Forever changes is one of those ‘classic’ albums that should have dated but hasn’t. Heavy-handedly paranoid, the product of a rock/soul miscegenation, quaintly baroque in its orch-pop/mariachi instrumentation, Love’s third album might easily have gone the way of Days Of Future Passed or other prog/psych/folk abominations.
That the album has endured is proof, to these ears, of pop’s miraculous serendipity. Here was a motley crew of vaguely sinister Sunset Strip hippies that really did just happen to be in the right place at the right time. The right band, in other words, to document life at the cusp of the psychedelic south California adventure. Nothing Arthur Lee has done subsequently suggests he was born to do anything more than that.
The obvious question about Forever Changes Live, recorded at London’s Royal Festival Hall last January, is: why? What can this give us that the original doesn’t? The only differences are negligibly negative: Lee’s voice now has a burry edge that, on “A House Is Not A Motel” or “Bummer In The Summer”, makes him sound like Paul Weller. Both “Alone Again Or” and “Old Man” seem to require the more dulcet tones of their author, the late Bryan Maclean.
The other question is: now that ‘classic’?and even never-released?albums by lost/damaged geniuses (Brian Wilson, Arthur Lee) are being given the full concert hall treatment, how many other cult opuses will be reconfigured for our edification? As fellow Uncut scribe Ian MacDonald writes in his new collection, The People’s Music, nostalgia has become an industry.
“The forward-looking fascination with things to come,” he writes, “and its consequent wish to make music with the language of today but the sound of tomorrow, has dwindled away.”
Perhaps Forever doesn’t Change after all.