The universe has a way of correcting itself, even if sometimes takes forty years. Released the same year as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Who Sell Out, as well as debuts by the Doors, Pink Floyd, and Jimi Hendrix, Love’s 1967 album Forever Changes is every bit the classic as its better-known peers. It sank more or less without a trace upon release, the band imploded, and visionary singer/songwriter Arthur Lee eventually ended up in jail on firearms charges.
As time progressed, though, admirers caught on to the album’s blend of dark-edged psychedelia and impeccable songcraft. When Lee was released from prison in 2001, he returned to the stage a conquering hero, fronting a reconstituted band with original Love guitarist Johnny Echols and frequently playing Forever Changes in its entirety to sold-out crowds. When Lee died of leukemia in 2006, “better late than never” for his band’s crowning achievement was cold comfort.
But enough bio. I finally caught up with the band in 2000 and was immediately floored. I’ve given Forever Changes a lot of spins in the last dozen years, but after not listening to it in a while I recently bought a copy on vinyl and it’s every bit as good as I remember. Lee had a way with a melody, to be sure, but Forever Changes one-ups the other psychedelic bands of the era by going dark with the lyrics and relying heavily on strings and brass to carry the tunes. Opening track “Alone Again Or” is the song from the album that (rightfully) gets all the press, but my favorite is actually the closer, “You Set the Scene.” This video is from the band’s triumphant performance at 2003’s Glastonbury Festival and is a strong argument that every song should end with repeated trumpet fanfares.