is the most recently-released album by Arthur Lee
(billed, as always, as Love
, but featuring no other members of the 60s lineups), a recording from live performances from the very early 1990s. Mostly covering material from Love's first three, classic albums, this has presumably been released to tie in with Lee's forthcoming European tour (he's just been released from jail).
The 'OFFICIAL RELEASE!' label on the cover should give a clue that this started life as a bootleg (though this is indeed officially endorsed by Lee) and the sound quality is consistent with that - it sounds like it was taped by someone in the audience - although not truly terrible.
The bulk of the CD is from a gig in Santa Monica on Nov 28, 1991. The set opens with Alone Again Or, Bryan Maclean's opener for Love's greatest album, Forever Changes. The song suffers from the lack of harmonies (Lee is the only vocalist on the entire set) and being performed electrically, but this is a very good performance, and a good opener.
My Little Red Book, a Burt Bacharach/Hal David cover from Love's eponymous first album follows. A very decent performance, this is taken at slightly too fast a pace, doesn't have the agression of the original, and again suffers from the lack of harmonies, but is certainly not at all bad.
7 And 7 Is from Da Capo is the best performance of the CD so far - showing this band could reproduce the agression of the early, garage band, version of Love, and could also cope with Lee's trickier compositions. Very good guitar work along with an exemplary vocal (and it's not until you hear a live album that you realise just how good a vocalist Lee is) produces a very enjoyable performance.
Orange Skies from Da Capo, the second Maclean composition of the set, doesn't work so well - the backing is OK but it doesn't quite gel. It's almost unbelieveable though how versatile Lee's vocals are - no-one listening to this would think it was the same man who'd performed the previous song.
Signed DC, Lee's reworking of House Of The Rising Sun from the first Love album, doesn't work too well with a full live electric band either, though the song, with its haunting lyrics about drug addiction, is too good to mess up totally when played at all competently (and this is a perfectly decent performance). Very nice harmonica playing from Lee on this one, but the band seem to be trying too hard to be a 'blues band'.
The Everlasting First is the first rarity of the set - a song Lee composed and recorded with Jimi Hendrix. Guitarist Melvan Whittington does a sterling job imitating Hendrix's lead parts, and Lee sounds very like Hendrix (who learned a lot from Lee when starting out) on vocals on this one. A lost classic, with lyrics simillar to Marvin Gaye's Abraham, Martin And John, this deserves a much wider audience.
Andmoreagain, from Forever Changes follows, and is absolutely beautiful, Lee once again being a vocal chameleon, going from the low Hendrixalike blues singer of the previous track to high tenor folkie and turning in one of the best vocal performances of the set.
Hey Joe follows, and is taken even faster than on the first Love album. Again, this slightly misses the thuggish sound of the original band, but as live performances go it's well worth hearing.
She Comes In Colors, from Da Capo is the closer of the set, and is another classic that can't possibly go wrong.
Everybody's Gotta Live, the encore, is from Lee's solo album Vindicator and is a revelation (I'd never heard this song before, as Lee's work post-Forever Changes is out of print). A variant on Three Blind Mice (before you laugh, so are half John Lennon's songs), Lee sounds just like Ray Charles on this one at times, a wonderfully tender blues ballad with none of the barely-concealed menace so ubiquitous in his earlier work, but all the better for that. The song briefly segues into Instant Karma, which it resembles fairly closely, then back again, and is a wonderful closer to an all too brief set.
There follow three solo acoustic performances by Lee from November 1992. Of these, That's The Way It Goes is the best - and in fact the best of the CD. A song that has never had a release on any other album, this is easily the equal of his best work, and is performed beautifully in front of what sounds like a shamefully small and apathetic audience.
Signed DC and Andmoreagain also feature as acoustic performances, and are far better than the full band versions, making me wish for an Arthur Lee Unplugged CD. These sparse solo performances put the song over far better than the sometimes over-dense arrangements of the full band.
The CD is rounded off with a rather disappointing version of Hendrix's Little Wing, a full-band performance from 92.
This album is definitely not for people unfamilliar with Lee's work, due to the poor sound quality (and shoddy packaging - the pages in the booklet are printed in the wrong order), but for those who love (no pun intended) his classic early work but are unfamilliar with his later stuff, this is eye-opening, and if nothing else is an essential purchase for That's The Way It Goes.