Album review: Love, Black Beauty

A previously unreleased archival set reveals a grittier side of this L.A. psych-pop institution.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Sample "Midnight Sun," a fierce psych-soul bruiser from this newly unearthed 1973 full-length, and you might mistake it for a choice Hendrix outtake. Only a Love completist would square the track with the late Arthur Lee's mannered chamber-pop vehicle, heard most famously on 1967's Forever Changes. That's probably because Lee intended Black Beauty, shelved at the time due to a shuttered label, as a reboot: A rare African-American presence on the first-wave L.A. rock scene that also produced the Doors, the singer-songwriter deliberately recruited an all-black supporting cast for this effort and aimed for a rawer, more R&B-inspired sound. You feel that immediacy on tracks like "Stay Away," which feature guitarist Melvan Whittington's wailing leads, but the record's real reward is hearing the band bulk up Lee's tunes ("Can't Find It," "See Myself in You") while preserving their tender, introspective core. Beauty is the operative word here.

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Black Beauty (High Moon)