Jan 192024

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Forever Changes covers

Love was definitively a band of and for the ’60s. Formed in 1965, their incandescent flame shone bright only until the turn of the decade, their legacy thereafter diminishing, not least as founder Arthur Lee became last man standing. Indeed, such was Lee’s imprint that he was able to trade on the name and past glories for the rest of his career and the rest of his life, even if it was mainly the first three albums – Love, Da Capo and Forever Changes – audiences wished and needed to hear.

The extravagant meshwork of styles and influences Love’s original lineup brought collectively into the mix, defied any one attempt to restrict the resultant style to any one genre. There were elements of almost raw garage rock, cheek by jowl with pastoral and orchestral interludes, with folk influences and whiffs of psychedelia elsewhere.

Lee kept the b(r)and going, on and off, more or less until his death, in 2006. Bryan MacLean, who had parted from the band acrimoniously, died in 1998, a few months after Ken Forssi did the same. Snoopy Pfisterer has long since retreated to idyllic rural isolation, with little lasting involvement in the music industry, but Johnny Echols has continued to hold a candle for the band, re-igniting the name and touring a version of the band since 2009, the show usually reliant on playing the material from those first three albums.

As for Forever Changes, it’s become a staple in the best-of lists pumped out by your Rolling Stones, your Pastes and others of that ilk. Along with a select few, such as Pet Sounds, Blonde On Blonde, Astral Weeks and Revolver, Forever Changes has become of and beyond its time, a beautiful bad trip seeing off many of the newcomers begging for comparison and subsequent attention.

Forever Changes is best experienced as a whole–it’s no coincidence that many of the covers below came from full-album tributes of their own. We hope you enjoy ours.

Gobblehoof – Alone Again Or (Love cover)

This Bryan MacLean song is possibly the best known song from Forever Changes, at least in coverland. A number of high profile acts have taken it on, adding precious little sheen to the shimmer of the original. These have often replicated the original arrangement, and usually include the trumpet solo unchanged. I get that, such an evocative fanfare it is, and, alongside the Byrds’ “So You want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” the finest use of trumpet outside any contemporaneous jazz setting of the day. But we need more than that here today, so apologies to the Damned and to Calexico, with that sound defining that band’s whole subsequent output. Sara Lov, the Australian singer, does a version with guitar playing the same melody progression, but it is again too much a facsimile.

Gobblehoof were a short-lived Massachusetts band of the early ’90s who were in just the right time and place to contribute to We’re All Normal And We Want Our Freedom, an eclectic and unusual tribute compilation to Arthur Lee and to Love. Teenage Fanclub may have been the only contributors with any notable outside footprint (unless you include Urge Overkill and TV Personalities, each of whom one might, at best, describe as niche). But I like the overall weirdness of this version, that certainly suggests the ingestion of something psychedelic. The trumpet middle eight is so odd as to be obtuse, possibly my main rationale for its inclusion. Wonderful!

Adam Holzman – A House Is Not A Motel (Love cover)

Holzman, eh? Any relation to Jac, I wonder, and he is indeed the son of the founder of Elektra Records. So he’s pretty well versed, I guess, with the bands and music his dad let loose on the record-buying public. An established jazz keyboard player, he was in one of the later Miles Davis bands; nowadays he’s on speed dial for Steven Wilson, both as a member of Porcupine Tree and beyond, into the solo works of this proggier than prog musician, producer and re-mixer. Here the folkadelic guitar of the original “A House Is Not a Motel” is totally transformed into a clavinet and synthesizer led arrangement that gives the song a whole different wash. From different angles it could be standard AOR, predominantly the guitar and vocals, and from another jazz fusion, the busy drums and keyboards. But there are a few neat other touches as well. The flute solo, from Soft Machine man Theo Travis, is unexpectedly sweet and gives grounding to the others, otherwise largely too close to the boil effect of everything else.

