LOVE Forever Changes (Elektra)
"Forever Changes" is one of those albums that the suits at Warner Bros. seem to have deigned to keep permanently on catalogue on vinyl, and deservedly so. Events seem to have overtaken Love recently - Bryan Maclean, second in command to Arthur Lee in the classic line-up that recorded this album, tragically died on Christmas day, and the currently re-emergent Shack dedicated their version of "A House Is Not A Motel" to his memory at their recent comeback London gig supporting the heavenly Mercury Rev. Lee himself, meanwhile, is currently imprisoned on firearms charges.
In the midst of all this is "Forever Changes", unarguably Love's one stab at greatness, inevitably present whenever roll-calls of classic albums are under discussion. Even thirty years after its initial release it still sounds fresh, possibly due to the guitar/bass/percussion line-up employed, which avoids almost all of the patchouli and paisley excess of the times, flavoured only with the most discretely effective and unexpected of touches, such as Hugh Masakela's trumpet solo on possibly the most famous song here, "Alone Again Or", which sounds so parched and desolate that it could've fallen off Miles' "Sketches Of Spain" album.
Elsewhere, the original of "A House Is Not A Motel" is almost as fine as Shack's aforementioned tightrope-terrifying live cover, "Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale" and "The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This" are obliquely observant pop songs buried under titles Tortoise would probably kill for, "Live And Let Live" is home to the oft-quoted lines "The snot has caked against my pants/It has turned into crystal", which in some quarters has assumed the status of a Masonic secret code amongst those in the know with which to out fellow "Forever Changes" enthusiasts, and the whole is wrapped in William S Harvey's gaudy Technicolor sleeve illustration, probably the most (only?) psychedelic thing about the entire album.
If you haven't yet heard "Forever Changes" and classic rock is your bag, you should attempt to grab a lugful of it at the first opportunity. Its influence has radiated down the decades through the likes of Big Star to The Stone Roses to, yes, I'll say it again, Shack (who, if rumours are to be believed, may have a new album to unleash sometime this year, in which case I'll be namedropping them even more than I do now), in fact through any band that has attempted to make serious music in a rock context with only guitars/bass/drums and an ear for the memorably bizarre.
Shack Accompany Arthur Lee