Embattled West Coast-rock pioneer Arthur Lee is doing his best to make up for the nearly six years he spent in jail on a felony weapons conviction. After he wraps up his current tour with the latest incarnation of Love -- a band that now includes all four original members of former Los Angeles indie pop-rockers Baby Lemonade -- he'll enter a studio to record his first new album in twenty-five years.
"Arthur's got a whole new album written, and the material is all good," says Baby Lemonade/Love lead guitarist Mike Randle. "He may have some other guest artists on it, but he wants us to be the backbone of the new record."
Lee himself is equally enthusiastic about the reception his band -- which also toured with him in 1994 -- has been receiving. "The audience at the shows were basically under thirty years old, under twenty-five maybe," he says, "and they knew all the songs! Even in Paris and Madrid, they knew the words to every song. It was very flattering."
But it's not surprising a younger audience is discovering Love's music. The 1966 psychedelic landmark Da Capo and 1967's orchestral rock classic Forever Changes frequently appear near the top of critics' lists of all-time best rock albums, alongside the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and the Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; company that gives Lee pause. "All the time, I get questions about Pet Sounds -- or whatever the Beach Boys were doing -- and Forever Changes. What I was talking about had nothing to do with that. Even the Beatles. I never sang about the same things, the so-called 'flower power' or the peace and love people."
Following the recording sessions, Lee and his band plan to return to Europe in early 2003 for the Forever Changes tour, when they'll perform all of the material from the album with an eight-piece string and horn section. "We already did that at two shows in Europe," says Randle, "and they were fantastic. The original sheet music was lost by Elektra years and years ago, but gentleman named Gunnar listened to the record and wrote out all the score and did a great job. The first one we did was in Stockholm, and the other was in Copenhagen, at the Roskilde Festival."
Lee, meanwhile, is also putting the finishing touches on an autobiography. "I have it edited about as well as I want it," he says, "but I figure I might as well add the interviews and photographs and things that happened from this tour, too. I have a little more to do than I thought: I have to collect pictures and clarify the rumors about the heroin use . . . I tried heroin, but I was never hooked on it a day in my life."
Love with Arthur Lee tour dates:
8/10-11: New York, Bowery Ballroom
8/12: Philadelphia, North Star