Fricke's Picks: Arthur Lee and Len Price 3

By |

The first time I saw the late Arthur Lee in concert with his band Love was in December 1970, at the Fillmore East in New York, where they opened for the Kinks. I clearly remember two things from that night: As he walked offstage after the set, the temperamental Lee angrily threw his guitar at someone in the wings (the target looked a lot like Fillmore boss Bill Graham). Also, that version of Love — a heavy, driving quartet -- was great, much better than the curt dismissals it got in many Lee obituaries last summer. The Blue Thumb Recordings (Hip-O Select), three CDs of studio and live recordings from that Love era, proves it — most of the time. The 1969 double LP, Out Here, was actually leftovers from extensive 1968-69 sessions already culled for Love's last Elektra album, Four Sail. "Doggone," a strangely sunny blues waltz, would have been fine without the eight-minute drum solo; "Discharged" is protest kitsch. But Lee, who ran Love like a private army, was recovering from the collapse of the original lineup after 1967's Forever Changes, and there is a riveting tension — an alienated determination — in "I'll Pray for You" and the way Lee arms his feathery, vulnerable tenor with hard-rock distortion in "Stand Out" and "I'm Down." False Start, from 1970, is most notable for Lee's reunion with Jimi Hendrix in "The Everlasting First" (Lee produced a 1965 single that was the latter's sideman debut on record) and a live "Stand Out" from a 1970 British tour. The third CD in this set has more previously unissued roar from those shows, a mix of old and new songs that is exactly like the wah-wah-charged fury I got at the Fillmore East — which was just in time. Two months later, Lee broke up that Love. It would not be his last.

The title song on Rentacrowd (Wicked Cool), the fantastic second album by English avenging-garage trio the Len Price 3, is two minutes and change of spangly '65-Who-ish spleen against Britain's hysterical addiction to flavor-of-the-month bands who are supposed to save rock & roll with fab hair and half an album's worth of decent songs. The 3 — singer-guitarist Glenn Page, bassist Steve Huggins and drummer Neil Fromow (there is no Len Price) — have a right to feel superior. Rentacrowd is packed with perfectly vintage dynamite ("Julia Jones," "Girl Like You," "Cold 500") that pays outright homage to the primal Kinks and the R&B whiplash of Dr. Feelgood but with a contemporary, fighting trim to rival the Arctic Monkeys. Rock & roll doesn't need saving; the cure's right here.