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Arthur Lee

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Album Review

In the mid- to late '60s, Arthur Lee was one of the most important figures on the L.A. rock scene; his band Love could pack any club in town and they made a handful of superb and influential records, most notably their 1967 masterpiece, Forever Changes. But Lee was hardly the only major artist of the '60s who seemed to lose his footing in the '70s, and after releasing a solo album in 1972 (Vindicator) and a disappointing final Love LP in 1974 (Reel to Real), Lee musically dropped out of sight, at least outside of California. In 1980, the Love fans at the plucky (and at the time independent) Rhino Records released a solid Best of Love compilation, and its modest success prompted the label to issue a new album from Lee in 1981. Arthur Lee was cobbled together from material recorded for an unfinished solo project along with some new tunes, and several of the songs sound more like demos than finished work, especially a clunky cover of the Bobbettes' oldie "Mr. Lee" and "One," a second-rate number that was foolishly chosen to lead off the album. Arthur Lee did not give the impression that the great man's chops as a guitarist or songwriter were in especially good shape, though there are a few solid numbers here, in particular "Down Street" (a tough fusion of rock and reggae that suggests Garland Jeffreys' work on Escape Artist), "Bend Down" (a lean but effective heavy rocker), and "Stay Away from Evil" (which finds Lee dipping his toes into funk with effective results). Lee was in fine voice on these sessions, singing as well as he had in his salad days, and he also dug up an unrecorded obscurity from Love's golden era ("I Do Wonder" wouldn't have been out of place on Forever Changes) as well as offering a new jangle rock arrangement of "7 & 7 Is." But Lee's new fascination with reggae didn't serve him very well on "One and One" and a cover of Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross," and ultimately this album is a jumble of ideas that never coheres into something solid. Arthur Lee is just good enough to suggest that Lee could have had another great album in him if someone had been willing to give him the time, the budget, and a producer who could help him focus; sadly, that didn't happen, and it would prove to be his last proper studio effort.


Born: 07 March 1945 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '90s

Prior to forming Love, Arthur Lee was a Los Angeles hustler, desperately searching for the formula that would make him a star. In the early mid-'60s, Lee recorded some unsuccessful singles including one as the American Four on Selma, a subsidiary of Del-Fi, "Luci Baines"/"Soul Food." He also recorded a session for Rosa Lee Brooks that featured Jimi Hendrix as a session guitarist. Lee found his niche at last when he founded one of the '60s seminal garage/folk/psychedelic bands, Love, in 1965. The...
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