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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
35
Four Sail
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:$10.38+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime


on August 27, 2007
Love guitarist Johnny Echols is quoted in the CD liner notes of their debut album as saying that Love was at times a less hard-rocking band than they might have envisioned themselves, and that this was due to the influence of co-guitarist Bryan MacLean. This is certainly not a put-down, as MacLean's four contributions to the band - "Softly To Me", "Orange Skies", "Alone Again Or", and "Old Man" - were unique enough to earn him a healthy amount of credit for Love's enduring influence. MacLean must have rubbed off onto frontman Arthur Lee, who - while never a full-on rocker himself - clearly benefited from smoother-around-the-edges style of his bandmate. Unfortunately, MacLean decided to go solo and Lee decided to break up the original line-up of Love following 1967's Forever Changes. This band had produced a classic and strongly individual body of work, and could have broken nationally if only they would have toured more extensively outside of California.

It is interesting to consider how Four Sail would have turned out had it been recorded by the erstwhile group of musicians. Since it was not, one might expect it to be decidedly weaker than its predecessors. This is far from the case. It is different in that is rocks much harder from beginning to end. However, as their early singles made perfectly clear, Love was always a band that had the ability to rock hard. On Four Sail, Lee explores the electric side of psychedelic folk rather than the acoustic. Guitarist Jay Donellan is a superb conduit for this approach. There are moments during which he threatens to overdo the style of Lee's once and future collaborator Jimi Hendrix. Thankfully, these moments are very few.

"August" might be one such case of slight overindulgence, as there are about 45 seconds of too much jamming. I can't really say which 45 seconds are the unnecessary ones, but it does feel a bit too long. Still, the guitar work is splendid, arguably more powerful than anything on Forever Changes. Lee's voice, meanwhile, is ghostly as ever and firmly intact. "Your Friend and Mine - Neil's Song" is a much more relaxed affair, and sounds like a campfire singalong. This contrasts effectively with the song's subject: the death by heroin overdose of Love roadie Neil Rappaport. "I'm With You" and "Good Times" sport warm and jazzy musical backdrops. "Dream" is one of the moodiest pieces on the record, and includes Lee's second reference to New York City on the album. This is interesting because, as mentioned before, Lee generally refused to tour outside of California. "Nothing" is also quite moody, with gentle guitar riffs and soft, unforced vocals. Unfortunately, Lee affects a strange and sloppy voice to poor effect on "Talking In My Sleep". Good thing that the musical passages are so strong, or this would be the one truly superfluous track on the album.

Now, I stop just short of the final track so that I can include it with two of the other stronger tracks on Four Sail. While the album begins with the formidable "August", it ends with the tender "Always See Your Face". As sincere as this song sounds, one has to wonder why he is so sure that he will always her - and she always see his - face (assuming that he is referring to a woman). I can see how he would imagine seeing her everywhere he goes, because he will always be thinking of her. Unless he expects her to be thinking about him just as often, then it seems like he will be making sure she sees his actual face. But I hate to put a creepy twist on such a beautiful song. "Singing Cowboy" and "Robert Montgomery" serve as sturdy pillars for the album's middle section. Both are powerful, carefully-constructed rockers which use the situations of their title characters to offer a bit of philosophical commentary. The shouting at the end of "Singing Cowboy" will surely remind the listener of a singer who was long a vocal admirer of Arthur Lee, and whose band (Led Zeppelin) released their debut album the same year that Four Sail was released.

While not a Love album in the proper sense, Four Sail is worthy of the attention of the band's fans. Even without the musicians and co-writers who helped make the band great, Lee shows that he was the heart and soul of the group, and that he could just as easily write an album of Love songs entirely by himself. It might be tough for fans of the original Love to admit it, but new members Jay Donnellan, Frank Fayad, and George Suranovich (and Drachen Theaker, who filled in on drums on three songs) give Lee's songs all of the muscle and restraint that they need. Four Sail is proof that there was greatness left in Arthur Lee after his magnum opus, and it should be included in any estimation of his legacy. (Fans who are willing to invest heavily in Love with their first purchase would be wise to seek out the 2-CD collection Love Story, which contains the four essential tracks from Four Sail and two others.)
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on May 22, 2017
IMHO, the 2nd best of LOVE albums is this one. Great tunes mostly written by Arthur Lee, genius songwriter. Thanks.
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on May 11, 2008
If you are a fan of Love, you probably already own "Four Sail." Arthur Lee, after Love recorded the classic "Forever Changes," fired the band. There were lots of problems with drugs so he cut everyone loose and started over. When he got together his new band he got an incredible guitarist in Jay Donellen. The songs are a little uneven but generally pretty good. Someone else said that this was the fourth-best of the Love albums. None of their albums were perfect, but this one is pretty good. "August," the opening cut, contrasts Lee's cool, high and pure vocals and his Spanish guitar stylings with the amazingly manic lead guitar of Donellen. This album also has "Singing Cowboy," a Love standard over the years.

