's second album, released in 1967
, mere months before their masterpiece Forever Changes
, was originally intended to be a return to their bluesy roots, going back to the beginning, hence the title.
However, the album was in fact very different - rather than the garage band sound of their debut, or the blues sound they had honed in their early live gigs, the album's sound was a mix of baroque and jazz, mainly due to the personnell changes which saw Alban "Snoopy" Pfisterer move from drums to harpsichord, and the addition of flute/saxophone player Tjay Cantrelli.
Stephanie Knows Who, the album opener, is one of the most successful tracks on the album, blending the agression of the band's early work with the Burt Bacharach influence that is overlooked in Arthur Lee's songwriting (the melody bears a slight resemblance to What's New Pussycat?) and a harpsichord vamp in 5/4 time. The song was apparently written about a woman who both Lee and Bryan Maclean were trying to date at the same time... a classic opener (Love opening tracks have always been impressive).
Orange Skies is Bryan Maclean's only song on this album. A beautiful little acoustic ballad, in the style of Johnny Mathis, this song was apparently based on The Byrds' The Bells of Rhymney, but bears scant resemblance to it. This is one of the few Maclean compositions that Arthur Lee took lead vocals on, but it's obviously Maclean's work - even at this stage Maclean (who later became a born again Christian) has a far lighter, more optimistic sensibility than Lee. It's very unlikely that Lee ever wrote a lyric about 'carnivals and cotton candy and you' (The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This doesn't count because of its title )
¡Que Vida! illustrates this difference very well. Musically quite simillar to Maclean's song (both are vaguely Latin flavoured, and both feature prominent flute parts), the lyrics are very different, seemingly about the impossibility of communication, but as oblique as all Lee's best work, and with some very disturbing lines ("Can you find your way/Or do you want my vision/It's dark there, they say..." "She said in your world/You needed lots of money/And things to kill your brother/But death just starts another").
Seven & Seven Is is the closest thing on this album to the style of their eponymous debut. Loud, fast, and furious, Lee claimed with some justification that with this song he 'invented punk'. The surrealist, edgy lyrics ('my father's in the fireplace and my dog lies hypnotised') over the manic drumming and slashed guitars prefigure several genres of modern popular music, truth be told.
The Castle is a simple little fingerpickig acoustic song with lyrics about travelling and moving on. A nice little song, somewhat outclassed by the masterpieces on either side of it.
She Comes In Colors, the last song on side one of the original album, is possibly Love's best song. A beautiful melody on the first verse gives way to an upbeat pop chorus. The lyrics bear some resemblance to those of Captain Beefheart (as do many of Lee's lyrics) with their mixture of surreal poetry ("When I was invisible/I needed no light/You saw right through me, you said/Was I out of sight?") and sexual innuendo (the song title refers to menstruation, according to Lee), but they combine with the music to make one of the best short pop singles of the sixties.
The whole of side two is taken up with Revelation, an 18 minute long blues jam that was originally titled John Lee Hooker when the band performed it live. While some of the instrumental parts (particularly Cantrelli's sax and flute parts) are quite interesting, on the whole this track is a total waste of vinyl.
But while side 2 is utterly pointless, side 1 contains some of the best music made during the sixties, and while this is only half a great album, that's still better, in my view, than a full mediocre one.
The current CD issue contains both mono and stereo mixes of the entire album, along with one bonus track (Seven & Seven Is (tracking session)) and should probably be the first Love album anyone buys - falling between the two styles of Love and Forever Changes it gives a good preview of both.