When I think of the peak concert attending experiences of my life, two of the top ten shows were Arthur Lee and Love. In the early 90s, I saw a pre-jail Arthur do a nearly all-acoustic set at a small bar in North Hollywood because the electricity went out. He made up for the loss of the band with inspired skat singing and the audience left the show grinning from ear to ear. The second time I saw Lee play was even more memorable. After spending 5-1/2 years in prison, Lee was released and began a tentative series of gigs around Los Angeles playing Love's classic 1967 album "Forever Changes" in its entirety. When he walked onstage that night, at a packed Henry Fonda Theater, he looked tiny, frail, old, scared even. His clothes looked too big. Everyone was pulling for him, we all wanted this to be amazing and triumphant, but it didn't look promising. Within seconds, however, he strapped on his hollow body electric guitar and became the great Arthur Lee. It was a magical musical event. Lee's voice had lost none of its beauty and range; the songs none of their power. Audience members were moved to tears. Yes, it was that good (and thanks to the Internets, here's a clip from that very night's highlight, "You Set the Scene").
Now, two years after his untimely death, there is a new feature-length documentary, Love Story that tells the tragic trajectory of the life and times of Arthur Lee. It's a great film and thank the gods that someone got Lee on video talking about his life's work before he died. The dramatic power of Lee's story hasn't been diminished from constant retelling on Vh1 rock docs and "Love Story" is gripping from start to finish. Mostly it focuses on the band's first three records, especially "Forever Changes." And of course it also covers Lee's notoriously difficult personality and the drug use that split the band wide-open. The only criticism I have of "Love Story" is that there isn't more footage of Lee and and the band in their prime, but it's not like the filmmakers had much of an option as there is virtually no footage of Love that exists from that era save for this wonderful clip of them on Dick Clark's American Bandstand performing a blistering version of Burt Bacharach's "My Little Red Book." Arthur Lee and Jimi Hendrix "Everlasting First" unreleased demo
(Richard Metzger is a guestblogger)