What was technically recorded as Arthur Lee’s second solo album after the dissolution of Love in 1971 became viewed as the “great lost Love album”, as the album was going to be released under the trading name of Love. The shortest version of the story behind 1973’s Black Beauty is that the record label, for whom it was recorded, folded before it ever saw the light of day. Buffalo Records came and went without a trace and one of Arthur Lee’s strongest works remained unreleased until 2012, when High Moon Records issued it on vinyl for the very first time – now, it appears on CD in a beautiful hardcover package with live material and an Arthur Lee interview included.
Heavier than most Love albums people would be familiar with (Da Capo, Forever Changes, etc.), Black Beauty rocks with melody and guts. The band Lee assembled to help realize this album – Melvan Whittington: guitar, Robert Rozelle: bass and Joe Blocker on drums – are as powerful and masterful as the best known Love line-ups and their feel gives Black Beauty a definite group vibe, rather than a tentative solo effort. The production is very good, considering the only source originally known was from acetates (!); most importantly, Lee’s writing had grown and stretched to a finessed level of groove with sophistication, most notably on “Skin”. Right out of the chute, “Young & Able (Good & Evil)” points a new (maybe an “of the time”/”’70’s style”) direction but with fire; “Midnight Sun” is heavy and pure R-O-C-K and sounds more like a Hendrix track than anything else (!); “Beep Beep” is a calypso/reggae-oriented number that shows the playful side of Lee’s writing.
Is Black Beauty truly the great lost Love album? I would have to say yes. Although the original album was only to have ten tracks (this collection includes 6 bonuses – live tracks, the Lee interview and a few other items of interest), those ten tracks hold together solidly and work as a complete package. It’s also one of Arthur Lee’s most accessible works. It doesn’t matter that it was first born in 1973 – that it sounds as good now as it would have then says it all.
Black Beauty is available now.