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.