Arthur Lee and his group Love are honored and remembered today as one of the leading and most creative psychedelic rock groups of the 1960s. When taking the group's catalogue as a whole this may be an overstatement but when focusing on Forever Changes this praise is more than warranted.
Forever Changes was released during the Summer of Love in 1967 and is a rightful classic. This is a rare album that goes beyond just the music. Layers of instruments with brass, piano and even strings create diffuse moods and emotions. However, the basic drum and bass foundation ultimately return the music to its psychedelic roots. It is these deep textures that make the album different from most psychedelic rock of the day which was very simplistic. As such it remains a brilliant and essential album.
There are some real gems to be mined on this album. “Alone Again Or” is acoustic guitar straining against some blazing horns. “A House Is Not A Motel” and “The Red Telephone” are what psychedelic music is all about. Drums, bass, some fuzzy guitar, both acoustic and electric, plus Arthur Lee’s wonderful vocals rising above it all make these songs an essential listening experience. “The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything LikeThis” is one of my favorite songs of summer.
Forever Changes is not a light listening experience. It requires that the listener take the same risks as the group. So grab a copy of the album, put your headphones on and set sail on a marvelous journey of sound.
Four Sail was released directly after Forever Changes but is a far different affair. Arthur Lee had fired the whole original group and had recruited new members. The most important addition was lead guitarist Jay Donellan who is one of the most under appreciated guitarists of all time. He took Love’s music in a more hard rock direction with his creative playing. His solo runs should be required listening for any serious fan of rock ‘n’ roll. The problem may have been he was too good and too creative. Arthur Lee wrote all the songs and was the lead singer and maintained an iron control over Love. Donellan would only last for a short time as a member of Love but would leave behind a worthy legacy.
Arthur Lee had just signed Love to the Blue Thumb label. He and his new band mates went into the studio and quickly recorded more than 30 tracks. Ten of the tracks were given to the Electra label to fulfill their contractual obligations. These tracks were released as Four Sail. Common sense would say that Arthur Lee would not have given Electra the best tracks and that is the case. The Blue Thumb releases would never find a consistent style but would explore rock, country, psychedelica, and even a jazz sound. Full Sail may not be as good or interesting but it is consistent as a rock album.
The two superior songs are “August” and “Robert Montgomery” which feature Donellan using Lee’s songs as a canvas on which to paint his guitar pictures. Lee’s voice and Donellan’s guitar were made for each other and it is too bad there is not more of their combined genius.
“Always See Your Face” is probably the most interesting song in that it departs from the basic guitar based rock sound and is filled out with beautiful orchestration.
Four Sail catches Love at an in between period in their career. While it is, by far, not their best album, it does remain interesting for the Arthur Lee-Jay Donellan relationship.