Every once in awhile a music label has a great idea. Someone at Collector’s Choice Music had the wonderful inspiration of re-releasing the Love albums featuring Arthur Lee that were recorded for the Blue Thumb label in 1969-1970. Both had been out of print for decades.
Arthur Lee and his group Love have rightfully gone down in music history as being at the creative center of the American psychedelic movement. Psychedelic, however, has always been too simple a definition of Love’s music and legacy. Their self titled first album (1966) was an exploration of the sounds of the Beatles and Byrds. De Capo (1967) took the group in a more orchestral direction with flutes and saxophone. Arthur Lee’s masterpiece, Forever Changes (1967) is one of the classic psychedelic releases of the 1960’s.
As the sixties drew to a close Arthur Lee fired all Love’s group members and hired guitarist Jay Donnellan, bass player Frank Fayad and drummer George Suranovich as replacements. This new version of Love signed a contract with the Blue Thumb label and quickly recorded over thirty songs. An albums worth of material was given to the Electra label to fulfill their contractual obligations. This resulted in the release of Full Sail.
Love’s first Blue Thumb release was the double LP, Out Of Here. It is an album of creative individual parts which did not fit together. Arthur Lee & Love created folk rock, country, hard rock, some psychedelic tunes and even a protest song. They were spread out in no particular order over the course of the albums original two records. Out Here may have been a jumble at times but it was and remains always interesting.
“I’ll Pray For You” starts out very sparse and morphs into a catchy tune with nice harmonies. “Abalony” is a tongue in cheek country song complete with a steel guitar underpinning the vocals. “Signed D.C.” and “I’m Down” are both back to basics psychedelic tunes that are representative of the traditional Love sound. “Willow Willow” creates a nice pop groove.
The only partial misses are the two longest songs. “Doggone” clocks in at 12 minutes and is fine for awhile but has a seemingly interminable drum solo that is also amateurish. “Love Is More Than Words Or Better Late Than Never” is eleven minutes of guitar solo that is very much 1969 but not 2008.
Out Here is a virtual smorgasbord of sound. Arthur Lee’s writing prowess and ever changing vocal styles form the foundation of the album and create a listening experience to be savored.
The second and last Love album released on the Blue Thumb label was False Start. It was a more focused and shorter album. It stretches in a number of directions but ultimately returns to rock ‘n’ roll roots.
False Start is best known for the Jimi Hendrix song, “The Everlasting First.” Hendrix co-wrote this song with Arthur Lee and plays lead guitar on the track. Hendrix’s playing is instantly recognizable and he meshes well with Lee’s vocal style.
“Flying” is breezy piano driven rock reminiscent of the Grateful Dead. “Gimme A Little Break” is guitar driven and features Lee’s bluesy vocals. “Keep On Shining” is a hybrid in that it has a country instrumental feel but Arthur Lee’s vocal returns the song to its rock roots. “Stand Out” is a live track that shows Lee’s superior voice set against fuzzy psychedelic guitars.
False Start is a well conceived album and a good place to explore the mind of Arthur Lee. If, however, you are really feeling adventurous, just go right to Out Here. Both albums are wonderful and varied musical journeys.