By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A living tribute to the most influential rock band to emerge from Los Angeles during the 1960s and its leader Arthur Lee, Love Revisited with original founding guitarist Johnny Echols returns to the Bay Area Friday when it headlines the Chapel in San Francisco.
This line-up of the storied has been paying homage to the iconic ’60s group’s principle founding songwriters — Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean — since a few years after Lee passed away in 2006. Lee and MacLean had worked writing and producing music for several years before deciding to team up in the psychedelic folk-rock outfit that would eventually become Love.
With the addition of lead guitarist Johnny Echols, the band became a popular attraction on the Sunset Strip, eventually becoming the first rock band to sign with fledgling label Elektra Records. They scored a minor hit with a rocked-up version of the Burt Bachrach song “Little Red Book” that would be included on their 1966 self-titled debut.
However, it was the band’s next two efforts — Da Capo and their masterpiece Forever Changes — that would firmly establish Love as one of the great Los Angeles groups of the psychedelic ’60s. Hailed as a seminal statement that ranks with such all-time classics as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, Forever Changes unfortunately also marked the last album to feature MacLean (his song “Alone Again Or” is a highlight) as the band disintegrated.
Lee would form a new version of Love that pursued a more blues-rock sound over three more albums during the early ’70s, but continuing drug and personal problems led the songwriter to drift into obscurity. He would occasionally tour and play concerts with pick-up bands billed as Arthur Lee and Love, even attempting to reconcile with MacLean to perform onstage to no avail, including a planned tour in the mid-90s that was derailed when Lee went to prison on firearms charges. MacLean would die suddenly of a heart attack in 1998 at age 52.
When Lee finally emerged from incarceration in 2001, he made up for lost time with extensive touring and festival appearances backed by Los Angeles rock band Baby Lemonade and often augmented by horns and strings for full performances of Forever Changes. Sadly diagnosed with leukemia in 2005, Lee was forced to stop touring due to ill health, playing his last show under the Love banner with members of Baby Lemonade and Echols at the Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco in June of that year. Lee passed away on August 3, 2006 in Memphis.
Since then, members of Baby Lemonade have periodically toured with returning lead guitarist Echols (classic-era drummer Michael Stewart has also appeared at some shows as a special guest) to perform Love’s classic songs. The band shared the stage at the Chapel with fellow ’60s era favorites the Seeds and later in 2019 provided one of the highlights of the Huichica Festival in Sonoma with a full performance of Forever Changes prior to embarking on an extensive summer tour of the UK.
The band also issued a limited 7-inch single with Echols featuring two songs intended for a 2005 Love album that was never completed. The group played the Chapel in January of last year, delivering a remarkable rendition of Forever Changes complete with horns and strings. Finally able to get back on the road as COVID pandemic restrictions are relaxed, Love Revisited returns to the Chapel Friday night to perform songs from the band’s classic early era with dazzling visuals provided by Mad Alchemy Liquid Lights. Opener Bolero! is a crew of young San Francisco artists playing a diverse style of self-described “freak-flag music” indebted to the city’s pioneering psychedelic bands from the ’60s and ’70s, weaving together elements of rock, blues, Latin, jazz, country and soul.
Love Revisited featuring Johnny Echols
Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. $25-$30