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