Forever Changes (50th Anniversary Special Edition)


Is it really fifty years that this singular West Coast album has been thrilling us and intriguing us? As in the case of The Byrds, all Love releases have their fine moments, memorable tunes, impactful singing and let’s not forget exciting instrumental passages. I did see Arthur Lee and Love perform at London’s Lyceum and they opened with Alone Again Or, playing much of this album in their set but also choice songs from Four Sail, another Love album I revere for its songs, singing, arrangements and dual guitar work.

This collection is housed in a beautifully illustrated 12” x 12” hardbound book that features a newly written essay and track-by-track notes by music historian Ted Olsen. The set features a few firsts for Forever Changes including the CD debut of a remastered version made by its original co-producer and engineer Bruce Botnick, as well as the first-ever release of the mono version on CD. Also included are alternate mixes of the album, as well as a selection of rare and unreleased singles and studio outtakes. Original Elektra label staffer Botnick’s stereo remaster of the original album makes its vinyl debut on the LP included with this set. It was cut from high resolution digital audio by ace audio engineer Bernie Grundman.

CD One: Original Album

Recorded during the Summer of Love in Hollywood, CA, ‘Forever Changes’ is the group’s most fully realised studio effort, featuring Arthur Lee (vocals, guitar), Johnny Echols (lead guitar), Bryan MacLean (rhythm guitar, vocals), Ken Forssi (bass) and Michael Stuart (drums, percussion).

Alone Again Or remains the gorgeous futuristic-for-the-time trip of a song, fired with urgency and a romantic sweep of a lyric. The tune takes confident angular turns, sometimes dropping back into a sparse acoustic core, then bringing in strong trumpet. It’s a mini-movie of a tune, thrilling back then and thrilling today…

The beguiling A House Is Not A Motel dances in on gypsy acoustic guitars and Arthur can barely wait to tell the tale, paint the picture. The neat clipped guitars work their magic, with echoes of The Stones’ Paint It Black. I used to play this track back to back with Lady Jane. That drumming panned to one channel chases the electric guitar double-stops down as the song fades out. Romance to the fore once more for Andmoreagain, one of the group’s most enduring and fired melodies. A soft Latin tempo is the perfect setting for the vocal. The heady strings add to the slightly addled vibe. The drumming is sporadically emphatic. It shouldn’t work as perfectly as it does, but it does. These cats weren’t to tied to clicks or machine beats, the music breathes, meanders..

The Daily Planet takes off with an urgent frantic acoustic guitar scrub, like a Jefferson Airplane outing. This truly is the sound of a warm California afternoon, belying the lyric. Who is The IceMan? At all times, the ensemble sound as if they know exactly what they are doing. Right to the fade. Next up, Old Man commences gently and the singing rolls easily through all sorts of cadences, the benign delivery almost masking the adventure the melodic weave is taking. The Prog bands tended to hammer home their virtuosity with volume and exaggeration…but not Love. They are not out to impress, ever. Just to put the songs over. The Red Telephone approaches softly with the guile shown on Side One of their previous album Da Capo. Only our own Pretty Things could make restrained music this muscular, use subtlety with this touch and not wimp out. ‘I’ve been here once, I’ve been here twice..’ sings Lee in a tone two steps from fey. The strings breeze along in the mix, kept steady by the twinkling guitars. The coda is pure paranoia! Disembodied voices mutter in the backdrop…

Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale has a more strident tempo and slivers of brass like fast-running clouds over the tune. The exquisite electric guitar nips at the beat, staccato trumpets bring a scat from Lee. This sort of dense Hispanic melody is a true Love forte. Live And Let Live has a lyric of pure silliness and the bass takes walks around the thread of the number’s insistent tread. I will never live long enough to figure this one out ! The electric guitar has a stark clarion edge. The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This seems to have a definite Beatles tinge to it. Again the core melody is baroque, the brass figures tiptoe in like a line of dormice. The ensemble goes for a stealthy ambience, holding something back. Bummer In The Summer parodies Dylan with aplomb over churning guitars, Lee spitting out the words. A burst of Bo Diddley rhythm then cyclic electric guitar motifs, the tempo relentless, unforgiving. It ends on a heavy acoustic chord. The sprinkling guitars of You Set The Scene leave space for a quasi-dramatic vocal seemingly laying down terms of reference, the ghost of Woody Guthrie lurks in the shadows. A playful strings arrangement then the tempo drops and stabbing trumpets seep into the front of the mix. Right to the end, the vocals retain that pronouncement stance, as if all these are things you should know, adopt, heed and ponder….I still ponder

CD Two: Mono Mix of the original album

– For some, an essential listen

CD Three: Alternate Mix of the original album

– See above please

CD Four: Singles and Outtakes

– A treasure trove of related and contemporary recordings and experiments…

1. “Wonder People (I Do Wonder)”

2. “Alone Again Or” – Single Version

3. “A House Is Not A Motel” – Single Version

4. “Hummingbirds” – Demo

5. “A House Is Not A Motel” – Backing Track

6. “Andmoreagain” – Alternate Electric Backing Track

7. “The Red Telephone” – Tracking Sessions Highlights

8. “Wooly Bully” – Outtake

9. “Live and Let Live” – Backing Track *

10. “Wonder People (I Do Wonder)” – Outtake, Backing Track *

11. “Your Mind And We Belong Together” – Tracking Sessions Highlights

12. “Your Mind And We Belong Together”

13. “Laughing Stock”

14. “Alone Again Or” – Mono Single Remix

DVD: 24/96 Stereo Mix

1. “Alone Again Or”

2. “A House Is Not A Motel”

3. “Andmoreagain”

4. “The Daily Planet”

5. “Old Man”

6. “The Red Telephone”

7. “Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale”

8. “Live And Let Live”

9. “The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This”

10. “Bummer In The Summer”

11. “You Set The Scene”

12. “Your Mind And We Belong Together” – Video

The final inclusions in this splendid package is a vinyl LP of the original album, plus the liner notes booklet, which is full size and has terrific band images and more.

In recent years, the band Love Revisited have toured the Love catalogue, often with the great character Johnny Echols, guitar ace from Love aboard. If you want to read my chat with him, the link to the piece is here:

Pete Sargeant


(Thanks To Warners and Phoebe)

Love's 'Forever Changes' (50th Anniversary Edition) Box Set is released on Friday 6th April 2018.

You can pre-order the set here: