Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Love: Forever Changes [Columbia, 1967]
"Art-rock," sneers my wife, who's never heard it before. "Movie music," Greil Marcus recalls fondly. "I just played it this week," R. Meltzer tells me--and then places its release in early 1968 because it came out the day before a well-remembered abortion. All wrong. It came out November 1967, and neither art-rock nor movie music, no matter how fondly recalled, will permit a song that begins with an elegantly enunciated "Oh, the snot has caked against my pants/It has turned into crystal." Arthur Lee was always too oblique for his own good. Here he counterposes a background-music feel and a delightful panoply of studio effects against his own winning skepticism and the incipient Jaggerishness of his pseudo-Johnny Mathis vocals. Perhaps because it retains so much humor, his battle cry--"We're all normal and we want our freedom"--hasn't dated, the melodies really hang in there, and only Steely Dan has ever attempted a record so simultaneously MOR and anti-MOR. A-