MTV Hive On Love’s Black Beauty

 

09/09/11 » MTV Hive
Author: Austin L. Ray

Photos: Herbert Worthington

On October 25, New York City reissue label High Moon Records will drop Black Beauty, the lost Love album recorded in the early ’70s, finally seeing release nearly 40 years later. The reissue’s extensive liner notes report that the band’s label, Buffalo, “unceremoniously closed its doors” shortly after the recording, citing various reasons from distribution to cash-flow. But what took so long to get it out is another issue entirely.

“That’s a good question,” 56-year-old ex-Love drummer Joe Blocker tells Hive. “I don’t know. The record company folded. The masters were lost. Everyone had their own momentum. Arthur [Lee, Love bandleader] would rather move on and do something easier rather than stand still a long time trying to do something difficult. By the time he realized how important it was to put it out, nobody could find the masters. I can’t say I forgot about it. Arthur really wanted it to come out. It’s a missing link. It’s a transition record, moving further towards what he wanted to do and farther away from what people expected him to do.”

The drumming prodigy, who had played with Ike and Tina Turner, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Little Richard before joining Love (at which point he thinks he was 17), got pretty close to Lee during that time, living near him and becoming a friend of the infamous rocker. To hear him tell it, Black Beauty is an essential part of the band’s catalogue as much as Forever Changes, the moment where the frontman finally got to pursue his dreams, even going so far to pay for the recordings out of his own pocket and hiring an all-black band that could play myriad styles.

Black Beauty certainly fits this bill, from blues-rock opener “Good & Evil (Young & Able)” to calypso-aping anthem of individualism “Beep Beep” to Hendrix-esque barnburners like “Midnight Sun and “Product of the Times.” And though the original tapes were lost, the original acetates were found and used for the reissue.

In this exclusive gallery, the band is depicted in the idyllic atmosphere in which it was created. Photographer Herbert Worthington III, a good friend of Lee’s who shot the iconic Fleetwood Mac Rumours cover, photographed Love in the studio and in the Hollywood Hills behind where they lived at the time. The vintage shots show jovial young men in colorful clothing, cavorting about with dogs and enjoying the unadulterated process of creating. “We had a lot of fun,” Blocker recalls. “We were all kind of hanging out, all the time. Having been in many bands since then, I don’t remember ever being in a band where no one argued about anything. We never argued about anything.”

Go Here For The Photo Gallery: MTV Hive

Rolling Stone | Exclusive Listen: Lost Gene Clark Classic ‘Kansas City Southern’

06/01/11 » Rolling Stone Magazine

Author: ANDY GREENE

Gene Clark is best remembered a founding member of the Byrds, but for the bulk of his recording career he was a solo artist. On August 30th his long out-of-print disc Two Sides To Every Store is hitting shelves again with bonus material, previously unseen photos and new liner notes. The disc features contributions from guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and backing vocals by Emmylou Harris. Here’s an exclusive stream of “Kansas City Southern” from the album.

Clark died in 1991, just one year after the original line-up of the Byrds reformed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Just two years later Byrds drummer Michael Clarke died, but David Crosby, Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman are still alive and very active in music. Hillman and Crosby are extremely interested in a Byrds reunion, but McGuinn refuses to even consider it.

Click here to listen to Gene Clark’s “Kansas City Southern” on RollingStone.com

Variety | Black Beauty Places Arthur Lee Back In Spotlight

09/01/11 » Variety

Steve Chagollan Photo: Herbert Worthington

Even those old enough to remember 1967’s Summer of Love know Arthur Lee of Love as mostly a cult figure, not unlike Frank Zappa or Alex Chilton.

And yet the band’s “Forever Changes” is considered by many as seminal an LP of the time as the Doors’ eponymous debut, Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” and the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper.” But unlike those other albums, “Forever Changes” failed to catch fire, peaking at #154 on the Billboard chart.

According to drummer Joe Blocker, who plays on the 1973 Love recording “Black Beauty,” recently released and newly remastered by High Moon Records after existing as a crude bootleg circulated among the cognoscente, Lee and Love were invited to play at 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival, a pivotal event that broke the careers of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding, and brought rock music to the forefront of the counterculture.

But, as Blocker explained, Lee was a “homebody” who didn’t like touring, and felt at the time that he had “gone as far as he could go” with the Love band of “Forever Changes.” Lee, like other artists he admired such as Miles Davis and Bob Dylan, never looked back, and as that album title suggests, was forever morphing and progressing.

