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 years.

"Forever Changes," Love's third album, was released in 1967. It is going on 40 years old, yet does not sound dated. Someone wrote that when this record connects with people, it connects at a deep guttural level. That describes how it hit me. And before I attempt to describe what the music sounds like, you should be aware of two bands (among many) who were inspired by Love: the Doors and Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant in particular). Ray Manzarek of the Doors remembers a young Jim Morrison saying, "Man, if we could be as big as Love, my life would be complete." Maybe if they hadn't gotten so much bigger, he'd still be around. Likewise, Robert Plant listed Arthur Lee (Love's main singer/songwriter) and Love as one of his biggest influences during Led Zeppelin's acceptance speech for his band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In short, without Love, the Doors and Led Zeppelin never would have been.

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 first two albums were ahead of their time as well. The first, self-titled album, has the amazing song, "My Little Red Book," which was featured in the movie High Fidelity (along with a lot of other great music). This album also includes a cool version of "Hey Joe," and a song called "Signed D.C.," about what it feels like to be addicted to heroin. Some who know have said it's an honest depiction of heroin use.

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):

I'm putting this one at the top. "Love Story (1966-1972)" (at left) is a two-disc, career-spanning compilation released in 1995 by Rhino/Elektra. It includes the best songs from Love's self-titled first album, the entire first side of their second album, "Da Capo," and "Forever Changes" in its entirety. It also includes first lineup's last single, mentioned above, and about half a CD's worth of Love's post-Forever Changes work which, although not consistently great, includes many good songs. This is the one to buy, if you can afford it. PURCHASE

If you're on a budget, and can only allocate one CD to this band, "Forever Changes" (right) should be it. Some have said this rivals Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper's as the greatest rock album of all time. My only disagreement is that's an understatement: Forever Changes is FAR SUPERIOR to either one. Make sure you buy the remastered and expanded version, which has extra tracks, including the post-Forever Changes single "Your Mind and We," and its B-side, "Laughing Stock." PURCHASE

This record, "Four Sail," is not a timeless work of art like Forever Changes, but it's still very good. This is the second lineup for the band, with Arthur Lee being the only original member. The same lineup was on "Out Here." If you bought Love Story and want more, consider this one. For whatever reason, two great songs from this album, "Dream" and "I'm With You," were not included on Love Story. PURCHASE

LoveLove's debut, from 1966. Punk before there was such a thing as punk, garage music by great musicians and songwriters. PURCHASE

DaCapoLove'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.



Love-Related Links:
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."