Sunday, March 6, 2011

Arthur Lee - Just Us

Arthur Lee has been turning up in a few of my conversations lately and I thought I'd spotlight this excellent album from much, much later in his career. It shows that Arthur still had the unique charm and ability to craft thoughtful music just like he always had. For me, Arthur Lee was one of the greatest lyricists of our time and also recorded some of the most powerful, emotive, tuff and meaningful rock I've ever heard. From the early punk sounds to the completely crazy later years Arthur always had an incomparable finesse and unmistakable genius about him. His different approach, odd ball antics and innovation in delivery bench marked styles that would be inspiring music some 20-30 years later.

Arthur's unique spin on things was the power and innovation that he brought to rock. He made a deposit into the minds of rock musicians world wide and succeeded at 'forever changing' the way we think about pop composition. The tidal waves of creativity that he championed in pop music are still crashing on the shores of modern music still to this day.

Arthur Incorporated the same fire and power into what was commonly misogynistic cave man punk rock, but did it without the sexism and cliches. On the outside, sometimes the music sounded simple, and if judged too fast could get dismissed as typical rock. Yet, there was endless layers to this onion and he made you listen on a deeper level. He provided a more sensitive and emotional spin at times. He was the major component of the mid sixties L.A. based rock group Love. Along with Bryan MacLean that group created landmark records that combined jazz, acoustic folk, Tijuana tinged pop, and early proto-punk. They contributed the great "Forever Changes" LP which I feel gets left out of the conversation of evolving music in the 60's. A lot of comparisons are done between the Beatles and the Beach Boys on a album by album basis and how they were inspiring each other, but seldom is 'Forever Changes' even mentioned in that context. It, and Love's other albums are important pieces of music history. His solo efforts are also important pieces, and are basically Love albums. As time went on, he moved even farther out of the light of exposure. In fact, as a whole Arthur Lee and Love go unnoticed by the larger 'rock' world both then and now. Only later in life and during the early 2000's did Arthur start to see some mass appeal and adoration for what he did. Unfortunately Arthur died of Leukemia in 2006.

Interesting connection here between this and a previous post is that the treatment of the Bacharach and David's tune 'My Little Red book' was one of the first major notable records by Love. Apparently Bacharach hated this 'treatment' of his song, but it showed again that Arthur was light years ahead of his time. Arthur revamped his tunes several times throughout his releases and one of his last great performances was doing the entire 'Forever Changes' album live with a full orchestra.

Arthur Lee has always brought a different perspective to rock and roll. Whether that has something to do with him being African American is up for consideration. He certainly has a unique edge he brought to rock, yet he pushed a kind of individuality that went beyond race. He was after all, a black man in a mostly white rock world. Throughout his path he crossed with many that ultimately shaped who he became. He was inspired by Curtis Mayfield and in early Los Angeles days met and recorded with a young Jimi Hendrix. I believe that the souls of Curtis, Jimi and others that inspired him like Johnny Mathis and Burt Bacharach all made up the complex collage that was Arthur Lee. Arthur had a mixture of souls burning through him and his music and it collectively contributed to his unique fire.

I saw Arthur live in San Francisco not long after he was released from prison. It was an amazing show. Probably one the best live rock shows I've seen. He still had the pizazz, and my only regret was missing the 'Forever Changes Tour' approximately one year later. Aside from the perspective he brought to rock and roll, I feel as though he also felt the brunt and plight of being African American in the record industry and largely in the rock and roll world as a whole. He affirms this by his refusal to tour or leave L.A. during most of his career, opting to stay in his 'turf' where he felt more comfortable. The fact that he spent any time in prison was a complete mistake and inexcusable crime in itself. Arthur should have been locked in a studio and forced to record more music instead. I believe if that were the sentence we would have that much better of a world today. Arthur being locked up in prison was completely WRONG and illustrates that the music 'biz' ultimately did NOT have his back.

Back many years ago, at the height of the Napster craze I searched through a set of files that lead to a dialog and friendship with a woman that was in a romantic relationship with Arthur for some time. He was in jail at the time, but I wish I still had that contact info because now I'm sure she'd have some interesting things to say. We traded a few files and she spoke of intimate details about Arthur and their relationship. During that time I discovered an unreleased album called 'Black Beauty' from 1973.

In my Opinion Arthur Lee was one of the greatest contributors to music. The impression he left on rock and pop music is largely under appreciated and under valued. He may be one of the best kept secrets in the recorded world, and a treat for anyone to discover over and over again. Arthur gave so much over such a long time, and what he brought to the table was sincere genius. He crafted a bevy of incredible psychedelic and introspective lyrics often focused on social and relevant issues. He also had a piece of himself in his music that was self analyzing, one to one personal and often existential. Listening to Love and anything by Arthur Lee is about as close to an 'out-of-body' experience that I can have listening to music. I love the first album and even this much much later album in 1981. Seeing him live was one of the greatest shows I've had the pleasure of witnessing.

Arthur with Jimi Hendrix

If anything this 1981 LP shows that Arthur hadn't lost a single bit of his touch, his attitude or his purpose. I'm throwing your way the best three tunes from this album, but if you're NOT familiar with Love or Arthur Lee, you seriously need to get down to brass tacks and git this doods shit.

This is really a minute bit about a man that needs pages more to tell his whole story. I just kinda threw this all together with the underlying purpose to expose these tracks from this LP. I think we here at Soundboutique owe a deeper more comprehensive post in the future. Arthur certainly deserves it, and there's a plethora of other tracks to share. In my efforts to gather more info about Arthur, I came across a number of interesting things...two blogs that have detailed info about Arthur Lee.
Have You Heard Of Arthur Lee?

And the movie entitled 'Love Story' which I still haven't seen, but hear that it is revealing and comprehensive.
Love Story Promo

These tracks are just a small taste...
Arthur Lee - Just Us
Arthur Lee - Happy Me
Arthur Lee - Do You Know The Secret


  1. JUST CAME ACROSS THIS , very sweet. Glad you like my website too.

  2. I'd like to Thank You for your Comment, and tell you how refreshing and informative your site is. Keep Up The Great Work!