on April 27, 2001
I inadvertantly wrote a review for this deluxe re-issue under the banner of the original CD version, so this is my attempt to address the recently released, 7-bonus track edition of this stellar album. I can understand why people wouldn't know or care about Love, but then again they are probably the same people who think Britney Spears is an "artist". To the uninitiated, it helps to know that Love was Jim Morrison's favorite group; when "Forever Changes" was first issued in 1967, it was their third album for Elektra, who eventually signed The Doors and released that group's incredible debut the same year. If it weren't for Arthur Lee and Love: 1) Elektra would not have gotten into the rock game; 2) The Doors might not have gotten signed to Elektra (Arthur Lee saw the group play The Whisky a Go Go and referred them to Jac Holzman and Ahmet Ertugen); 3) Jimi Hendrix might not have been exposed to a recording studio until much later in life (Lee recorded Hendrix on a rare 45 in the early '60's, and later included sessions with Jimi on subsequent Love LPs); and my life would still be the same. The re-issue offers a little insight into this deliberately mysterious group by supplying fans with outtakes from the original line-up's last session ("You and I and Your Mind Belong Together"), a demo version of one of the tracks ("The Good Humor Man..." re-titled as "Hummingbirds"), alternate mixes of classic Love tracks ("You Set The Scene" and "Alone Again Or", which emphasizes Brian Maclean's vocals more prominently), and even a song deleted from the original album completely ("Wonder People"), as well as the B-side "Laughing Stock" which is from the same session as "You and I..." Needless to say, the album sounds great, despite the original multi-track tapes being MIA. Lee seems like a prophet when he rattles off lines like "The news of today will be the movies of tomorrow"... Too bad the band went through all the tragic cliches that accompany bands that come close to stardom: infighting, ego trips, money issues, refusals to tour, line-up adds and drops, and the obligatory drug abuse that grew to mythic proportions... Unlike any other album released in 1967, this one shows both sides of the coin that was the Summer Of Love: Hippie pride paired with nihilism, romance with despair, mind-expansion with paranoia. Arthur Lee was onto something, and until he is released from jail in 2005, we may never hear anything this well-written and executed from the man ever again. You can hear in this one album where artists as diverse as The Damned, UFO, The Smiths, Baby Lemonade, Neil Young, The Hooters, Echo & The Bunnymen, and even John Frusciante of the Chili Peppers copped some of their best ideas; you can also hear how well Love incorporated their own influences and peers into their songs: you hear Dylan, Neil Young (again), Brian Wilson, The Byrds, mariachi and flamenco music, Memphis Blues, folk, and acid rock peek up here and there, but the overall sound and texture is pure Love. Take a risk, all you adventurous pop music fans out there who are looking for interesting, elegant melodies to sing along to as you drive around L.A. or wherever it is you may live.
on March 14, 2002
I love this album! It's gorgeous: completely, utterly and absolutely. It's one of the most perfect pieces of music ever committed to tape, vinyl or CD. Out of all the summer of love albums to have come out, this is the one that strikes the strongest chord of kinship inside me. I don't know what it's like to have cavorted about in dippy-hippy peace, man style, but I DAMN sure know what it's like to be lonely and to be the man who sees things from the outside.
But do not be fooled. This is not a sad album in any way. Like how that totally awesome album cover portrays, it is life itself, a swirling menagerie of colors, moods and emotions. Can anyone doubt this after the way the first song, "Alone again or" begins with that quiet accoustic guitar and then knocks you right out in the middle with that majestic horn solo?
Throughout the album, our singer is sad, but never downtrodden. There is a perkiness even in the really delicate songs like "Andmoreagain" and "The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This"-the latter one of the most gorgeous songs about summer ever written. Even with the two rockers, "A House Is Not A Motel" and "Live And Let Live", the mood is subdued, the anger is controlled and aimed carefully like a pointed finger.
Then there are the really bubbly songs: "Between Clark and Hillsdale" makes you want to cha-cha past your own local bunch of sidewalk stores right after you get out of work while there're still a couple hours of summer sun left; and "You Set The Scene" has to be one of the greatest signature songs of the era. It's one of those majestic march of life songs. Our singer, even in his darkest moment of loneliness where he is talking/longing to an old photograph of a girlfriend (and who among us has never experienced this?), is able to rally an existential optimism of being part of a greater whole-life. Well, when you listen to the song, you see what I mean.
