Until just now, I never really thought about it, but “Forever Changes” deserves recognition as one of the heaviest titles ever bestowed on an album. How could an indisputable masterpiece such as “Forever Changes” have gone unrecognized as such in its own time?
This was the third and final album that featured both original songwriters Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean, and features the best work either had ever done. Despite its obvious genius, “Forever Changes” was the band’s worst selling album – even their vastly inferior subsequent follow-up record, “Four Sail”, fared better.
Love was one of the first rock bands to appear on the folk-based Elektra Records, opening the floodgate for the west coast rock revolution that followed shortly thereafter. “Forever Changes” features a plethora of session musicians adding sheen to the band’s basic tracks, including liberal use of both horns and a string section. It is a beautifully crafted album rife with contradiction. Gorgeous melodies, supported by strings, suggest an even more rococo Left Banke, but the psychedelic lyrical imagery shifts patterns constantly until indecipherability renders the listener uncomfortable. Arthur wrote some of the most haunted and convoluted lyrics imaginable, making a dark joke out of the ‘flower power’ mentality that was sugarcoating so much music in 1967.
Two songs in particular received minimal airplay in their own time but have gone on to be recognized as two of the most lauded songs of their age; MacLean’s “Alone Again Or” is a simple lyrical study on melancholia, while “You Set the Scene” questions virtually every aspect of the psychedelic mindset, both featuring stunningly gorgeous string and horn arrangements. Say what you will about memories and revisionism, but the sixties were actually pretty scary times, and “ (Love) Forever Changes” captures the fear and doubt of that turbulent era and somehow makes it all sound beautiful.
November 1967 - Billboard Charted #154
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