Cambridge Corn Exchange.....27.2.04

Some bands get tagged with a single they had too much success with, such as ,famously, the Stones with "Satisfaction", or even the wrong sort of success; lookwhat happened to the Small Faces after" Lazy Sunday Afternoon''. But Arthur Lee's sheet anchor is an album, the seminal classic "Forever Changes", recorded in Los Angeles in 1967.

But it's not a bad little marker to have put down, and, viewed after nearly 40 years' perspective, it has aged incredibly well. A reflection of that was the surprisingly youthful mix of the audience at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge, who greeted his emblematic choice of an opener, "Alone Again Or", with rapturous delight.

Last year. Lee was touring with his band plus orchestra to recreate the innovatively elaborate arrangements on the "Forever Changes" album. Now, it's just the band and, necessarily, some of the tracks sound a little different. "Alone Again Or"came across as almost brusque, rather than plaintive, whilst "Call My Name" ended up sounding like Family in their heyday.

And of course, contexts change. In 1996, Lee was incarcerated for 6 years for a firearms offence, so the "Red Telephone", with its insistent chant of "Freedom", and manic chorus of "They're locking me up today, they're throwing away the key, I
wonder who it'll be tomorrow, you or me?" took on a whole new meaning, picked up by the audience, who responded with a standing ovation. The Utopian dreams of the original recording are replaced by memories of reality. I think it's called maturing.

The yearning, balladic "Andmoreagain", however, retained its original fragility and charm. Lee, unlike some ageing rock stars, can still sing. His voice can be gloriously powerful and dramatic, or, here, evocative of the confused naivety of youth.

Scattered through the show are other songs from the back catalogue : "Signed DC" and "Message to Pretty" from Love's eponymous first album; "Orange Skies" and "Stephanie Knows Who" from the second "Da Capo". "My Little Red Book" is
unexpectedly powerful and threatening, its pretty chorus overlain with sardonic intent.

Lee himself plays the benign host, calm and in control after life's vicissitudes. The band are tight, the lead guitar soars majestically- occasionally even seeming to compete with Ten Years After for the fastest guitar hand in the West award - but mostly content themselves with being an admirable foil for the man in the hat and
the shades.

To listen to Love is a major musical treat. You can hear so many influences and reflections in the set- hard rock riffs, Latin American rhythms, yer actual Blues, Beach Boyish harmonies and more - all of which may help to explain why they have been a musician's favourite band, attracting a cult following - rather than a great band pushing out the genre envelope. Their genius has been to fuse several styles into a brilliantly embroidered coat of many colours, rather than to hack out new cloth.

Moss Gatherer

Thanks to Jo at Excess Press for her help with this review.