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Forever Changes (Love, 1967) 18 May 2007

Posted by Basilios in Love.
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Now this is a hidden gem of an album. I never heard of this group at all, before seeing it mentioned on a few websites dedicated to music reviews. Many of them were enthusiastic, and even those that didn’t call this particular record a masterpiece agreed that it was a worthwhile listen, so I decided to give it a spin.

And it was a worthwhile listen indeed, very enjoyable, and, within its style limitations, quite varied.This is a pop album, not a rock’n’roll one, and of the psychedelic kind of pop that was popular in the late Sixties in the US, but not so drastically psychedelic to make it sound dated today. There is plenty of very good songwriting here, some great songwriting and plenty of entertaining arrangements with only a few grams of those musical ideas that immediately identify a stereotypical Sixties psychedelic album.You know what I mean? Fuzzy guitars, cheesy Hammond organs, and so on.

Let’s talk a little about the group that produced this: Love. As far as I could ascertain, this Californian group never went beyond minor success all over the US, only achieving local renown. They were one of the first bands to be racially diverse, and we’re not talking about a black token guy in the background, we’re talking about band leader Arthur Lee and of his childhood friend, guitarist Johnny Echols. At the time, I read, the presence of Lee and Echols in an otherwise all-white band was quite a big deal. Today, it’s the talent of the guy to hold us in awe; Arthur Lee was guitarist, singer and main songwriter of the band. He also produced, starting with Forever Changes.

Each song on this album is enjoyable in its own right. All of them are guitar based, and very often they rely on acoustic guitar rather than electric, and this, avoiding the fuzzy guitar sounds that were so popular at the time, helped to keep the sound fresher. Add in never intrusive orchestral backing, like in The Daily Planet, and even mariachi-style trumpets, like in the opening Alone Again Or, and you have plenty of music that’s as far as possible from monotonous while still being poppy.

And speaking of Alone Again Or, it, Andmoreagain and Old Man were actually not penned by Arthur Lee, but by rhythm guitarist Bryan MacLean, and are, curiously, the ones I like most. The first one has an interesting vocal arrangement, with Lee and MacLean singing together, and the second is a very sweet love ballad. Old Man, another slower ballad, is instead a song where MacLean reminisces about, well, an old man who gave him guidance and advice.

Further on, there is a slight slump in quality and also a gloomier mood. Consider these few lines from The Red Telephone, for example:

 

Sitting on a hillside
Watching all the people die
I’ll feel much better on the other side

Not a bunch of laughs, isn’t it? Well, I read in the notes coming with my CD that Arthur Lee believed at the time that he was going to die soon, and so his mind was fully taken with what he though was his impending death. That doesn’t make any of the songs here less worthy of attention, of course, as the writing quality and the arrangement are still very good.

Then, at the tail-end of the CD there are a few outtakes and unreleased tracks. Well, they don’t add anything to the album, and in fact a bit of a drag. The only interesting one is Your Mind and We Belong Together, which was a single released in the following year.

To summarize it all, a very good album, with a very strong first half and a less strong, but still enjoyable, second half – plus the outtakes which I can take or leave. Are there any negative aspects? Well, not as such, but a bit of research convinced me that, despite their undeniable talent, this group is not what you’d call a mine of innovation. Inventivity, yes; variation, certainly; but not the skill to revolutionize the genre. These guys stick to by-the-book pop. This is by all means not bad in any way, just limiting.

I find myself forced to lower a bit my original grade, which was a 28 out of 30, to 26. Never the less, as I wrote in the first version of this review, this is an album I’ll find myself listening to quite often. Give it a spin!

Final Grade: 26/30

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Comments»

1. BalladMusician - 22 June 2007

Well it’s good for the group,. I don’t know about this group but with your details I can say that the group have confident with their pass albums. They have all their efforts to pursue their albums and other music. But I’m looking for more ballad musicians.


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