Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Love - Black Beauty Finally Available

Black Beauty, a long lost album by Arthur Lee and Love has finally been released by High Moon Records. Recorded in 1973 for the fledgling Buffalo Records label and intended to either be Lee's second solo album, or a new Love album with a new lineup, Black Beauty went unreleased at the time due to Buffalo Records' failure to launch.

The album features a very talented line up of musicians, some of the best Lee would work with in his long, checkered career, including guitarist Melvan Whittington, Robert Rozelle (bass), and Joe Blocker (drums). The album may have been named "Black Beauty" because, for the first time in his career, Lee was working exclusively with other African-American musicians (then again for all I know it's an amphetamine reference). He would utilize a similar lineup to record Reel To Real for RSO Records in 1975, an album that I have long argued has been unfairly maligned.

Black Beauty represents something of a midway point between the studied Hendrixisms of his 1972 solo album Vindicator and the more soulful groove of Reel To Real. Arthur sounds focused and engaged and happy to be working with such talented musicians. Lee does not attain the heights here that he did on Forever Changes (but then you knew that already), but it's nevertheless a worthy addition to any Arthur Lee fan's collection.

This release has been snake bitten since it failed to appear in 1973. The original master tapes could not be located and the audio had to be reconstructed (brilliantly I might add) from the best surviving acetate by Dan Hersch. Additionally, High Moon's release has been delayed a number of times. The album received a lot of positive press two years ago when promo copies were distributed to various media outlets. It was announced at the time that the album would be released on June 7, 2011, but it is only now available on LP (with the CD version yet to be released). Hopefully, the delay does not cause Black Beauty to fall through the cracks once again.

Despite the delays, High Moon did a great job with this release. The cover art looks fantastic, the LP is well-pressed and comes with an informative 28 page book that features many photographs from the period by Herbert Worthington. High Moon also included a download card for a 320kps MP3 version of the album. The first 5,000 copies are numbered. The music is some of the best Lee recorded post-Forever Changes. The only real misstep is the faux-Caribbean number "Beep Beep," which just doesn't work. The rest is soulful hard-rock that points in a direction that could have been commercially successful for Lee in the 70s if he could only have kept his act together. 

I know this is not really a review, the bottom line is that if you are fan of Arthur Lee/Love this is a worthwhile release, and if you are not a fan you should pick up a copy of Forever Changes and become one.


Doug said...

That track certainly has more of a '70s feel (to my ears, at least)--not surprising given the time, of course. I'll have to check out the rest of the album.

On a note only vaguely apropos, in sheer coincidence I posted something yesterday about the roundabout way I found Love (hint: it took a while). I guess Arthur Lee was just floating in the musical air...

Pete Bilderback said...

Interesting Doug. Weirdly given my age, I got into the Damned because of their cover of "Alone Again Or." I already knew the original by the time the covered it, and figured any band would cover Love knew their stuff. I imagine I would probably have discovered them anyway at some point.

Love's best stuff is the first three albums (I think there is a pretty strong consensus on that). Forever Changes is absolutely essential. The 70s era material is more turns brilliant, other times banal. A lot of people dismiss it entirely, but there are nuggets to be mined. This is a pretty strong effort overall.

High Moon put a sampler of the whole album up. I'll post a link to that as well.

Anonymous said...

Actually, they should have kept this in the can. Somebody is trying to make a buck off of Arthur Lee's corpse at this point.

It's not even as good as 'False Start', which was a patchwork, and certainly not as good as 'Reel to Real' which was the SUCCESSFUL attempt to move into a more R & B direction.

Paul Rothschild, who produced Love for Elektra, supposedly recorded this and he must have been keenly disappointed. This is a good demo, but not ready to fit into the Love/Lee continuum except as a curiosity.

Thank you.