Love – Forever Changes (1967)

Forever Changes is the third studio album by the American psychedelic rock band Love. It was released by Elektra Records in November 1967 and was the final album by the original band, as subsequent albums featured leader Arthur Lee backed by a variety of new players. Forever Changes had only moderate success in the album charts when it was first released in 1967, but it has since become recognized as one of the greatest albums ever made.

In 1966, Love had released two albums in relatively rapid succession, including their second LP Da Capo, which spawned their only Top 40 hit, “7 and 7 Is”. However, the group’s opportunity for major national success dwindled as a consequence of frontman Arthur Lee’s unwillingness to tour, Lee’s deteriorating relationship with Love’s other songwriter Bryan MacLean, and the overshadowing presence of label-mates The Doors. In a 1992 interview, MacLean spoke of him and Lee “competing a bit like Lennon and McCartney to see who would come up with the better song. It was part of our charm. Everybody had different behaviour patterns. Eventually, the others couldn’t cut it”. Throughout this period the band – reduced to a quintet with the departures of Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer and Tjay Cantrelli – were known to retreat to Bela Lugosi’s mansion in Hollywood, nicknamed “The Castle”, where the group became further stagnated by their use of LSD and heroin.

Rather than base his writings on Los Angeles’s burgeoning hippie scene, Lee’s material for Forever Changes was drawn from his lifestyle and environment. The songs reflected upon grim but blissful themes and Lee’s skepticism with the flower power movement. Writer Andrew Hultkrans explained Lee’s frame of mind at the time: “Arthur Lee was one member of the ’60s counterculture who didn’t buy flower-power wholesale, who intuitively understood that letting the sunshine in wouldn’t instantly vaporize the world’s (or his own) dark stuff”. Love’s third studio album also brought about a sense of urgency for Lee. With his band in disarray and growing concerns over his own mortality, Lee envisioned Forever Changes as a lament to his memory.

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Recorded Length
1. “Alone Again Or” September 10, 1967 3:15
2. “A House Is Not a Motel” August 11 & September 10, 1967 3:25
3. “Andmoreagain” June 9, 12 & August 11, 1967 3:15
4. “The Daily Planet” June 9–10 & September 25, 1967 3:25
5. “Old Man” August 12 & September 25, 1967 2:57
6. “The Red Telephone” August 12 & September 21, 25, 1967 4:45

Side two
No. Title Recorded Length
7. “Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale” September 10, 1967 3:30
8. “Live and Let Live” August 11, 1967 5:24
9. “The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This” August 11, 1967 3:00
10. “Bummer in the Summer” August 12, 1967 2:20
11. “You Set the Scene” August 12, 1967 6:49
Total length: 42:05

AllMusic Review: Love’s Forever Changes made only a minor dent on the charts when it was first released in 1967, but years later it became recognized as one of the finest and most haunting albums to come out of the Summer of Love, which doubtless has as much to do with the disc’s themes and tone as the music, beautiful as it is. Sharp electric guitars dominated most of Love’s first two albums, and they make occasional appearances here on tunes like “A House Is Not a Motel” and “Live and Let Live,” but most of Forever Changes is built around interwoven acoustic guitar textures and subtle orchestrations, with strings and horns both reinforcing and punctuating the melodies. The punky edge of Love’s early work gave way to a more gentle, contemplative, and organic sound on Forever Changes, but while Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean wrote some of their most enduring songs for the album, the lovely melodies and inspired arrangements can’t disguise an air of malaise that permeates the sessions. A certain amount of this reflects the angst of a group undergoing some severe internal strife, but Forever Changes is also an album that heralds the last days of a golden age and anticipates the growing ugliness that would dominate the counterculture in 1968 and 1969; images of violence and war haunt “A House Is Not a Motel,” the street scenes of “Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hillsdale” reflects a jaded mindset that flower power could not ease, the twin specters of race and international strife rise to the surface of “The Red Telephone,” romance becomes cynicism in “Bummer in the Summer,” the promise of the psychedelic experience decays into hard drug abuse in “Live and Let Live,” and even gentle numbers like “Andmoreagain” and “Old Man” sound elegiac, as if the ghosts of Chicago and Altamont were visible over the horizon as Love looked back to brief moments of warmth. Forever Changes is inarguably Love’s masterpiece and an album of enduring beauty, but it’s also one of the few major works of its era that saw the dark clouds looming on the cultural horizon, and the result was music that was as prescient as it was compelling. — Mark Deming

Schill Score: 9.5/10

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