Do the bonus tracks do it for the album? Yes, and no. They do not in manner flaw the original integrity Forever Changes, I'm just not sure if they enhance it that much. "Hummingbird" is excellent, because we see something already great on its way to greatness. "Wonder People" is intersting, because it's an outtake and you have to wonder how many of those are still floating around. "Laughing Stock" is a pointless addition; I never liked that song very much in the first place. "Your mind and me belong together" is noteworthy because it was the last song the Forever Changes lineup recorded before they disintegrated into memory. The guitar solo is pretty cool, but once again it does nothing to enhance the album. As for the remixes, I can tell no difference, except for that bizarre rap sequence they tagged onto the alternate version of "You Set The Scene" and the couple extra seconds of strings at the song's end.
Haunting, eerie, chirpy, and bubbly Forever Changes is never a let-down; only after that final horn section marches off from your ears do you feel the come-down.
Rolling Stone said it the best: Forever Changes is "indescribably essential".
on May 12, 2008
It has been called quintessential, a masterpiece, the great lost gem. Never has an album so encapsuled the tumultuos times we are living than Love's Forever Changes. From the ultimate strums of Flamenco Guitar on Alone Again Or to Sitting on a hillside watching all the people die on The Red Telephone and to facing each day with a smile on You Set The Scene, the listener is hypnotically bombarded with the most fascinating lyrics that seem to forever change with each listen, amazing orchestration, and barrages of electric guitar that influenced oh so many from Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Move, and The Doors to The Ramones, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Robyn Hitchcock, Television, Lenny Kravitz, and Urge Overkill. This album, this band, and Arthur Lee, its leader, deserves to be in the Rock Hall of Fame, and they will be when we stop teething.
Buy this version just to hear it in more ways. Let the re-issues of this classic keep coming and let it Forever Change our lives. Here is hoping for a successful release and an all-encompassing Arthur Lee and Love Box Set in the near future. So we can Keep the same old smile smiling.
I was introduced to this album at thirteen by junior high buddy Bill Loftin, who was somewhat more musically advanced than I. We would sit for hours transfixed by a sound that was different from anything else then being played. "Alone Again Or" was the hook, but "Forever Changes" grew on me until it became firmly implanted in my mind as one of the best albums ever recorded. Now we all can think of albums that we liked when young that we can no longer stand and wonder how we ever did. This album, despite what some critics say, is one that stands the test of time. The song-writing duo of Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean are at the peak of their collaborative genius here. Sure, some of the song titles are outrageous and some of the lyrics seem to have been written merely to rhyme; i.e. "All the snot is caked against my pants, it has turned into crystal. There's a bluebird sitting on a branch, I guess I'll take my pistol..." But interspersed with all the seeming nonsense are many serious and cryptic lyrics which give the listener pause. Arthur Lee was "punk" before punk was ever thought of and the music much more agreeable. My favorite cuts are the title song, The Red Telephone, Live and Let Live, You Set the Scene, ...Between Clark and Hilldale (a GREAT song musically), and Old Man. Bryan Maclean once said in an interview that the old man in the song was fictitious. Maybe so, but entirely believable. A lucky kid indeed is one whose life is enriched and horizons expanded by a worldly man such as Maclean wrote about. I don't agree with those who say this album didn't age well. In my estimation, "Forever Changes" continues to stand out from its contemporaries as a masterpiece of 1960s underground music.
This was a random purchase I made as part of my exploration of psychedelic music released during the late 1960's. Happily, this turned out to be one of the nicer listening experiences I have had as of late and was generally impressed with the lush arrangements, acoustic textures, and melancholy mood. Although sounding partly like a product of its time (November 1967), this album is pretty sophisticated musically, with themes of paranoia and death commingling with at least a few cheerier themes. In spite of the fact that this record is largely unsung, it apparently influenced a few other musicians, as I can hear bits and pieces of this album on The Soft Parade (The Doors, 1969) and Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (Spirit, 1970). The English folk/prog group Strawbs has also acknowledged the influence of Love on their From The Witchwood album of 1971.
The musicians on Forever Changes include bandleader Arthur Lee (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars); John Ecols (lead electric guitar); Bryan Maclean (rhythm guitar and vocals - lead vocal on Alone Again and Old Man); Ken Forssi (electric bass guitar); and Michael Stuart (drums and percussion). In addition to the key band members there is an additional bassist, guitarist, drummer, and a pianist along with string and brass ensembles. The string ensemble is used a lot throughout and very effectively. I guess it's worth noting that the liner notes indicate that Arthur felt that the band did not possess the technical ability of a Cream or a Jimi Hendrix Experience and channeled his efforts into arrangement. As such, Forever Changes features layers and layers of instruments, excellent orchestration, rich vocal harmonies, nice melodies, acoustic textures, great production, and gloomy atmospheres. As a progressive rock fan I certainly appreciate virtuosity but appreciate good arrangements a whole lot more - I really enjoyed this album a lot in fact.