Bic Runga – Andmoreagain (Love cover)

Another masterclass in wispy orchestrated melodicism, and I honestly mean that as praise; the original “Andmoreagain” is begging for a plainer and less embellished setting. Is Bic Runga up for that? Actually, yes. Runga is from New Zealand, of mixed Maori and Malay stock. Mainly writing her own material, a breezy blend of folk, soul and pop, she has had greater exposure in Australasia, but has had some UK success.

Despite the still prominent presence of a string section, Runga’s is a far more restrained rendition, giving her vocals pride of place. The rhythm section get a higher place in the mix, the bass and drums less bolted on than the original might have suggested. This comes from a 2016 album, Close Your Eyes, which added two of her own songs to ten covers, mostly at the more maudlin end of the spectrum, which fits best her voice. So songs by Nick Drake, The Blue Nile and Neil Young, with covers of Kanye and of the Meters to keep you alert. Sometimes erring overly on the polite, it is true, but a voice that employs no tricks or studio gimmickry to deliver her gift.

Little Fish – The Daily Planet (Love cover)

Is it me or does Love’s “The Daily Planet” sound exactly like the Who (at least up until the middle eight), the vocals and the arrangement pure Townshend and Daltrey, not to say Entwistle and Moon? This 1997 cover removes much of that feeling, with bubbly electric piano and fuzz bass that conspire, with the vocal, to give it the full European. The middle eight then goes into freakier Brian Wilson territory with strings and harmonies, some distort added to the singer for good measure. Oddly, the effect is to make it seem even more 1960s than it ever was. I’m not a fan of over-egged orchestration, but I have to admit it works well here. Little Fish is the adopted name of Spanish sound engineer, Igor Deusto, and this song appears on a tribute album, by a bevy of little known artists, entitled Unloved Again: Tribute to ‘Forever Changes’. This may be the highlight.

The Flower Drums – Old Man (Love cover)

The second of the two MacLean songs on Forever Changes, “Old Man” is a beguiling song by any term of reference, not least the watery delivery and odd English as a second language diction. It is to New Zealand, again, we turn to for the joy of covers, and a 2014 tribute album, put out by a website, I believe, called The Active Listener. Entitled Forever Changing, it tries hard to deliver that title. It features two versions of this track; the first is, sadly, vile (sorry, James McKeown), with even more sugar syrup than the original. The other answers that long-pondered question around how celebrated songs of the ’60s might fare with modern studio trickery. The Flower Drums give, for sure, an answer, and many may have a view as to the worth of the operation. Me, I quite like the innocent charm of it all, but I am not sure I could stomach much larger a portion. As to quite who the Flower Drums are, it seems they are actually from across the Tasman Sea, in Western Australia, and have a thriving career in smooth indie electro-pop.

Alex Gilbert Trio – The Red Telephone (Love cover)

“The Red Telephone” seems to have landed in the second-most-loved slot, behind the “Alone Again Or” camp. It features a quirky construction that wouldn’t be a stranger on an early Pink Floyd album, in the Syd era. The original stands up so well to this day; is this why there are so few covers? So, without and to avoid re-treading the grounds of the tribute albums mentioned above, here’s something completely different, a delightful jazz piano instrumental version. It captures all the nuance of despondency in the song, without even needing the lyric. The acoustic bass is the perfect base (sorry) for Gilbert to let his fingers fly from. The drums add just enough brush and clatter to make it seem all so elemental (weather pun intended). Guilbert is a Seattle pianist, with a day job of writing the music for video games, and I bet they aren’t nearly as mellow as this. This comes from the album Bardsongs, where he covers material as “an homage to that unique thread of American spirit that ties together blues, bebop, beat poetry, folk and rock music“. Put like that, it makes you want to hear more….

Electric Six – Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale (Love cover)

This has me immediately out my chair, googling Electric Six. Yes, I’d heard the name, but never their product. My immediate thought was this is how Arthur Lee and Love would sound if they were in the studio now, and not subject to the whims of the record label. Disappointingly, I discover the trumpet is not a normal core feature, hoping the band brave enough (hello, Cake and Chumbawamba) to have it as regular instrument alongside all  the guitars. Less disappointingly, the album from which it comes, Streets of Gold, is a covers album, needing enquiry. Also that it is their second covers selection, having, seven years earlier, made another, in 2014, called Mimicry and Memories. How did I not know this? Anyhoo, this song is a sturdy and muscular rendition, if not far from the thrust of the original, and I like it.

