Remember 7 and 7 Is? In 1966 it was a hit for the Los Angeles band Love. Dramatic as the song is, with a driving rhythm and ending in a thunderclap, it is unrepresentative of their work, at that time or in the future.
The band dominated the local scene, but Arthur Lee, the idiosyncratic leader, refused to tour or play anywhere but California, so Love never had the exposure it merited. One way or another, the band fell apart, leaving behind an album, Forever Changes, ranked as one of the highlights of the era, and still regarded as an all time great today.
By the time I bought their compilation album, Love Revisited, off the second-hand stall on Cambridge market, Love was effectively in the past, but new to me.
I found many of the songs fascinating, some puzzling, and one confronting. That was Bacharach and David’s My Little Red Book, rendered with a then unfashionable vigour and urgency. I gather Bacharach didn’t like it either. Apart from 7 and 7 Is, the only other song on the album that most people will be familiar with is Hey Joe, but in an interpretation as different from the familiar Hendrix version as you can imagine. Possibly derived from an arrangement for The Byrds, it is, like My Little Red Book, fast, urgent, and, unlike Hendrix’s version, appropriate to the lyrics.
Scrolling through the comments on a article on the ABC News website on songs that should have been hits, or some such, I suddenly remembered my long unplayed Love LP and how much I had enjoyed it. Gone they may be, but not forgotten. I bought the remastered 2 CD collection under the Definitive Rock banner that includes all the tracks on Love Revisited plus seventeen others. Having listened to them all, I would say that the selection for Love Revisited packed in as a good ‘Best of’ as an LP will hold. For my car MP3 player I have added two more.
Song writing credits go about half and half to Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean. Initially MacLean was the more accomplished, but later, after he had moved on, Lee came up with some truly great songs.
Long ago I played Love Revisited to a friend who was a Country and Western fan. I told him I couldn’t make my mind up if this stuff was really good or really bad. ‘Really bad,’ he said. Which suggested to me that it was actually ‘Really good.’
Music is so subjective, and how we feel about it always dependant on factors of memory and association that are quite unpredictable and unclassifiable. As I played my new CD I found tears coming unbidden to my eyes. Good or bad, these songs are etched into my soul.