Perhaps the title of this album should be altered to Changed Forever, as this is how I feel listening to Love. Possibly one of the most diverse rock band of its time, Love enjoyed limited commercial success but their third album, Forever Changes, is now recognised as one of the finest rock records of the 1960s. Forever Changes, written in the Summer of Love (and released in the Autumn of the Clinic?) was about anything but love. The album captured something of the opposite sentiment to that espoused by the pastiche hindsight heavy retrospectives about the era. And it was recorded in only 64 hours!
The best record to come out of such turmoil—Love’s 1967 record Forever Changes—is ambitious and prescient, reflecting the cultural shift of the dying ’60s, while tapping into the paranoia that would soon permeate much of American culture in the next decade. Both lyrically and musically, Forever Changes is a snapshot of a turbulent America. AV Club
The opening track, Alone Again Or features the heart rendering line:
You know that I could be in love with almost everyone,
I think that people are the greatest fun,
and I will be alone again tonight, my dear
This sets the album up as being one concerned with isolation in an otherwise plenteous time of choice. “and I will be alone agains tonight my dear” recurs throughout the track, reinforcing the point. The trumpets are gorgeously combined with strings to make for a sumptuous, longing bridge. The guitar work, while repetitive, is precise and pleasantly tuneful.
Arranged By – Arthur Lee (tracks: A2 to A4, A6 to B5), Bryan Maclean (tracks: A1, A4), David Angel (tracks: A1, A4)
Artwork [Front Cover] – Bob Pepper
Bass – Ken Forssi
Cover, Design – William S. Harvey
Guitar – John Echols
Guitar, Vocals – Arthur Lee, Bryan Maclean
Orchestrated By – David Angel (tracks: A2 to A4, A6 to B5)
Percussion – Michael Stuart*
Photography By [Back Cover Photo] – Ronnie Haran
Producer – Arthur Lee, Bruce Botnick
Supervised By [Production Supervisor] – Jac Holzman
Vocals – Arthur Lee (tracks: A2 to A4, A6 to B5)
A House Is Not a Hotel features some stellar acoustic and bass guitar and vocals from Arthur Lee. The lyrics are a stellar rebuke of the turmoil of war, likely aimed at the discontent fomented by the US war on Vietnam. The guitar solos are just extraordinary throughout. They clash and are disjointed but work beautifully.
Andmoreagain, which I initially thought was a place in Wales, is a more thoughtful, introspective track than the more rock orientated previous track.
The Red Telephone is reminiscent of Syd Barret’s Pink Floyd but is rather more devastating in its subject matter, tackling race, imprisonment and death. The crooning lyrics are somewhat at odds with the dark subject matter, much like the first track on the album. The softness of the guitar is such to highlight the devastating lyrics. In terms of production value, this is off the scale. Violins sit perfectly at ease with the acoustic and bass guitar, managing to sound sumptuous without attacking your ears.
Sitting on a hillside
Watching all the people die
They’re locking them up today
They’re throwing away the key
I wonder who it will be tomorrow
You or me?
The next song provides some comparative light relief but still captures what Pitchfork refers to as “purgatory characterized by paranoia and grievance”, reflecting the mood of the nation at the end of the 1960s. Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale bids farewell to audiences. The AV Club referred to this track as characterising the futility of the sentiments espoused by the typical view of the Summer of Love. It is worth noting that Arthur Lee was convinced of his imminent death hence wrote this album as a final farewell, haunted by the inevitable spectre. This comes through in this track, especially notable when listening to him singing along to the trumpets, very much driven by the beauty of the music.
Eventually, he became convinced that his death was looming and that Forever Changes would be his final statement to the world. So he became a rank perfectionist, expressing all his unhappiness, fear, blame, and hope not only in his dark, discomfiting lyrics, but in the music itself, which draws from rock, pyschedelia, folk, pop, classical, and even mariachi. Ultimately, the album belongs to none of those genres.
This is the truer sound of late-1960s Los Angeles, which was neither a trippy paradise nor a Lizard Kingdom, but a purgatory characterized by paranoia and grievance. Pitchfork
Live and Let Live features a number of 12 string guitars layered together in a way that is meant to disorientate the listener. Somehow Lee has managed to turn the subject matter into the internal monologue of a man planning to shoot a bluebird with a pistol as it was trespassing on his land, a clear and vocal criticism of the US encroaching in Vietnam, perhaps.
You Set the Scene closes the album in a typical upbeat arrangement, masking a greater profound message. That message being that life is short and should be lived with love (sentiment, not the band), depth and purpose. The triumphant horns at the end of this track close the album exactly as it should be closed and leave one almost gasping at the magnitude of what has just been heard.
And that’s all that lives is gonna die
And there’ll always be some people here to wonder why
And for every happy hello, there will be goodbye
There’ll be time for you to put yourself on
And for anyone who thinks it’s strange
Then you should be the first to want to make this change
And for everyone who thinks that life is just a game
Do you like the part you’re playing
This is an album which seeks to expose the lie of the Summer of Love. Love use ingeniously cheery arrangements and devastating lyrics to highlight the disparity between what was heard during this tumultuous summer and what was actually happening. It is a work of profound genius, which has rather changed my life. Forever Changes absolutely lives up to its title and has changed me forever. I hope it will have a similar effect on you, dear reader.