Patrick Campbell-Lyons – Live And Let Live (Love cover)

You have to love a song that opens with the couplet: “Oh, the snot has caked against my pants / It has turned into crystal,” especially when the later is rhymed with pistol. A love song? Well, I don’t know, but it is one of the best of Lee’s tunes, even if the lyric precludes much love in coverland. Patrick Campbell-Lyons is best known as one half of Nirvana. No, not that one–the original 1960s band of that name, wherein Campbell-Lyons, along with Alex Spyropoulos, made a series of lush and orchestrated psychedelic recordings. Which, actually, isn’t a whole heartbeat away from where Arthur Lee and his cronies were living. A sparse solo career since has included the album 13 Dalis in 2010, from where this came. The riffy guitars chugging away make for quite a different setting, even if the vocals are similarly lysergic. When the synthesizer come in midway, it sounds like a celestial choir and is a glorious contrast.

Baby Lemonade – The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This (Love cover)

I guess this comes as close to cheating as is allowed, as this American band (not to be confused with the Scottish outfit of the same name) were for many years subsumed into being a latter-day version of Love, when Lee was touring as Arthur Lee and Love. Sometime this line-up also included Johnny Echols, so it comes as no surprise that Johnny Echols’ Love (band) is, essentially, Baby Lemonade. But this is them on their own, performing a live version of “The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This.” Unsurprisingly, it carries a good deal of faith with the original, and probably love, too. But it gives well the idea of how Love may have sounded without all the studio bells and whistles. The band is effectively led by singer/guitarist Rusty Squeezebox (possibly not his birth name–really, I only mentioned it for the joy of saying that name). Not exclusive to Love, they have also performed a live show around the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

River City Tanlines – Bummer in the Summer (Love cover)

Given spitting out lyrics in a Dylanesque snarl counted for punk in 1967, it is no surprise how well this song translates into the sturm und drang punk aesthetic of River City Tanlines, one of many bands concurrently run by and including Alicia Trout, a Memphis guitarist and singer. She and the rest of the three-piece extinguish most of the lingering folk-pop tropes and thrash away, both confidently and convincingly. A brave deconstruction, their “Bummer in the Summer” offers rather more than most punk covers, as it maintains the spirit inherent behind the lyric, rather than just making it for novelty purposes. Extant since 2004, they are Trout’s main outlet and they maintain a healthy focus as an enduring festival band. I think Lee would approve, but somehow I can’t see Echols and Baby Lemonade playing it this way.

Occasionally David – You Set The Scene (Love cover)

This took some searching, but anyone interested in Love, the band, may well have heard of Occasionally David and their elusive entire album cover version of Forever Changes. A duo, Clive Whitelock and Ray Bate, they have otherwise been all but forgotten, perhaps appearing as a vague memory for aficionados of Friar’s, Aylesbury, a legendary venue in the center of England, fabled for bringing well known bands to their tiny hall, back in the ’70s and ’80s. Occasionally David can be spotted in their poster archive, propping up the bill for the likes of Lindisfarne. The album was initially a limited run of 100 cassettes, followed up by 300 vinyl LPs; I happened on a copy thanks to a chum who is a bit of a Love completist. It’s, um, different, let’s say. Experimental, even. Given the rest is a reasonably orthodox ultra lo-fi recreation, this one comes as a bit of a left field shocker, weird wobbly vocals and Arthur Brown lift, amongst others, towards the end. Um, enjoy, and just say no.

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  One Response to “Full Albums: Love’s ‘Forever Changes’”

Comments (1)
  1. Listen to Chris Perez, Selena’s husband. There are two great versions of “alone again, or” on Resurrection. One in Spanish. Solo otra vez.

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