Whatever happened to Love (the band that crooned "Forever Changes")?

By Tom Sinclair
Updated February 16, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

There are albums that can permanently alter your consciousness; Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited spring to mind. Less heralded but no less incandescently transformative is the L.A.-based band Love’s 1967 Forever Changes, which Rhino will release in an expanded edition on Feb. 20. (The label wanted to release it in time for Valentine’s Day, but hey, Love’s path was never smooth.) If the seven bonus cuts (including ”tracking session highlights”) aren’t exactly indispensable, the original album certainly is.

”I believe in magic/Why? Because it is so quick,” sang Arthur Lee, the group’s leader and principal songwriter, on ”The Red Telephone.” And Forever, built on a bedrock of acoustic guitars and overlaid with a haunting filigree of strings and horns, came together both quickly and magically. Recorded for less than $3,000 over a four-month period, it still feels timeless and enchanted. Its songs — which run the gamut from the beatific, flamenco-tinged opener ”Alone Again Or” (long an FM radio staple) to the folk-punkish ”Bummer in the Summer” to the breathtaking, otherworldly mini-suite ”You Set the Scene” — defy easy exegesis, their ultimate meaning as tantalizingly elusive as that of the album’s title.

Bruce Botnick, who coproduced the disc with Lee, regards it as ”one of the top two or three seminal recordings I’ve worked on.” (His résumé includes albums by the Doors and Buffalo Springfield.) ”What made that album special was Arthur’s songwriting, which was brilliant.”

We concur. Sadly, Love proved as combustible as its namesake emotion, disbanding shortly after Forever was recorded (though Lee later assembled other, less inspired editions of the group). Today, Love’s resident genius sits in a California prison, serving a 12-year sentence on a gun charge, while Bryan MacLean (who wrote and sang ”Alone Again Or”) and Ken Forssi both died in 1998. The others? Scattered to the winds. Still, Forever Changes stands as a classic. And that won’t change.

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