February 5, 2006

Records You Should Own

First, a belated RIP to "Grandpa" Al Lewis, although - in all fairness - I was always more of an Addams Family man, myself.

Anyway, for this month's Record You Should Own, I was trying to figure out what album not only reflects Valentine's Day, but also African-American History Month?

(And quite frankly, shouldn't every month be African-American History Month?)

So I realized that there was such an album...and I had blogged about it before.

However, this month I'm pulling back and talking about Love Story, a two-CD box that provides great overview for an extremely underappreciated band. I wore out my dub from a set I checked out of the Chicago Public Library, and later got my own copy for Christmas. Trust me, folks, it's that good.

Imagine yourself going into some Hollywood producer's office - let's say, Jerry Bruckheimer - and pitching a biopic about an African-American leading a psychedelic rock band in LA in the late 60's. In addition, the band leader integrates a number of styles that would make Prince blush, and comes out with a flat-out masterpiece. Chances are Mr. Bruckheimer (or whatever producer) would either claim it was unbelievable, and throw you out of his office...or claim that Eddie and the Cruisers didn't need a remake.

However, Arthur Lee managed to pull it off - Love was Elektra Records' first rock signing, and Love Story begins with their first single, "My Little Red Book". A jaunty, bass-driven number, the song made this Bacharach/David tune cooler than it should have been. Love's first two albums contained some flat-out gems: "A Message to Pretty", the harrowing "Signed D.C.", the powerful "7 And 7 Is" (the closest thing Love had to a hit), and songs which combined musical styles with a powerful presentation: "She Comes in Colors", "Que Vida!", "The Castle"....again, this is in Love's first two albums, at a time when most bands were more concerned with singles.

Luckily, Love Story also contains Forever Changes in its entirety, meaning that you don't have to make an extra purchase. And again, I've made my feelings on Love's Third Album known - musically, lyrically, this is a flat-out masterpiece. (There's even an entry in the Thirty-Three and a Third series on classic albums that's worth your time). Even as disc two approaches the end, and there is some "weaker" material, it's all a matter of perspective. Most bands would sell their grandmothers for tunes like "Robert Montgomery", "Always See Your Face", and "Everybody's Gotta Live".

All in all, this is one of the few best-of compiliations that does the band justice. (Yes, there is a single-disc "greatest hits", but this is well worth the extra money). Whether you buy it for yourself, or someone else, this band's mixture of folk, rock, and other disparate styles is well worth investigating. It's a great purchase for yourself, or for giving that special someone.

After all, everyone needs a little Love in their life.

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