The eleven pieces (2'20" - 6'49") largely consist of strummed acoustic guitars and the occasional electric guitar solo atop a solid foundation of electric bass and drums. Skillfully woven into the overall "psychedelic rock sound" are trumpet and string parts that range from classical to big band (just like Chicago used their brass section, although Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass sound does creep in there too). The trumpets really add a distinctive touch, while the strings make an unavoidable Beatles connection. Although I have described this music as melancholy and gloomy, there are occasionally bouncy and cheery sections that provide a nice balance.
Rhino did a great job remastering this album and there are extensive liner notes and photos of the band. The bonus tracks do not add too much, although they certainly are of historical value to fans of the band.
This is a great album that should prove to be of interest to those folks that like the proto-progressive British bands such as The Moody Blues (In Search of the Lost Chord, 1968) and Procul Harum (A Salty Dog, 1969) along with other American west coast psychedelic acts like Jefferson Airplane (After Bathing at Baxter's, 1967), Spirit (Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, 1970) and The Doors (Waiting for the Sun, 1968). I can honestly say that as a huge progressive rock fan who is exploring the psychedelic roots of the genre, this is a great album and is definitely worth adding to the psychedelic/progressive rock collection.
on May 6, 2008
Brilliant reissue, even better than the 2001 reissue. This one adds the previously-unreleased "alternate mix" of the entire album, which is pretty excellent. Certain instruments stick out more in the mix; it's a bit rougher, more intimate -- definitely a worthwhile listen. The bonus tracks that weren't on the 2001 reissue are alright, not terribly necessary. The ONE THING that is missing from this reissue is the FULL LENGTH VERSION of "A House Is Not A Motel". There exists a version in which the Echols twin-guitar solo goes on a good 20 or 30 seconds longer than the original album version. However, this lack is a tiny shortcoming. The reissue as pressed is still a five star release.
on March 6, 2001
When this album was first released in late 1967 (Elektra), it seemed way beyond the pale, as though it had been produced in an alternate rock universe. But just mention it to those lucky fans who were aware of it at the time and their eyes widen, their voices drop into hushed tones of awe. "Forever Changes" was the breath of genius. With time, more and more rock critics have come to share that view. Even if you already own this album in another format, buy this CD.
The first CD version of this classic (Elektra/Asylum 1987) was typically nothing special in the audio department. The next version, presented in full on the two-CD boxed set, "Love Story 1966-1972" (Rhino 1995), was dramatically better sonically - everything brought forward, especially the bass, with lots more detail. However, although all the songs on "Forever Changes" were included (in indication of how highly regarded the album was), they were split between the two CDs. The new, intact re-master is a real joy. Although it may be hard for most listeners to detect any obvious sonic improvement over the "Love Story" boxed set (meaning only that Rhino did a great job on the boxed set), with a good sound system and a careful listen you can indeed hear greater detail. Actually, it's one of the most impeccable sonic presentations I've heard on any CD. The bonus tracks are a really nice addition, same high sonic quality, rounding out our appreciation for the original Love's final, brilliant recording sessions, from which "Forever Changes" was born. The 24-page CD booklet is also quite nice, with lots of text detailing the history of Love and frontman Arthur Lee, and the genesis and production of "Forever Changes", track by track. Thanks, Rhino, for giving this masterpiece everything it has so long deserved.
on February 17, 2008
Somewhere between the seaweed strands of pure fantasy and the lucit luminous lights of imagination in a colourful semi-concious state is where this selection resides. I will always be willing to hear other opinions. But, for me, this deserves the legendary status that has been bestowed upon it. And I will get to the why and wherefor shortly.
But first, I think you have to look at this band from the start. Arthur Lee, the leader and main contributor of this band, set out on a direction in music that was totally unheard of in the pop arena at the time. I mean, who else wrote about the despair of a drug addict in 1966? But, although this was included in their first effort, which was unusual but accessible pop at the time, there were more things in store for us from this very different band.
Arthur's creativity (and mind) took amazing leaps. They could do rock- acoustic rock- acoustic - punk - country and whatever format they wanted to. And let us not even discuss mega-talented. Yes, Love was THE group to be reckoned with in the 60's. But, strangely, they were an esoteric find to say the least. That is because Arthur, the true to form non-conformist that he was, was not into touring and pleasing the masses. So, they kept on but were relegated to a secondary staus when, in all honesty, they could have topped everyone at the time as the premier American band. I don't think Arthur cared very much. Art is art- after all.
