Photo: Herbert Worthington
The club of African-American psychedelic rockers is pretty small, with Jimi Hendrix and Arthur Lee serving as two charter members. Hendrix, as everyone knows, rose to great fame. Lee had a brief spell of celebrity with his group Love and his 1967 album Forever Changes, kept on making music but never broke through again, served six years in jail on firearm-related charges and died of leukemia in 2006 at age 61.
In 1973, while still in his prime, Lee recorded an album called Black Beauty that was never released. Now, the music has been freed from the vaults, and it reveals an Arthur Lee who could not only rock hard, but also had other offbeat musical personalities. Consider “Beep, Beep” — psychedelic rock it is not. The rhythm veers between reggae and calypso, while a neighborhood guy contributes a lilting steel-drum line. Lee is on the harpsichord and at the mic, singing in a faux island accent and offering the kind of homespun advice you’d expect to hear from a back-porch philosopher: “Slow down, man, ’cause you’re going too fast.” Later in this cheery and charming song, Lee declares, “I’m going to be what I want,” and it’s clear that what he wanted to be was a musician who could break down barriers — and who was perfectly at ease stretching the boundaries of his music to encompass the sounds of the world at large.
Click here to hear ‘Beep Beep’ NPR Music
Lost Arthur Lee And Love Album Black Beauty To Be Released
Photo Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times.
A previously unreleased 1973 album by influential Los Angeles psychedelic soul band Arthur Lee and Love will surface belatedly on June 7 as the initial release from a new boutique reissue label, High Moon Records.
Lee had planned to put Black Beauty out on his Buffalo Records label, but the company folded before it came out and the tracks were shelved. High Moon will release the 10 tracks originally planned to be on the album along with bonus tracks, new liner notes and previously unpublished photos from the period.
Rolling Stone writer David Fricke wrote in a guide to the band’s bootleg recordings, “Black Beauty might have been received as a strong comeback for Lee, a turn to steamy R&B with heavy-guitar punch – if it had come out.”
Black Beauty was planned as a follow-up to Lee’s 1972 solo album Vindicator and featured the first all-black lineup for the previously integrated group, which first hit the charts in 1966 with the singles “7 And 7 Is” and “My Little Red Book” and created the psychedelic era classic Forever Changes album in 1968.
New York-based High Moon Records plans to specialize in rare or previously unreleased material, and in a statement with the announcement of the first release, label president George Baer Wallace said of Black Beauty: “It is that rarest of rock artifacts: a never-before-released, full-length studio album, from an undisputed musical genius.”
Entertainment industry stalwart The Hollywood Reporter was at the High Moon Records launch party at the famed Los Angeles rock club the Roxy.
Click here to read the review online.