Love’s post-Elektra albums plus intriguing rediscovered live recordings
‘Forever Changes’ cast a long shadow over Arthur Lee’s career – even in its immediate aftermath. With heroin addiction having pretty much ensured the break-up of the Love line-up that made the record, Lee took a two year break, formed a new group, and returned with two albums. The first, ‘Four Sail’, concluded Love’s business with Elektra records. The second, for new label Blue Thumb, was the double ‘Out Here’.
All round, it was an exemplary action for this enigmatic and perplexing figure. Attempting to break the ties between himself and his dark, psychedelic masterpiece, Lee recorded with a stripped-down band. The notoriously travel-shy Lee even came to England, in winter, to promote it. I interviewed him while he sat on a paraffin stove, and his coat caught fire. “I’m burning,” he said suddenly, and he leapt up, beating out smoke from his shaggy fur coat.
‘Out Here’, the reason for such a perilous trip, is ultimately half a great album marred by two excessively long tracks – and seriously weighed down by “Doggone”’s endless drum solo. Yet a handful of songs are truly up there with Lee’s best. The pleading, folksy “Listen To My Song”, the trademark melodic intricacy of “I Still Wonder” and “Gather Round”, an almost Pete Seeger-like protest song built around inter-weaving, escalating, chiming guitars.
The downside, though, is the presence of too many unworthy, frivolous songs, and sadly, 1971’s follow up, ‘False Start’ is even more dominated by this breezy, carefree approach. Inane material like “Slick Dick” and “Flying” are the norm, and even though the album opens with “The Everlasting First”, Lee’s collaboration with close friend Jimi Hendrix, even that fires up only intermittently.
The highlight of this three CD set is a spitting live version of ‘Out Here’’s garage-funk blast, “Stand Out”. It’s sourced from the same tour recordings presented here as the bonus disc, “Live In England 1970”, where Lee explores all five Love albums with searing and seething intent – but also with soaring passion.