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.”