The Blue Thumb Recordings


How do you top an album as masterful and well executed as Love's Forever Changes? If you're Arthur Lee, you fire your band members and try to figure out how to keep in step with the winds of change torrentially blowing in the late 60s. But even a little help from friends like Jimi Hendrix wasn't enough to resuscitate the quintessential L.A. psychedelic band. Lee haphazardly recruited new players for Love, left Elektra Records and signed with the fledging Blue Thumb label for some exploratory work of questionable stature. Still, time has been kind to Lee, whose rocky quest for redemption was partially realized in the last few years of his turbulent life. Which makes The Blue Thumb Recordings, an intriguing 3-CD collection, much more than just a few crusty diamonds in the rough.

1969's Out Here, Love's first album for Blue Thumb, was originally issued as a double LP at a time when other two-record sets like Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, the Who's Tommy, the Beatles' White Album, and virtually any Chicago album were angling for people's time and resources. It was a tough sell when considering the odds were rapidly stacking up against the mercurial Lee. Having fulfilled his prior obligations to Elektra, the singer-songwriter indulged himself in a few lofty experiments that failed to draw much reaction or revenue. Yet, over 35 years later, the sprite skip of "I'll Pray For You," the primeval bite of "Signed D.C.," the catchall easiness of "Doggone" and a scattering of other styles and moods unleashed in-between and thereafter deserve close scrutiny and praise. For all his personal quirks and career-killing maneuvers, Lee never got lazy in the songwriting department, and most of the 17 songs comprising Out Here underscore his commitment to the craft. New members Jay Donnellan (guitar), Frank Fayad (bass) and George Suranovich (drums) carried out their duties with guts and gusto. Perhaps the biggest obstacle this collection faced upon its release was timing. Which may be why it warrants a more thoughtful analysis today.

But this is now, and that was then. With the general lack of interest generated toward Out Here, Lee fished out his little red book, undoubtedly leafed through it pages and placed a few choice calls. One of those was to Jimi Hendrix, an old acquaintance who, at that precise moment in time, was being hailed as the greatest living guitar player on the planet. While in England, the Love leader convinced the guitarist to play on "The Everlasting First," the opening track on the second Blue Thumb album, False Start. The title bears some responsibility for what follows: a mishmash of half-hearted hippy anthems (“Flying” and “Keep On Shining”), woozy and weird workouts (“Stand Out” and “Anytime”), and dated doozies (“Slick Dick,” “Feel Daddy Feel Good” and “Ride That Vibration”) — all without Hendrix. Gary Rowles took over for the departed Donnellan, and Love supported False Start by doing something they had previously avoided in their long and storied run — a tour.

Love’s 13-city sweep through England, where the group was held in high esteem, would garner recordings compiled for the third disc of this set, Live In England 1970. The foursome lift off with “Good Times” and “August,” a pair of hard-hitting rockers from the final Elektra album, Four Sails. There's a bit of “My Little Red Book” for nostalgia purposes before the group traipses the mushroom patch for “Nothing,” then leaping about during “Orange Skies” and “Andmoreagain.” The Love fest continues as “Gather “Round” and the classic “Bummer In The Summer” from Forever Changes jockey for position. The playing and interaction is tight and alive throughout, surging forth during the finale of “Signed D.C.” and “Love Is More Than Words Or Better Late Than Never” — a double force as powerful and authoritative as other high-ranking hard rocking tomes of the day.

But for Love, it wasn’t meant to last. At least in the 70s. Lee would reappear from time to time, reliving the past without realizing the future. After his release from prison in 2001, he spent the next five years reasserting his genius via a series of Forever Changes concerts and small venue tours. Although no new music has yet to surface, Lee’s legacy remains etched in stone with the L.A. music scene of the 60s. The Blue Thumb Recordings validate this tidy fact with a little extra jam.

~ Shawn Perry

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