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Da Capo (Love, 1967) 1 July 2007

Posted by Basilios in Love.
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Da Capo was the second album released by American band Love. Like virtually all other Love albums, this was another flop; but unlike them, one of the songs here, Seven And Seven Is, became a minor hit, peaking at the 33th position. This success, albeit limited, gave the group enough oxygen to continue its career, which would reach its qualitative peak with Forever Changes, the successor to this album, and one that, despite having no hit singles and no relevant sales to speak of, is more critically appreciated today.

Compared with Forever Changes (reviewed here), this album sounds more dated in sound and style. This is very much a record of the late Sixties, and you can tell it by the keyboards and by the guitar style. Nothing as obnoxious as the worst psychedelic excesses, but still an album of its time. Themes are also more straightforward and predictable (lots of love songs here!), but that makes Da Capo more accessible and optimistic.

Stephanie Knows Who opens the album, and it’s a fast, energetic song about a girl, Stephanie, that can’t make up her mind between two men. The song is full of keyboards, tuned to sound like harpsichords, and there’s a short jazzy jam in the middle. It’s quite a good song, with an unusual rhythm for a love song, that, to my untrained ears, sounds a bit like a nursery rhyme – but a rhyme that rocks! Stephanie really existed, and, from what I read in the notes in my CD, was a bit of a flirt, going back and forth between front man Arthur Lee (the author of this and of all songs but one on this album) and guitarist Bryan MacLean. Arthur accuses her of knowing well what she had in mind and who she was going to go for (Stephanie knows who she wants, got it?) but playing the two men against each other. Since we don’t hear any more about Stephanie in the following album, we can assume that the two men gave her a well deserved kick and went on about making music.

Orange Skies is the second song, and, if compared to the previous one, sounds much more mellow, with Arthur Lee using a higher vocal range, and with flutes and gentle guitar strumming. This song is the one contribution by MacLean on this album, and it’s clearly a love song of the traditional type, saying how happy a girl makes the singer. Was the girl Stephanie? Was this a competing effort from MacLean to conquer the silly girl? I am not particularly fond of this song; I find it sappy, and it reminds me of a thousand other similar songs. Nothing bad, mind, but nothing original.

Next on the CD we find Que Vida!, which uses sounds very similar to Orange Skies, but has a slightly faster tempo. Not really much faster: this is still a mid tempo gentle ballad, and, coming on the tail of Orange Skies, and sounding so similar, it is not much of a break of the tempo.

The tempo is very much kicked up with Seven & Seven Is, a fast and furious rhythm and blues number with an autobiographic bent. Full of savage guitars (well, savage for the times) and images out of Lee’s childhood, this is arguably the best song on this album. As I mentioned above, it was also the most successful single Love released, climbing up to the 33th position in the USA. And I like it!

The tempo goes down a bit with the following The Castle. Something a bit faster than a ballad (and a bit faster, just to compare, than Que Vida!), and peppered here and there with fresh bursts of harpsichord and acoustic guitar, this is probably my second favourite song on this album. The lyrics are pleasantly obscure, but I read in the lecture notes the song was inspired by a big house our heroes happened to drive by. Sometimes the best songs talk about little things.

Following we have another excellent song, She Comes In Colour. Just like The Castle, it has plenty of gentle acoustic guitars that sound like something out of the following album, Forever Changes. They also bring back the flute that they used in Orange Skies, but to much better effect. This is a perfectly enjoyable love song; it’s about a lover’s appreciation for his girlfriend’s dressing style and how colourful it makes their lives.

Closing the album we have a side-long jam, Revelation. According to the liner notes, this piece started its life as a jazzy jam in honour of John Lee Hooker, he of “Boom Boom” fame, and had his name as its title. It was a staple of their live sets, but during recording, the notes say, it was completely changed. Much of the responsibility lays on the shoulders of the producers, who, according to Lee and the others, cut the piece to pieces and reassembled it in a completely different way, getting out a completely different effect in the end. I’m not sure how much of this is true and not just the usual artists’ complaints against production, but it does feel disjointed and rambling. It works well as background music, and there’s plenty of good music here if you dig for it, but it’s not a song that makes me go “Yeah, I’ll enjoy these twenty minutes of jamming!”, oh no it doesn’t, because there’s also much droning and repetitive music that you might find boring if you’re not into this kind of groove.

And that’s it. It’s not a long album, so to pad the CD Elektra supplies both a stereo mix and a mono mix in the remastered edition I have, and completed it with a demo of Seven & Seven Is. I suppose they did this to make everyone happy, both the modernists, who prefer stereo sound, and the traditionalists, who might prefer the original mono (it was released in mono, I think – am I right? Let me know). To be honest it’s not something I concern myself too much with, so I just listen to the mono mix, for the simple reason that it comes first on the CD. I ripped the stereo mix for my IPod, though.

What to make of this album, then? I like it, but I can’t make a big deal of it. There are songs that deserve more attention, like Seven and Seven Is and She Comes In Colour, and songs that leave me unsatisfied, like Orange Skies and especially Revelation, possibly the piece I like less here – and it is twenty minutes long! If this was an LP it would take a whole side! All in all, this album is not really original, with themes, sounds and lyrics pretty much stereotyped. These songs do sound good, though, and for these reasons my mark for this album will be…

Final Grade: 22/30

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Comments»

1. Gary - 13 August 2007

fine review of a fine album!


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