Arthur Lee and Love
Real to Reel
High Moon Records
As the past drifts further and further away, more big stars from these distant times fade from popular memory. But for the enthusiast, some lesser ones float into a light their careers haven’t seen in decades. Arthur Lee and Love made their career in the Los Angeles area amid The Doors, et al. He had a few hits that just barely charted, and while he’s regarded as influential only the die-hard rock fans of the era and the rock historians of today discuss his funky sound.
Lee passed in 2006 and now we have this mighty fine reissue of his seventh album. When it was recorded Love had been replaced by studio musicians and while contemporaneous reviews were cool, time has aided his sound. There’s a stylistic spread in the tunes; he opens with “Time Is a River”. This is an up-tempo positive vibe number that feels influenced by “Proud Mary”. Later in the disc “Stop the Music” offers a slow dance feel; here Lee sings the blues with a steel guitar and a growing sense of anger and it seems like a country song abandoned for the blues: it’s not about a long lost woman, it’s about a woman leaving right here an now and he can still see her tail lights. “Who Are You” takes a hard funk tack with a powerful brass line and some soaring vocal work by Lee, and later on we hit the odd “Singing Cowboy.” Here the sound of late Byrd’s and early Eagles take what may be a trite country song and make it a compelling and uncharacteristic ballad. There’s even a cover lurking here, William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You Got”- here Lee takes a good swipe at it with a great backing chorus but it didn’t budge the chart needle. Lastly I’ll mention “Busted Feet”, here Lee drifts toward the early Deep Purple hard rock sound, it’s the least “black” track on the collection and shows a direction Lee could have pursued but didn’t. Along with the 11 original tracks there another dozen alternates, each interesting in its own right; I recommend “Grave Yard Hop,” a parody track of Elvis’ hit “Jail House Rock.”