Love was one of the great psychedelic rock bands. They are best known for their charismatic front-man Arthur Lee (born Arthur Taylor Porter), but it is wrong to see Love as his brain-child. In particular, the brilliance of the group came from the creative tension between Lee and co-singer and guitarist Bryan MacLean. These two men could not have been more dissimilar. The tension between them resulted in a dynamic synergy unequaled by other such pairings like Buffalo Springfield. Their explosive combination of creativity and passion produced two timeless masterpieces in the first two Love albums.
During their heyday in the late 1960s, Love was as associated with heroin as the Velvet Underground. In fact, the members of Love were probably more involved with the drug than the Velvets, whose association was relatively brief. At the peak of their popularity, at least three members of the band were addicted to heroin: Arthur Lee, John Echols, and Ken Forssi.
The effect that his heroin use had on Lee's songs was sometimes quite direct. Gratefully, however, he never fell into using this to pose or shock as was typical of Lou Reed. His "heroin songs" speak clearly and insightfully to the issues all people face. An excellent example is Signed D. C.
Sometimes I feel so lonely
My comedown I'm scared to face
I've pierced my skin again, Lord
No one cares
My soul belongs to the dealer
He keeps my mind as well
I play the part of the leecher
No one cares
For me, cares for me
Look out Joe, I'm falling
I can't unfold my arms
I've got one foot in the graveyard
No one cares
For me, cares for me
Although the original Love broke up after the second album, Arthur Lee continued to perform intermittently as Love with other members. In 1993, he joined with the indy band "Baby Lemonade" as Love and began performing more regularly. His career was definitely heating up as of 1996 when the injustice system put an end to it.
In the Fall of 1996, Lee was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm. Because of previous convictions, mostly for drug possession, California's "Three Strikes Law" was applied to him. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. Despite appeals, it was not until December of 2001 that he was released.
Since his release from prison, he has performed regularly to enthusiastic audiences on both coasts of the United States and throughout Europe.
Review: Love at the Fillmore
My wife and I went to see Love at the Fillmore in San Francisco last night, 31 May 2003. It was a good show. It's nice to see rock concerts that are designed; the performance had structure--it wasn't just a collection of songs. The rhythm section was vibrant and fun. I don't know when I've seen a drummer work so hard to such good effect. The bass player managed the difficult feat of being fluid and "rock steady" (Chuck Rainey would be proud).
The rhythm guitarist was competent with periods of achingly beautiful work. The lead guitarist (Mike Randle, who has a wonderful online tour diary that is the essence of the Internet Revolution) provided energetic and clever updates of the album solos. Unfortunately, very little use was made of him when not playing lead. Most of the evening saw the lead and rhythm guitarists simply doubling each other; at one point when Lee was also playing guitar, all three guitars were playing the exact same voicing of the same chords with the same rhythm. I think this is a result of trying to stay too true to the album versions of the songs; it certainly wasn't due to any lack of musicianship.
The ensemble included three violins, a viola, cello, trumpet, coronet (I think), and trombone. Both sections were competent for the most part, but the horn section did muff one difficult staccato passage in Maybe the People Would be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale. Both sections could have been replaced with a good keyboardist who doubled on trumpet for the solo on Alone Again Or. Then again, these people added to the spectacle of the evening (petite blonds in skin-tight leather pants perk up any evening), and Lee clearly works to make his performances something special.
By far, the worst aspect of the performance was Arthur Lee's singing. He is still a great front man and could doubtless have kept the audience riveted for the hour and a half show without singing a note. But he did sing a note; a lot of notes. His upper register was almost non-existent. Some songs were quite simply painful to hear. Strangely, he let-loose for the encore and the voice from forever changes was back. Maybe he just needs some time off. Regardless, the old man put out and didn't waste anyone's time or money.
And for those who are dying to know if Lee is on smack, I can only make an educated (very educated) guess. For almost all the show he wore sunglasses, but when he took them off his pupils were not pinned, even with the stage lighting. He certainly wasn't nodding. And perhaps most telling of all, he did not have a gravely heroin voice. Not that I, or anyone else at Heroin Helper cares. He deserves all the pleasures possible for the rest of his life. And he should get it, if our society can just Live and Let Life.
[Note: There may be errors in this review. I wasn't planning to write a review; I just went for entertainment. If you note any errors, let me know.]