Flashback: Forever Changes
Pre-dating the original band's breakup by a matter of months and singer/songwriter/cult figure Arthur Lee's imminent descent into heroin addiction, Love's Forever Changes is considered a psychedelic pop classic that regularly appears on critics' top 10 best-ever lists.
Recorded in mid-'67 and released in November of that year, the album is a chilly reminder that the summer of love would never be remembered as the summer of Love. More than three decades later, it receives the deluxe Rhino reissue treatment — remastered sound, extra tracks, a new essay wrapped in a classy 24-page booklet — yet the work remains as obtuse and darkly quirky as when it was virtually ignored on its original release.
Although the union of orchestration and rock were not exactly unexplored waters at the time — both Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds already had broken that ground a year or so earlier — the Herb Alpert mariachi horns and lounge feel to the strings on Forever Changes made this more like the chamber pop your parents enjoyed — until you dug into the lyrics. There Lee, and to a lesser extent Bryan MacLean (who penned only two tunes), tore into an unsettling stream-of-consciousness treatise on disillusionment and emotional insecurity with unnerving results.
Shifting from folk to blues to Bo Diddley-esque beats to Byrds-like chiming — and that's just in the appropriately titled "Bummer in the Summer" — tunes with brain-warped titles like "A House is Not a Motel," and "The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This" are simultaneously timeless and rooted in a mid-'60s sonic sensibility impossible to reproduce today without deteriorating into musical parody.
Immensely influential on bands such as XTC, whose own acid excursions are well documented, Forever Changes remains a difficult and challenging experience whose subtle charms and radical lyrical twists gradually suck you in like the chemical-enhanced trips Lee dabbled with during its creation. The queasy feeling that remains after listening to it 34 years later is proof of its lasting appeal.