Black Beauty

Love

High Moon Records, 2013

REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/05/2015

Some 40-odd years after it was originally recorded, Arthur Lee’s long-lost Black Beauty has finally seen release, first on CD and now digitally. While the music is the best Arthur had done since the end of the ‘60s, the backstory behind the album is almost worth the price of admission alone. Recorded with an all-new lineup of Love and recorded for the short-lived Buffalo Records, this album has languished in obscurity since the early ‘70s but now has been lovingly restored and is one of the most exciting reissues in recent years.

Opening track “Young & Abel (Good & Evil)” is one of the freshest, coolest tracks Arthur and co. had recorded in a very long time. The musicians that made up this particular version of Love were all young, African-American, and experienced beyond their years. Their enthusiasm gave Arthur the opportunity to get out of the psychedelic bullshit he’d been stuck in since the original Love had disbanded all those years ago. The vocals on “Midnight Sun” are the most confident Arthur I have heard in a very long time. You can hear the energy and the brand new attitude in every song here. Not to mention the phenomenal guitar playing of Melvan Whittington, who is one of the most unsung guitar players in all of rock and/or roll.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Even the slower songs like “Skid” have an energy that just wasn’t present on records like Vindicator or Out Here. The eclectic rock-reggae jam “Beep Beep” brings life to the music. Fortunately, although the record was shelved by a record company that went out of business, it was rescued and we got to hear it by locating some old acetates of the original sessions. Suffice to say, this is one record that has been saved from the trash bin of obscurity.

The ten-track version of the album is loaded with bonus tracks aplenty. One of the best is the theme song Arthur recorded for the early ‘70s flick “Thomasine And Bushrod.” Given a very folksy arrangement and some great vocals from Arthur, the song really comes alive as one of his most interesting songs. The rest of the record contains some decent live tracks that give the listener an idea of what the band was really capable of at the time.

Unfortunately after this record was originally shelved, Arthur Lee degenerated into a reclusive personality best known for his outlandish behavior than his music. After being jailed on gun charges in 1996, he reemerged five years later and was able to enjoy his new status as icon as a new generation (including myself) discovered his music and devoured it.

The album closes with a track Arthur recorded in 1996 with members of Permanent Green Light and Possum Dixon. What a great way to close this thing out! The song sounds great and though Arthur’s voice was no longer what it had been, you could still feel his omnipresent energy all over the track.

Overall, this is one of the best archival releases to come out in a very long time and a great way to pay tribute to the original genius that was Arthur Lee.

Rating: B+

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