September 09, 2003

Album Review

In late 2001, after spending six years in prison on gun charges that were later overturned, Love founder and frontman Arthur Lee was understandably eager to begin performing again, and with members of the band Baby Lemonade backing him up, Lee booked a European tour for early 2003 in which he was joined by a string and horn ensemble to perform the Love masterpiece, their 1967 album Forever Changes, in its entirety. The tour seemed like the sort of thing most fans would at once cherish and dread -- it's hard to imagine anyone who cared about Love not wanting to see Lee free and performing again, but would he have anything left to say, especially tied to the vehicle of an album that was all of 35 years old? The Forever Changes Concert, recorded during one of the tour's early stops at London's Royal Festival Hall, doesn't hold much in the way of surprises, but anyone who imagined Lee would just go through the motions of Forever Changes' eleven songs will be pleasantly surprised. Lee's voice is harsher than it was in 1967, but he sings these songs with genuine passion and an understanding of their emotional gravity that seems to have grown with the passage of time. The arrangements that Lee and his musicians worked up for this material obviously follow the template of the original recording, but there's a fire in the guitar work and a willingness to bounce patterns off bandmates Mike Randle and Rusty Squeezebox that keeps this material sounding fresh and alive, and the small orchestra that accompanies the group go through their paces with charming skill (and without crowding the band). Lee also sings with commendable emotional depth on the two numbers Bryan MacLean wrote for the original album. Some editions of The Forever Changes Concert also feature a second disc in which the band plays a number of other songs from the Love catalog, and it's fun to hear Lee rock out on "Seven and Seven Is" and "My Little Red Book," but what's more impressive is how focused and committed Lee is on lesser known classics like "Signed D.C." and "Orange Skies"; while the Forever Changes gambit probably brought in plenty of fans, disc two suggests that an evening drawn from Love's broader body of work could have been every bit as satisfying. Still, while this package is for committed Love fans (no one who hasn't heard Forever Changes should start with this), it's not so much an exercise in nostalgia as an evening with a vital artist who could still find new wrinkles in his back catalog.
Mark Deming, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Alone Again Or
  2. A House Is Not a Motel
  3. Andmoreagain
  4. The Daily Planet
  5. Old Man
  6. The Red Telephone
  7. Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale
  8. Live and Let Live
  9. The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This
  10. Bummer in the Summer
  11. You Set the Scene
  12. Seven and Seven Is [*]
  13. Your Mind and We Belong Together [*]
  14. Orange Skies [*]
  15. She Comes in Colors [*]
  16. Listen to My Song [*]
  17. August [*]