this song, and he actually did on a recent tour. More recently, Robert Plant sang the song at a New York tribute concert for an ailing Arthur Lee. The closest thing to a hit on the album was "Alone Again Or," written by Love's co-lead singer/songwriter, Bryan MacLean. Again, the song is hard to describe.
Frankly, words can't do justice to this record. The best thing I can say is, if you love music, especially from the 60s and 70s, give this record a listen. It will put all the music from those decades and beyond in a different perspective.
Love's second album, Da Capo, has an album side of songs entirely different from each other that somehow fit together. One in particular stands out, "7 and & Is," a punk song from before there was such a thing as punk. But with trippy lyrics.
After the third Love album, "Forever Changes," the band released a single, "Your Mind and We Belong Together," which somehow fuses the best of the band's diverse musical styles into one, amazing song (and a decent b-side, "Laughing Stock"). But these two songs were the last music the band recorded with its original lineup, at least the last music that was released (there are rumors that a fourth album called Gethsemane was completed that was to include these two songs, but the rumors have never been confirmed). Unfortunately, the two songwriters of Love, Bryan MacLean and Arthur Lee are no longer alive, so there will be no reunion tours. Still, anyone who enjoys music should check them out.
Selected Love Discography (the order in which they should be added to your music collection):
Love's debut, from 1966. Punk before there was such a thing as punk, garage music by great musicians and songwriters. PURCHASE
Love's second album, "Da Capo," from 1967. Again, groundbreaking. However, as I mentioned above, the entire first side of this album is included on the Love Story compilation. PURCHASE
I don't have the hard-to-find records listed below but, completist that I am, I eventually will. Once I do, I'll add some comments. Many of the songs from the first two are on the "Love Story" compilation.
An extensive site about the band, with regular updates and a well-populated message board.
Bryan MacLean Official Website
A great site maintained by family and friends of the late, great co-lead singer, co-lead songwriter of Love, Bryan MacLean. He is the brother of former Lone Justice singer, Maria McKee.
A MySpace page for the band. It says it's "The Official Page for Love with Arthur Lee."