But the most important song on this album is the last one, "Always See Your Face." Perhaps it's because it was on the "High Fidelity" soundtrack and has been rediscovered and talked about by rock fans that it has been maybe the biggest "unknown" song of the sixties. In my experience rock fans across Europe seem to have a stronger link to it than here in America. There is something between the simple country-rock arrangement and the horns that come out of left field that lifts the song up; or Lee's beautiful voice that can turn into an incredible soul howl that takes this song over the top. The lyrics are typical of Lee's koans, "I'll always see your face and you'll always see my face. I'm looking at you looking at me." Written down they look like nonsense, but sung by Lee they can open up the mind. Put together this schizophrenic mishmash makes an incredible song that puts a period at the end of Love's Elektra Records period, and the end of an era for the rock scene in L.A. The song, with its horn arrangement, would have actually made a better ending for the previous album ("Forever Changes").

Anyway, "Always See Your Face" is on several other collections of Love material, but if you're a completist and want to hear how the song fits as part of its original album, go for it.
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on October 8, 2006
Another casualty of the Summer of Love's excesses. This is the man behind the seminal sixties' group Love, dead of leukemia at 61 on August 3, 2006. Now John Echols is the only original member of the group left alive, if my information is right. Bryan MacLean, along with Echols, Lee's main songwriting partner and co-leader of the group, died somewhat earlier.

This album featured the last of any serious incarnations of Love and it rocks, but very differently from "Forever Changes" or "Da Capo". There's no angry venting, as in "7 and 7 Is" or "Stephanie Knows Who"; no comments on the world at large, as in most of "Forever Changes"...just rocking, stream-of-consciousness tunes that stick with you after you put the album back in its case. "August" is the first cut, and it's a good one, with a snap-out guitar jam at the end reminiscent of the ending of "A House Is Not A Motel". "Your Friend And Mine" is one of two songs on the album that are very similar, with ruminations and promises concerning long-term friendships. "Dream" dwells on this to a degree, too. Apparently friends were very important to Lee, who wrote everything on the album, collaborating on only one, "Singing Cowboy", which has a vaguely homo-erotic tinge to it. "Robert Montgomery" is one of the few songs Lee or Love had done that actually has a character title or subject matter for a whole song, telling the tale of a bourgeois cipher who has trouble communicating with his friends. It has EXCELLENT guitar work! "Nothing" is rather reminiscent of "Forever Changes" in that it has a lyrical, pretty lilt to it, and some wizard guitar work, (not to mention good drumming!) It will put you in mind of "Orange Skies". but does the same thing a lot better. It's almost MOR in flavor, it's so nice! Then there's my personal favorite of the piece "Talking In My Sleep", a song where he lays down the law after being irked by a lady friend. Very country-flavored, with a Hendrix-like vocal by Lee, who sounds like he's trying to imitate Mick Jagger on the rest of the album, especially as the songs trail off. Finally, of the non-reprieves, there's "Always See Your Face", the OTHER "friendship" song. A fitting closer, it runs down what's important to Lee, as he tries to remember important people, places and things, taking care to remember his friend of the moment.

Lee and his incarnations of Love were perhaps the most undervalued and estimated groups in Rock, and his passing will make it impossible to see them live ever...I always missed him when he came to my town.

MAN, I hate mortality!!

