It alone is enough to get the juices stirring at the prospect of the vinyl incarnation of the band getting a runout; but on this scorching then dampened evening, Liverpool was to once more witness the legend of Love in the flesh.
My Dad was very much imbued with the west coast vibes of the USA in the 1960s as I was with west coast vibes of the UK in the 1980s. For his San Francisco/Los Angeles and the Mamas and Papas/Love read my Liverpool and the Pale Fountains/La's. He passed those vibes on to me along with a healthy dose of Herb Albert's Tijuana Brass, so it was a given that my retro tastes of choice in later life would be Da Capo and Forever Changes.
Many purists out there might baulk at Love without Arthur Lee, and upto three years ago I was one of them. Oh yes I was. However that was all dispelled with Johnny Echols appearance at LIMF in Sefton Park, when a superbly arranged Edgar Jones ensemble of cosmic musicians cast spells in the sea airs of the Mersey enabling the rays of sixties L.A. to penetrate through the overcast weather of (whatever this decade is called) L17.
Tonight I was back for more.
I was not born to witness Love first time around, and second time around either side of Arthur's criminal incarceration I was either too stoned, too nomadic and always too scatty to get my shit together to witness the genius that was Arthur and the second coming.
So when the Sefton Park gig was announced I made sure I was there and similarly I wouldn't have missed tonight for anything.
As an added bonus, the aforementioned Edgar Jones was tonight's hors d'ouvevres and what a tasty serving it was. Edgar played nine songs and every single one of them was fresh out the spectacular musical minefield of his mind.
Jones has for thirty five years been a creative constant of the Liverpool music scene and I defy anyone to best his knowledge of music. His imagination is made up of a cornucopia of the most obscure but wonderful sounds and I was excited to witness where his head's at currently.
As if to prove a point, a dizzying array of genres were packed into his thirty minute set of totally new songs, with a couple of them sounding like acoustic versions from the Berry Gordy/Phil Spector songbook. There was a hint at further, near future The Stairs activity and indeed Ged Lynn was on hand to offer moral support to his bandmate. Jones customary soulful growl accompanied some acoustic flow that oozed quality and it bodes well for whatever he has in store for us in whatever concoction he chooses to serve it.
From a Liverpool legend to a legend of L.A.
As mentioned earlier, I was a little sceptical about Love as a going concern since Arthur died. Arthur was Love. I remember all the noise from 2005 about Arthur "being sacked from his own band" which when followed by his death a year later sounded a tad callous. Of course since then we have heard how Arthur's illness developed and as such the artists known formally as Baby Lemonade and Love Revisited are blameless on that front. Their showing at Glastonbury and on the Forever Changes tour in 2003 suggested a band in absolute sync with their leader and those shows, thankfully captured for posterity, were wonderful affairs. I was curious therefore to see how the band would cut it alongside Johnny rather than Arthur. The time for answers was upon us.
Strolling out casually on the stroke of 9pm the Love Band positively assaulted the audience with a blistering A House Is Not A Motel, replete with sparklingly savage solos from original surviving member Johnny Echols that fully illustrated the collapse of civil society so succintly painted in Arthur's lyrics. Oh yeah, and it was fucking LOUD! The following My Little Red Book was like a punk cover of the same song as David Chapple's bass powered the Bacharach number along to it's stonking conclusion. Sticking with the early years, Can't Explain led us to the first and much needed lull via the pastoral charm of Orange Skies ...and then breathe... but only long enough to introduce special guest numero uno; Martin Smith, moonlighting from Michael Head's Red Elastic Band in order to play the songs of his band-leader's hero. Maybe The People Would Be The Times or Clark and Hilldale wouldn't be Maybe The People Would Be The Times or Clark and Hilldale without trumpet, and Smith took the show up another notch with his machine gun attacks of brass. Rusty Squeezebox then looked like he was enjoying the Liverpool vibe judging by his beatific smile as he conjured up the chaos of Lee's The Daily Planet.
Special guest two saw Edgar Jones reunited with Johnny following their wonderful LIMF liason three years ago and no-one could have bettered the battering roar the former applies to Stephanie Knows Who. It is a furiously fun version of one Love's more playful songs in contrast with the beautiful ballad Andmoreagain which sees Jones' vocal versatility tested and winning.
