The Upshot: Although the album never fared very well (it was the first Love album not to make any dent in the charts whatsoever), as a reissue, it sounds better in retrospect More than 40 years on, there’s a new reality worth savoring.
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Sadly, Love never got the (ahem) love they deserved early on. One of the most experimental and forward thinking bands to emerge from the paisley pop environs of mid ‘60s Los Angeles, the band, fronted by a true rock auteur by name of Arthur Lee, were not only the first truly racially integrated band, but also one of the most daring, fearlessly blending elements of rock, baroque pop, classical, and progressive jazz in a way that literally defied definition. Lee’s reluctance to tour limited their reputation to the immediate parameters of Sunset Strip and an adventurous fan following, but by and large, Love’s reputation was limited. Happily, belated appreciation came later, as affirmed by such stalwart supporters as Robert Plant and Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, among others.
Early Love albums like Four Sail, Da Capo and Forever Changes remain classics of the era, but when the original band broke up in 1969, Lee completed refigured the group and took a much different direction, abandoning his early penchant for pop and replacing it with a muscular form of strict R&B. By the time the new Love released Reel To Real, the last album to bear the group’s collective handle until Lee’s tentative comeback in 1992, all traces of the original sound had dissipated entirely, substituting in its place a funk and soul, much of it influenced by Otis Redding, James Brown, the JBs, and the radio-ready urban rumblings of the day.
Although the album never fared very well — it was the first Love album not to make any dent in the charts whatsoever — it sounds better in retrospect courtesy of this expanded reissue from the fledgling High Moon Records. A song like “Singing Cowboy” retains the hooks and catchy choruses that hint at Love’s early incarnation, as does the singalong “Everybody’s Gotta Live” and the riveting refrains and snappy spark of “You Said You Would.” “Who Are You?” and “Be Thankful For What You Got” affirm its renewed potency, demonstrating the fact that Lee is indeed a soul singer in the same league as Redding, early Al Green, Sly Stone, and Jimi Hendrix (with whom he worked on occasion) when it comes to his sheer emotion and expression. Various outtakes and alternate versions enhance the original offering (check out the impromptu “Graveyard Rock,” sung to the tune of “Jailhouse Rock”), restoring Reel To Real to the classic status it deserves. More than 40 years on, there’s a new reality worth savoring.
DOWNLOAD: “Everybody’s Gotta Live,” “Singing Cowboy,” “Be Thankful For What You Got”