We now come to "Forever Changes" and what it all means. Hard to answer. But first, let us discuss the music. Never have there been such a perfect marriage of smooth pop-rock confection with gliding velvety orchestration. But this time, Arthur was through with his raucous excursions of trying to make a point. This time, he geared the music in such a way that everybody could understand it. Wisely imbedding subliminal messages within the surrealistic, psychedelic stream of conciousness that weaves it's way throughout this amazing c.d.
All songs are delightfully listenable. But, as pleasant as it is, Arthur asks very pertinent questions here and poses hard-edged questions and situations that he asks you to consider (some not so pleasant). Thematically, we run the spectrum of love-hate-race relations-connection-fear-mortality-death. All things that run through the human psyche. And, as a true Seer, I detect some spirituality as well. These are just a few reasons why this c.d. is so monumental. So much contained within so little. But it takes an imaginative and astute listener to get it.
Of course we have the common love dilemmas in "Alone Again Or", "Andmoreagain" and "Old Man". But Arthur goes deeper in other songs. In "A House is Not a Motel" he travels into metaphysical terrain with the line, "You are just a thought that someone, somewhere, somehow feels you should be here". Not only that - but he becomes a psychic as well with "the news today will be the movies for tomorrow". Snippets and tidbits of always being ahead - in substance - in thought. That was Arthur Lee.
You can get nuances of reincarnation in "The Red Telephone" with "I've been here once, I've been here twice". And universal personal connection with the line, "If you think I'm unhappy, count me (fill in your own particular shade)". He reveals succint aspects of confrontation, as in "Live and Let Live" with recognizing your artillery. It is this ability to peer into the common denominator that make these songs so rich.
The passages and changes (forever) in this music are a marvel - and so very addicting. In the closing song, "You Set the Scene" stresses the need to make it all right because of the short time we all have here. Mortality revealed - but with so much beauty. It's up to you. Yes, you set the scene. We all do.
I could go on and on about this c.d. but it would, in the end, only be my take on it. There are so many things here - for everybody. But, as art is known to do, it is what you, personally, get from it. My feeling? It is a masterpiece, for the very reasons I've set down here. Something for everyone. Wonderful.
It's an ESSENTIAL for any true, pop-rock archive. Take my word.
Forever metamorphosizing ----- Metamorpho ;)
on March 23, 2001
With "Forever Changes", Love realized the potential obvious in their first albums, "Love" and "Da Capo", and created a musical document quite unlike anything else coming out of LA at the time. I've heard the album referred to as paradoxical, but I can't agree with that. True, the album has a real dichotomy to it -- delicate, horn-rich instrumentation on "Alone Again Or" and "Old Man" coexists with forceful guitars on the Jimi Hendrix-influenced "Bummer in the Summer"; obtuse, even psychedelic, lyrics form an excellent balance with the type of direct, forward lyrics with which Love made their initial reputation -- but the diverging elements complement each other, creating an album both pastoral and urban, wistful yet (still in 2001) current. Arthur Lee's vocals were never more controlled and full of range than on "Forever Changes". Some of the writing on the album probably foreshadows Lee's subsequent emotional and psychological meltdowns, but as ever, that's only speculation. Forever Changes is a triumphant record (just listen to the horns at the end of "You Set the Scene") that transcends the 60s in a way that other "classics" of that time do not. Surely, this flowing, glimmering document was Love's finest moment.
on November 24, 2000
Okay, here's the deal...I will not repeat all that pretentious "masterpiece" stuff about this album but I will try and tell you why this album meant a lot to me when it came out and why it is one of the great albums. Here are six reasons to buy this album:
1. Love is the only group that used Bela Lugosi's vampire castle as a back drop for two album covers.
2. The hidden force behind "Forever Changes" was Neil Young, who almost took credit as a producer because he worked with Arthur Lee on the songs up until the moment the band took the songs to the studio and recorded them.
3. Arthur Lee used William Burrough's "cut and paste" technique for lyric writting on most of his songs. This is what gives the album a surreal feel.
4. Bryan McLean was the first composer to bring Braizilian rythyms to the ears of the mainstream.
5. This album almost didn't get cut. Love was in a complete mess at the time. Most of the members weren't even talking to each other. Following this session the band broke up and Love will always be remembered as about the only group that quit when it was still at the top of it's game.
6. All band members went on to live in obscurity: One member is in jail, one is dead, two have disappeared from the face of the earth and one is roaming around South America with a guitar. This is a good reason to support Love. None of these guys hung around for a reunion tour when their shelf life was expired..
Thank you Love for an album that I can sit in a rocking chair at age 69 and drop acid to.