You I'll Be Following served only to grass up Mick Head and betray where a number of his musical ideas originate, before another highlight (of several already) as Johnny tore the sucker down with a shocking Your Mind And We Belong Together solo. For a man of advanced years he can still attack his machine with measured fury. "That solo's really outtta sight, man" as Arthur did and might say.
B-side/AA-side Laughing Stock was run through with it's unmistakeably product of the sixties vocal intro and prozac-like main verse being faithfully restored.
I am convinced Bernard Sumner used the rattling guitar intro of Softly to Me as the basis for Love Will Tear Us Apart, which, with the title in mind would have been apt, and here it rocks perhaps in order to compensate for the lack of swirling keyboards. She Comes in Colours acts as an intro to the second half of the show and encourages a mass Scouse singalong before a beautifully delivered A Message to Pretty calms things down a little.
Signed DC is an unexpected highlight for a number of reasons tonight. Opening with a wailing David Chapple harmonica I soon found myself transfixed by Johnny Echols bluesy guitar work and growling vocals which created an apocalyptic accompaniment to Mike Randle's attempts to quell the sparks emitting from his blown amp. Randle had spent the night playing foil to Echols but still occassionally flying himself but I suspect the result for the fiery malfunction was due to him having an LFC sticker on his axe. As a Bluenose of ill repute it almost ruined the whole gig for me that! Echols finished the song with the significant "Signed J.E."
Martin Smith was introduced back on stage and so we knew what was coming, and sure enough his triumphant augementation of Alone Again Or took the gig up towards the stratosphere. The jaunt of Bummer In The Summer saw the band wig out at interludes and Rusty Squeezebox proved, as he had all night, to be an exciting and powerful frontman. Following two visits to Forever Changes, Da Capo was mined again for the plaintive No Matter What You Do.
At this point Mike Randle took to the mic and explained the genesis of Are We O.K., a song they were working on with Arthur before his untimely death and which has now fittingly been completed with the assistance of his old band, the Love Band, and his old partner in rhyme, Johnny Echols.
What followed tonight was a triumvirate of stupendousness which would persuade the most casual listener that Forever Changes (as I am sure everyone present tonight knew anyway) is the greatest album of all time. Whilst Sgt Pepper is sullied by When I'm Sixty Four and Lovely Rita, Pet Sounds has the eponymous track as well as You Still Believe In Me and That's Not Me, (none of which are my bag maaaan) to bring it down. Forever Changes doesn't have one duff track within its grooves and there is not a second of a filler; it is a tight mofo. Whilst The Beatles and The Beach Boys released great albums, nothing in their output has the focus and depth of brilliantly sustained lyrical and musical commentary that depicts a specific time in history, in this case the point where the sixties began to turn sour.
If you disagree I am willing to fight you about it.
Live and Let Live is a case in point. The initial verse and chorus make for a musically wonderful song but then the pounding paranoia of the staccato drums, tonight thundered home by David 'Daddy-O' Green, and squalls of guitar elevate the song towards genius. The Red Telephone's uneasy strangeness continues in a similar vein and follows its predecessor towards the same realm with its "freedom/God's chillun" outro that is a reminder of the horrors of Jim Crow and Vietnam, the environment in which the album was created. Neither song is conventional whilst the final effort on the album and the closer tonight, You Set The Scene is unarguably one of the greatest songs of all time, and tonight the Love Band and Martin Smith do it absolute justice as Liverpool sucks in its wonder.
Of course, it is not the closing song tonight because there is one serious omission. The Love Band reappear without Johnny Echols to blitz through August one of Arthur Lee's final moments of creative brilliance. It was a moment that sadly didn't involve Echols as the original line up had imploded by then, but tonight it served as a suitable memorial to one of the greatest songwriters of the twentieth century...and his dog, since Rusty revealed that was who the song was about, Arthur's dog August. Johnny then reappeared announcing that their last song would be a ballad before launching into a coruscating 7&7 Is that threatened to bring down the stately dome of the Grand Central Hall.
And then they were gone. Bewilderment and open mouths greeted their departure, and no doubt some numbness at the thought that this could well be the last time we see these songs in the live setting.
This review might be a little late for you to catch them, but if you can, go, in the name of God, Allah and Buddha go!
Having had both Arthur and Johnny's blessing there is no reason why the Love Band should not continue, but if this is indeed their swan song, tonight was one helluva ride.
Now can I ask that you leave me alone...I am going to find a corner to cry in for a while.
Ed Sanders (A Be-In somewhere near Woodstock)