Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS - MIKE MET­TLER

Elek­tra/rhino’s 50th an­niver­sary box set gives Love’s baroque pyschedelic­folk clas­sic the at­ten­tion it de­serves.

AL­WAYS THE PAUPER, never quite the prince. Such was the case for Love, the racially in­te­grated Los An­ge­les psy­che­delic/folk-rock hy­brid who were al­ways on the cusp of break­ing through the ether dur­ing those heady rev­o­lu­tion­ary times of the late 1960s, but just couldn’t to­tally get there. While the sounds of other So­cal Sun­set Strip brethren like The Doors and The Byrds made the leap into mass con­scious­ness, Love’s im­pact ini­tially came at more of the cult-fa­vorite level—though their mul­ti­cul­tural in­flu­ence has only grown over the en­su­ing years, es­pe­cially within the Bri­tish al­ter­na­tive scene of the early ’90s.

The se­cret sauce of Love’s sonic brew came from the en­mesh­ing of con­trar­ian free-think­ing front­man vo­cal­ist/ gui­tarist Arthur Lee’s R&b-tinged head-in-the-clouds lean­ings with gui­tarist/vo­cal­ist/song­writer Bryan Ma­clean’s more grounded melodic so­phis­ti­ca­tion. That cre­ative amal­ga­ma­tion is best heard on enig­matic ear­lier tracks from 1966 like the in­sis­tent “7 & 7 Is” and a catchy cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “My Lit­tle Red Book,” both of which helped to set the tem­plate for what would ul­ti­mately be­come Love’s undis­puted mas­ter­piece, 1967’s per­fectly ti­tled, far­reach­ing, and form-bending opus, For­ever Changes.

To fete 50 years of For­ever Changes, Elek­tra/rhino have once again gone the ex­tra mile to show this re­lease the full love it truly de­serves with a com­pre­hen­sive six-disc box set con­sist­ing of four CDS, one DVD, and one 180-gram LP. The CDS con­tain mono, stereo, and al­ter­nate mixes plus out­takes and sin­gles, and the DVD of­fers a 24-bit/ 96khz hi-res mix of the al­bum’s 11 tracks (and one brief video­clip), all over­seen by co-pro­ducer/engi­neer Bruce Bot­nick. Bot­nick’s steady hand and sym­pa­thetic ear helped guide the some­times fo­cuschal­lenged Love to the next level of recorded aware­ness, from psych-pop wannabes to en­ve­lope-push­ing gen­re­busters. Ad­di­tion­ally, the com­pre­hen­sive liner notes by Love chron­i­cler Ted Ol­son are a wel­come read-along com­pan­ion.

Born out of a sug­ges­tion from vi­sion­ary Elek­tra founder Jac Holz­man, the acous­tic re­cal­i­bra­tion of Love’s core sound on For­ever Changes was then fused with a string and horn sec­tion bouil­l­abaisse that put Love slightly ahead of the jazz­i­fied brass ac­com­pa­ni­ment that be­came the hall­mark of bands like Chicago and the Al Kooper era of Blood, Sweat & Tears—al­beit with an ad­di­tional Span­ish fla­vor to boot.

The mono mix is an in­ter­est­ing an­i­mal unto it­self, as it was summed from stereo via the of-era process known as the Haeco-csg (Com­pat­i­ble Stereo Gen­er­a­tor) sys­tem. Me, I hap­pen to be par­tial to the chan­nel sep­a­ra­tion on the stereo mix of tracks like “Alone Again Or,” for ex­am­ple—es­pe­cially the right-chan­nel place­ment of the song’s key acous­tic gui­tar riff—but bass con­tent and other in­stru­men­tal ac­com­pa­ni­ment get more cen­tral­ized play in mono.

The more raw, rougher al­ter­nate mix is its own ragged-glory mar­vel—and a marker for what Bot­nick had to do to get the of­fi­cial stereo ver­sion up to snuff. And while there are other For­ever Changes LP op­tions out there on the mar­ket, this one is the first ver­sion re­mas­tered specif­i­cally (and prop­erly) for mod­ern 180-gram wax by Bot­nick.

While the CD and LP of­fer­ings are in­deed all fas­ci­nat­ing in their own re­spec­tive rights, the 24/96 stereo mix on the DVD is the true ar­biter of just how well com­posed, per­formed, and recorded the core al­bum is. True, it’s a shame there isn’t a 5.1 mix in­cluded as an ex­tra given Bot­nick’s his­tory of mix­ing the en­tire Doors stu­dio cat­a­log in sur­round sound. But, as the pro­ducer told me dur­ing an off­line dis­cus­sion fol­low­ing a Q&A I con­ducted with him and Holz­man at the High-res Au­dio Pavil­ion at CES 2017, he didn’t think he could do any­thing com­pa­ra­ble with Love.

That said, the 24/96 mix gives For­ever Changes the room it needs to breathe. Wit­ness the yearn­ing thrust of the Cor­rido trum­pet solo at the cen­ter of the afore­men­tioned “Alone Again Or,” the tense chan­nel-tochan­nel gui­tar-solo duel dur­ing the de­noue­ment of “A House Is Not a Mo­tel,” the world-weary drive of “The Daily Planet” (built upon a track­ing ses­sion with L.A.’S le­gendary stu­dio-mu­si­cian col­lec­tive, The Wreck­ing Crew), and the sewn-to­gether time-chas­ing suite that com­prises the nearly sev­en­minute clos­ing track, “You Set the Scene.”

The level of care taken with the For­ever Changes box set, by way of in­clud­ing its myr­iad mu­sic op­tions and the metic­u­lous at­ten­tion given to de­tail for both the pack­ag­ing and back­ground ma­te­rial, is the ex­act right way to honor his­tor­i­cal record­ings of this na­ture. At this point, re­leas­ing any­thing less in­clu­sive is un­ac­cept­able, es­pe­cially for we au­dio­phile ar­chiv­ists in­clined to in­vest re­peated lis­ten­ing time into such col­lec­tions.

I have al­ways loved Love, and this faith­fully crafted col­lec­tion ce­ments that feel­ing, well, for­ever. When ad­ven­tur­ous lis­ten­ers in­evitably find them­selves at­tend­ing the For­ever Changes party, that’s when you find Love peo­ple are the great­est fun.

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