The Forever Changes Concert
Love’s third and final classic-era album Forever Changes has developed a devoted cult following in the years since its original 1967 release, and it is today hailed by many critics as one of the best rock albums of all time. It is especially popular in the UK, where it was well received even upon its original release, peaking at a whopping #24 on the national chart.
One of the few early interracial rock bands, the LA quintet, led by vocalist and songwriter Arthur Lee, reflected both the socio-political and musical revolutions of the Summer of Love, with Forever Changes being the culmination of the band’s mix of orchestrated psychedelia and progressive folk rock. A complex and subtle yet seducing and warm album, Forever Changes has proven more than worthy of its position alongside contemporary albums like Sgt. Pepper, Pet Sounds and Younger than Yesterday.
Arthur Lee never gave up on music, but it’s been years since he produced anything of relevance, and for the last decade (bar a few years spent in prison) he’s concentrated on performing old songs with good help from LA quartet and avid Love fans Baby Lemonade. The Forever Changes Concert, then, is the pinnacle of a decade of self-admiration; nostalgia taken to its logical extreme. Love spent a couple of nights in London in January 2003 performing the entire Forever Changes album front-to-back, with solid help from a Scandinavian string and horn section, and this is what came out if it.
Forever Changes doesn’t necessarily lend itself to live interpretation, and the most remarkable thing about this entire affair is how incredibly well these guys pull this off. The band is tight as hell, yet their playing is completely unrestrained, treading the fine line between imitation and recreation, injecting the songs with the extra attack that the concert setting demands. Arthur Lee himself is absolutely stunning, his voice as great as ever, and his technical range much stronger (he was barely into his twenties when Forever Changes first came out). One would think that songs like “Andmoreagain,” “The Red Telephone” and “You Set the Scene” would have to be performed live either with reckless abandon, straying away from the studio versions, or with bland perfection. But these guys actually pull this off with a sense of passion and presence that wonderfully translates such complex studio tracks to viable live numbers.
This is by no means a real alternative to the original recording, which remains an absolutely stunning album. But it serves not only as a reminder of a wonderful album, but even adds a new perspective to the original, making this something more relevant and interesting than a souvenir from a couple of shows you most likely didn’t attend.
The album is rounded off by a couple of warm-up songs and encores, out of which their hit single “7 and 7 Is” and “She Comes in Colors” stand out particularly well, although it’s all something of an anti-climatic ending to a surprisingly strong recreation of this truly seminal rock album.
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