Guitarist Melvan Whittington and dexterous drummer Joe Blocker are monster musicians, and a major part of one of the most underrated lineups of Arthur Lee's cult L.A. band Love. They'll be joined by bassist Sherwood Akuna and the sublime guitarist John Sterling for a very rare set of tunes from the long-lost (and soon to be officially released) Love album Black Beauty at the Roxy on Fri., April 29.
Although Love's orchestral pop masterpiece Forever Changes is righteously revered these days as one of the greatest rock albums of the 1960s, it made little impact when it was first released, reaching only No. 154 on the Billboard chart. Ensuing albums fared about the same, and by the early 1970s the Hollywood band was considered washed up by the few people who were still paying attention
Mercurial lead singer Lee — an unpredictable genius type and the group's only ongoing member — probably was a victim of his own brilliance. Even as critical respect for Forever Changes bloomed belatedly over the decades, Love's fans seemingly wanted to keep him frozen in his 1967 folk/garage persona. The problem was that the restless, chameleonic performer was branching out in all sorts of directions, including hard rock, psychedelia, funk, soul and reggae. Much of this stuff was amazing, if a bit demented, but it was largely left off the band's numerous reissues.
Love was about to release Black Beauty, another promising comeback attempt, in 1973, when its label suddenly went out of business. The album went on to attain a kind of mythical status among bootleggers, but it will finally come out in June. As with the recent rarities collection Love Lost, the revamped Black Beauty proves Lee was far from burned out. His old fans might have been freaked out that the formerly multiracial group was now a band of aggressively hard-rocking brothers, but the new Love sounded refreshingly ahead of their time with the buoyant reggae groove of “Beep Beep” and the ominous hard rockers “Stay Away” and “Lonely Pigs.” Occasional tracks like “See Myself in You” recall Love's earlier pop-folk incarnation, while spacey blues rockers like “Midnight Sun” evoke Lee's old pal Jimi Hendrix.