The Love incarnation that assembled for “Black Beauty” could not have been more different than the Love of “Da Capo” and “Forever Changes,” with their heavy immersion in psychedelia and pre-prog rock whimsy. “Black Beauty” sounds live and raw, with very few overdubs in the production process. Imagine the Jimi Hendrix Experience on steroids, with Lee exhibiting the kind of range on vocals that Hendrix — whose singing always took a back seat to his playing — was never capable of.

In fact the verdict is still out as to whether Lee influenced Hendrix or the other way around.

“They knew each other from before either one of them was famous,” says Blocker. “They were very close friends. Arthur was dressing like that before Jimi Hendrix was. I think that maybe Arthur was a bigger influence on him in the beginning, but in the end (Hendrix) was a big influence on Arthur.”

Songs like “Midnight Sun” on “Black Beauty” sound as if they sprung from Hendrix’s cosmic mindset, and one could only imagine how the Experience might have evolved had Lee been the group’s lead singer and co-songwriter.

The all-black dynamic that sprung from the Love of “Black Beauty” — anchored by Love’s aggressive R&B voice, Melvan Whittington’s metallic, Hendrix-like flourishes, and Robert Rozelle’s grounding bass lines — was much more in tune with what black rockers like Sly Stone and the Chambers Brothers were doing at the time.

“Arthur wanted to play more music that was the kind of music he grew up listening to,” explains Blocker, who joined the group when he was a 17-year-old CalArts student. “Arthur was from Memphis, he (was) a country boy. So he wanted to play more stuff that he grew up with.”

Blocker, who also recorded three records with the recently departed Gil Scott-Heron, contends that “after Jimi Hendrix there have been no successful black rock acts, unless you count Lenny Kravitz.

“To look at rock and roll and for it to be held up as such a glorious extension of American music, you have to ask yourself: ‘How could a music that is born out of black music, the blues and R&B — how is it possible that there could be no successful black acts in that music?”

Lee managed to bridge the gap between R&B, funk, hard rock and flower-power pop — a quality that might have left him drifting in the margins, even when Top 40 radio was mixing Motown, Memphis soul, the British Invasion and the pre-adult contemporary of Burt Bacharach. For many, Lee wasn’t quite funky enough for people who liked James Brown or George Clinton, or psychedelic enough for fans who embraced the Airplane, the Dead or Cream.

“When you lay tiles, you’ve got the grout in the middle,” says Blocker. “Those artists are the way that you get from one thing to another.”

Why Lee seemed to disappear between the cracks of rock’s glory days is as much a mystery as his obscure status. Some attribute his low profile to drub abuse. Certainly the series of misfortunes that beset Lee — a record deal with Columbia Records that went south and the disintegration of the Buffalo Records label slated to release “Black Beauty — would have caused many lesser artists to spiral into oblivion, no matter how gifted.

But footage of Lee as late as 2003 playing the Glastonbury Festival (where he belted out a mind-blowing “Seven and Seven Is”) three years before his death reveal an artist still at the height of his powers.

“Ain’t nothing tragic about him,” explains Blocker, “he’s one of the happiest people I’ve ever known. I mean, he loved the music, but left up to him, he’d write some songs, rehearse them, go in the studio, record the songs and then go back home and feed the dogs and he’d be happy. But the rock ‘n’ roll circus, going out on the road, doing too many interviews — he really wasn’t into it.”

To read the article on Variety and see a live Love video click here.

Rolling Stone

Exclusive Download: Love’s Lost 1973 Classic ‘Midnight Sun’

On June 7th fans of the Sixties Los Angeles psychedelic band Love will finally get the chance to hear the group’s 1973 lost classic Black Beauty. Some tracks on the disc were co-produced by longtime Doors producer Paul Rothchild and was meant to be Love’s comeback LP, but the label went bankrupt and the album was shelved. Collectors have circulated bootlegs of the album for years, but High Moon Records has acquired the rights the disc and they are releasing it with bonus tracks and remastered sound. Now, check out this exclusive download (right-click on the link to save) of the Hendrix-inspired track “Midnight Sun,” or stream it below. Original members of Love’s Black Beauty line-up are going to reunite April 29th at the Roxy in Los Angeles to play cuts from the disc.

Click here to listen to to “Midnight Sun” from the Love Black Beauty album.