is the last album (from 1967) of the classic version of the great 60s psychedelic
Although the album is (rightly) regarded as Arthur Lee's masterpiece, the first and best known song on the album, Alone Again Or, was actually written by second guitarist Bryan Maclean. A wonderful piece of Bacharach flavoured pop, with mariachi horns, this song would have gone straight to number 1 in an ideal world.
Lee's A House Is Not A Motel is one of the darkest songs on the album, with its lyrics about 'waters turned to blood' and 'the news today will be the movies of tomorrow', and stylistically is probably the closest the album gets to the sound of the band's first, eponymous album.
Andmoreagain, which for some reason I missed out when I first wrote this node, is a beautiful ballad, probably the most conventional love song on the album. It bears a passing simillarity to Brian Wilson and Tony Asher's Don't Talk, Put Your Head On My Shoulder in its use of orchestral embellishment to suggest heartbeat, but it seems a little out of place on this album, which is mostly concerned with far darker subjects.
The Daily Planet is lyrically simillar to some of Frank Zappa's music at the time - being preoccupied with routine and tedium and the metaphor of circular movement ('look we're going round and round' referring to the world's orbit and the protagonist's daily life) against one of the harsher backing tracks of the album (co-arranged by Neil Young who was originally going to produce the album, before Buffalo Springfield producer Bruce Botnick stepped in).
Old Man, Bryan Maclean's second song on the album, is a gentle ballad based on a melody by Prokofiev, which is both a love song and a song about his conversion to Christianity. What would have been a highlight of the album is slightly marred by a weak lead vocal by Maclean, but is still a very nice track.
The Red Telephone, the closing track of side 1, is simillarly gentle musically, but the lyrics are far more confused and angry, opening with 'Sitting on a hillside/Watching all the people die'. This is also the song where a trick used by Lee throughout the album in spots is most apparent - double tracking his vocal but singing different words for crucial words at the end of each line. The song ends with the chant of 'They're locking them up today/they're throwing away the key/I wonder who it'll be tomorrow/You or me?' followed by the line 'we're all normal when we want our freedom' and a sample (can someone please remind me where it's from?) saying 'All god's chilluns gots to have their freedom...'
Side two starts with Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale - one of the most uptempo, pop-flavoured (with the mariachi trumpets again) tracks from the album, with the lyrical ambiguity this time being created by leaving out the rhyming word (or leaving it until the start of the next line) rather than singing two at once.
Live And Let Live is a very strange song indeed - starting with the unforgettable lines 'oh the snot has caked against my pants/it has turned into crystal/there's a bluebird sitting on a branch/I guess I'll take my pistol...' Like many of the songs on the album, its gentle backing belies the strange, paranoid lyrics, that sound like the man on the brink of madness (the songs on this album are perhaps closer to those of Charles Manson than many of Lee's fans would care to admit...)
The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This is a far more gentle acoustic ballad with pizzicato strings as the main hook, and lyrics about merry-go-rounds and little girls with pigtails. This track could easily be one of Paul McCartney's whimsical pieces from this time, or a track by one of Curt Boettcher and Gary Usher's sunshine pop projects of the time.
Bummer In The Summer Takes us back again to the feel of Love's first album, with a heavy dose of Subterranean Homesick Blues/Like A Rolling Stone era Dylan thrown into the garage-band mix - the song is reminiscent of nothing so much as A Public Execution by Mouse And The Traps, which I suspect 'inspired' it...
The last track, You Set The Scene starts out in much the same vein as the rest of the album, lyrically dark with gentle MOR music underneath, but then in comes the transcendent ending - the verses starting 'This is the time and life that I am living/And I'll face each day with a smile' are some of the most transcendent music ever made, and the perfect ending to the unfortunately short-lived career of one of the best groups of the 60s.
The current issue, on Rhino/Elektra, includes a handful of bonus tracks. Hummingbirds is an instrumental demo of The Good Humor Man..., Wonder People (I Do Wonder) is a pleasant but inessential outtake from the album, there are alternate mixes of Alone Again Or and You Set The Scene and both sides of the band's final single, Your Mind And We Belong Together/Laughing Stock along with some Your Mind... session material. None are as great as the music on the album, but all are well worth hearing.