Tonight: Arthur Lee & Love Tribute at the Roxy
The hoary cliche claims that if you remember the '60s, you weren't there. What that means for Love, the psychedelic soul kingpins, who remain slept-on 45 years after their seminal self-titled debut, is yet to be determined, but they certainly left behind a timeless canon. Memory is overrated when you have that kind of empirical evidence.
The brainchild of South L.A.-raised Arthur Lee and Johnny Echols, Beverly Hills-raised Bryan MacLean, and Ken Forssi, the bassist on the famed surf-rock anthem, "Wipeout," Love captured the noirish-sunshine dialectic better than any local band of the '60s. A staple on the Sunset Strip scene, they were a massive inspiration on the Doors (it was Lee who reportedly pushed Elektra boss Jac Holzman to sign Mr. Mojo Rising and company.) Robert Plant, frontman of Led Zeppelin once declared that Love's "Forever Changes" was one of his favorite albums of all time.
The group's time in the sun was brief -- a 16-month brisance of lysergic creativity over 1966 and 1967. During that period, the they released three classic records and set themselves up to be the next breakout rock group from the city of Angels. Alas, drug use, aversion to touring and internal turmoil ripped the group asunder, forcing Lee to carry on with a variety of less-gifted bandmates. Yet, while the post 1967-era can't match the supernatural height of "Forever Changes," it remains a sorely underrated body of work. As Randy Lewis reported last month, High Moon Records is issuing the never-before-released "Black Beauty" in June.
Lee had planned to put “Black Beauty” out on his Buffalo Records label, but the company folded before it came out and the tracks were shelved. High Moon will release the 10 tracks originally planned to be on the album along with bonus tracks, new liner notes and previously unpublished photos from the period.
Rolling Stone writer David Fricke wrote in a guide to the band’s bootleg recordings, “’Black Beauty’ might have been received as a strong comeback for Lee, a turn to steamy R&B with heavy-guitar punch – if it had come out.”
Lee passed away from leukemia five years ago, but for the first time in 30 years, the surviving members of his Black Beauty Band will perform Friday night at the Roxy in celebration of the new release. According to the news release, they will "play never-before-heard live versions of songs from the legendary album, as well as a selection of songs from the Arthur Lee/Love catalog." Lee's widow Dianne Lee will also speak.
The night will also commemorate High Moon's rerelease of Gene Clark's "Two Sides to Every Story." The former Byrds son, Kai Clark and his Kai Clark Band will perform the album in its entirely along with other Clark cuts. For a Sunset Strip long past its summer of love-era apex, the night serves as a reminder when the dresses were flower print and all the sunshine was orange. Or that Love will never die.
-- Jeff Weiss