Love: Reel To Real

First appearance on CD of Arthur Lee’s seventh album.

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Arthur, is that you? Who knew the mercurial creator of Forever Changes, famous for its baroque intricacy and etherised tenor, was capable of such earthbound soulfulness?

More to the point, who cared? Hardly anyone, historically, which is why Reel To Real (1974) was just one of several post-Forever Changes projects to be ignored by all but Lee completists.

High Moon have done the latter proud on this deluxe reissue (booklet, unpublished period pics, the works), with a slew of previously-unreleased tracks, alternate takes and mixes and live-in-studio rehearsals. You also get four newly-discovered Lee compositions alongside the full original album.

Your interest in those new songs will depend on your feelings about the album proper. It’s heavy on funk, soul and blues, of the most conventional kind. Everybody’s Gotta Live is a no-frills acoustic plod with banal lyrics. Stop The Music is chitlin’ R&B, Good Old Fashioned Dream rote horn-drenched testifying. Who Are You? has some psychedelic pizazz, even if Curtis Mayfield deserves royalties.

Which Witch Is Which similarly apes Sly circa Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey and With A Little Energy is Stax-by-numbers. You Said You Would echoes Faces/Stones: a black man doing an impression of white men singing the blues. There is a hint of the divine on Singing Cowboy but mainly this represents a sorry volte-face from a musician who eschewed tethering of any kind. Unreal.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.