Love is far from one of the most famous bands from the late 1960s, but nevertheless, it is remembered as an important musical group of the era for multiple reasons. Not only did it push the boundaries of rock through its experimentalism and fusion of a variety of other genres, but Love also broke down barriers in having a racially diverse group, which was a rarity at the time.
Without a doubt, Love’s finest album is “Forever Changes,” which happened to be its last record with songwriter and guitarist Bryan MacLean. Released toward the end of 1967 at the height of the psychedelic rock era, the album did not do well commercially, as it peaked at only No. 154 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States. The album actually garnered far more popularity in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at No. 24 on that country’s top chart, and it was well received among many music critics.
While it may not have been the most popular of albums, and Love was certainly not the most well-known of bands, “Forever Changes” is a masterpiece for its richness and depth as it allows the listener to appreciate something new about it on each and every listen. The lyrics are contemplative and deliberate, and many songs feature intricate orchestral sections to accompany the steady guitar work, all of which come together to make for a cohesive and brilliant record.
The first song, “Alone Again Or,” sets the tone perfectly in its instrumentation and message. In the first verse, lead singer Arthur Lee reveals that he is in a relationship with someone who does not spend a lot of time with him, leaving him “alone again” at night. The second verse — which is repeated later in the song — is a bit more vague in its message, as Lee notes that he thinks “people are the greatest fun,” but once again finds himself alone during the evening. Considering the rather somber and lonely nature of the lyrics, it is quite interesting that the music itself is fairly upbeat. The contrast between the two adds a layer of complexity to the song itself as well as the relationship described therein, because it is not clear if he is thinking of making a change in his life.
Another track worth noting is “Old Man.” Bryan MacLean’s impeccable songwriting ability is on full display as he tells a simple story of meeting an old man that resonated with him more as he grew older and fell in love. Though it is by no means one of the more integral tracks on the album, its message about wisdom and growing older is heartfelt and eloquent.
That said, I find the most powerful song on the album to be its last, “You Set the Scene.” With explicit and implicit references to the album’s title, it is appropriately optimistic and undoubtedly the perfect way to end a record that is, well, all about change. Like many of us, lead singer Arthur Lee is ambivalent about the idea of change, as he articulates well at the beginning of the second verse: “You go through changes, it may seem strange / Is this what you’re put here for?” From there on out, Lee tries to compartmentalize everything that is happening in his life and in the world around him. In doing so, he arrives at a relatable and meaningful conclusion at the beginning of the third verse: “This is the time and life that I am living / And I’ll face each day with a smile.” Lee’s emphasis on living in the moment as much as possible is great advice for everyone, especially in a difficult time like today.