Highly recommended.
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on January 8, 2007
Four Sail rocks pretty hard--Arthur Lee's new Love lineup is essentially a power guitar rock quartet. Most of the songs consist of Lee's electric rhythm backed by a pretty tight bass/drums groove, and some up-front, bluesy and often psychedelic lead from Jay Donnellan. Gone are the intricate string, horn arrangements and subtle acoustic textures sharply contrasted with screeching electric guitar that typified the sound of the classic Forever Changes (which probably everyone visiting this page owns). Don't fear--despite the fact that the baroque folk rock sound of Forever Changes isn't present on Four Sail, it's still a really strong album. Overall, it's not the group's instrumentation and the production techniques used that hold the album back from being 5 stars, it's the songwriting, which is uniformly good, just not as transcendently brilliant as Forever Changes (which is a pretty tough set of shoes to fill).

When the songs on Four Sail are good, they're REALLY good--the opener, "August" is ethereal and spacey, rocking in a way that Love's earlier lineup would never have attempted, with some wicked, spiraling lead guitar. Lee's voice is a comfort--despite the difference in musical style, those signature vocals casually drawl out the mysterious, dark lyrics. On first listen, I felt pretty good about the new Love after the first track (I admit it, I was unsure whether I'd be into it). The highlights continue, especially on the hard rockers--"Singing Cowboy" is a well-known Love classic with a stormy ending sequence, and the guitars on "Robert Montgomery" cut with surprising force. A couple of the midtempo tracks are also pretty great--"Talking In My Sleep" is an interesting stylistic detour, and the closer "Always See Your Face" contains some of Lee's classic ironic lyrics.

There are two things that hold this album back from getting 5 stars from me. The first is the lyrics. They're usually pretty good, especially on the aforementioned highlights, but many of them just don't have that magic spark. On Forever Changes, it seemed like Lee was cutting down the curtains that obscure the workings of the world we live in with every ironic, bitter line he spat out of his mouth. With such transcendent, revelatory, and clever lyrics to be compared to, Four Sail's lyrics often don't hold up--where Lee sang about questioning the nature of society's laws and factored mortality into human beings' place in the world on Forever Changes, on Four Sail he sometimes sings about much less compelling (for me) topics like having fun ("Good Times") or friendship and the good old days ("Your Friend and Mine - Neil's Song"). While these are identifiable subjects that most people have experienced, they're pretty pedestrian. Countless people have written these kinds of songs, some better (some much worse, though). Very few people manage to reach the clarity that results in the kind of writing that Arthur Lee produced on Forever Changes. I guess I expected a little more out of the same guy on the next album and was slightly disappointed. However, this is just in comparison with the phenomenal Forever Changes, so it's not a serious problem with Four Sail by any measurement.

The second thing that holds me back from giving Four Sail 5 stars is the relative lack of stylistic diversity. It's mostly blues rock (identified strongly by the lead guitar style), with a few forays into some more psychedelic hard rock (would have liked to hear more of those) and some strutting grooves. Eventually though, a lot of it sounds the same. A lot of "I'm With You" sounds pretty similar to "August," and several of the midtempo jazzier numbers sound like slight tweaks of the same song. I realize that it's unrealistic to expect the cosmopolitan diversity of Forever Changes, I just wish the individual songs on Four Sail sounded a little different from each other.

For all these minor gripes (most of them are in comparison to the incomparable Forever Changes), Four Sail is a strong album and a repeatedly enjoyable listen, and I recommend it to fans of earlier Love. Just keep an open mind--it sounds a fair bit different. Anybody who tells you Love never produced any worthwhile music after Forever Changes is clearly turning a blind eye to some really great material.
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on January 25, 2011
I just wonder how many people that review older albums, have just gotten this stuff recently, I got this album, actualy it was a cassette tape, when it first came out, and of couse I had the first 3 Love albums when they came out. I didn't really care for this album at first, but after a few more listens, if just grew on me, it is my favorite Love album. But if I just got this album, who knows how I would feel about it today.
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on January 3, 2017
New lineup, new rock sound for the band. Good album. Classic.
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on February 4, 2008
as a drummer i have heard a lot of rock albums. but this album i cant stop listening to. for one this is like a who recording. but even more intricate type of playing. the songs are awesome. Arthur Lee is a one of a kind song writer. he writes songs with the strangest turns and stops. even with the singing. the drummers are just unleashed they just fill every bar with groove, fills. just very exciting & interesting.
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on October 16, 2015
Very different 60's band...nice find
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on January 13, 2013
a different sound, then again each record sounds different than the last..
there are moments on this record that are hard to explain in a good way;
at times it feels improvised or composed quickly in that way that sometimes
produces timeless music..
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