Forever Changes may be 36 years old at the time of this writing, but its hermetic fusion of the personal and the political feels more relevant than ever. It speaks to the present in ways that, say, a Jefferson Airplane record never could, whatever the parallels between the late '60s and our contemporary morass. Conceived as the last testament of a charismatic recluse who believe he was about to die, Forever Changes is one of the defining albums of an era. Here, Andrew Hultkrans explores the myriad depths of this bizarre and brilliant record. Charting bohemian Los Angeles' descent into chaos at the end of the 60's, he teases out the literary and mystical influences behind Arthur Lee's lyrics, and argues that Lee was both inspired and burdened by a powerful prophetic urge.Andrew Hultkrans is a writer who lives in Brooklyn. He is the former editor-in-chief of Bookforum magazine.33 1/3 is a new series of short books about critically acclaimed and much-loved albums of the last 40 years. Focusing on one album rather than an artist's entire output, the books dispense with the standard biographical background that fans know already, and cut to the heart of the music on each album. The authors provide fresh, original perspectives - often through their access to and relationships with the key figures involved in the recording of these albums. By turns obsessive, passionate, creative, and informed, the books in this series demonstrate many different ways of writing about music. (A task which can be, as Elvis Costello famously observed, as tricky as dancing about architecture.) What binds this series together, and what brings it to life, is that all of the authors - musicians, scholars, and writers - are deeply in love with the album they have chosen.More
The band Love in many ways envisioned the climate of the summer of love through a darker, more realistic lens than many of their flower-power contemporaries. Andrew Hultkrans examines their third album, 1967's Forever Changes, detailing frontman Arthur Lee's paranoia and apocalyptic prophecies that it was fueled by. The music on the album is hard to classify: part folk rock, part psychedelia, with orchestral arrangements and heavy themes. This may be why the album was not very commercially successful on its release, even compared to Love's other albums, but was critically praised and remains extremely relevant in its vision and sensibility. Jeremy Beck performs the audiobook with melancholic intensity, describing the already world-weary young Lee and Love's powerful and beautiful album.
"Hultkrans obsesses brilliantly on the rock legends' seminal disc." (Vanity Fair)
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There were a few nuggets in this short book that I was unaware of. It is interesting that Arthur Lee had seen Marat/Sade multiple times and drew inspiration from it. Hulkrans rolls the dice on other possible points of inspiration, including existentialism (heavily), Buddhism (briefly) and the gnostics (a curious tangent). While it's possible that Lee had this depth of academic knowledge when he was composing the lyrics for Forever Changes, the author is indulging in a LOT of guesswork. Granted, Arthur Lee was a mysterious figure who did not yield his secrets easily, so it may have been difficult to find more clues about Lee's direct inspiration. Hulkrans also focuses HEAVILY on the dark side of LA, including mysticism and the Mansons. I understand why Hulkrans would want to allude to Manson and Altamont, demonstrating that Lee was prophetic about human nature and the fall of the hippie, but too much time is spent discussing events that happened years after this album. Also, I hear conflict and, at times, cynicism, in Arthur Lee's lyrics, but Forever Changes is also about hope as well. The optimistic side of Forever Changes does not get an equal airing. The analysis in this book focuses more on the assertion by Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer that the group should have been called "Hate." Cited information about the actual crafting of the album and the music can probably fill less than 5 pages.
I like Geeta Dayal's book on Brian Eno's Another Green World. You can't really pass judgment on the entire series, because the quality of each book depends on the bias of the author.
I thought Beck's performance was good.
I will never listen to this book again. Hulkran's take is interesting, but a lot of the information is tangential and probably would have been better suited to an op-ed piece. The book would have benefitted from more straight journalism.
- Robert Keith