Since this blog began in November of 2005, I’ve wasted a great many words alternately lauding and criticizing new music. While that’s all well and good, there are only so many truly exceptional albums that come out in any given year. With that in mind, today marks the beginning of a new weekly feature: The Old Testament, examining some of my favorite records of all-time. Some may be a part of the musical canon, others may not. The only shared connection between any of them is my belief in their excellence.

I imagine most people who read my blog think Da Capo is just a nickname for Dipset henchman/rapper/raconteur Jim Jones, or perhaps even a song by the Ace of Base. But 41 years ago, Da Capo was also the name of Love’s masterful second album, a record often ignored by critics in favor of its follow-up, 1967’s psychedelic masterpiece Forever Changes. While Forever Changes might be the better of the duo, thanks to its conceptual unity and increased lyrical and musical complexity, Da Capo is brilliant in its own right, a dazzling kaleidoscopic trip through stoned 1966 Los Angeles, a practically perfect pop record.

Kick-starting with the carnival jingle-jangle of “Stephanie Knows Who,” Love lead singer, Arthur Lee hollers and wails a love poem to a girl named Stephanie, backed by church organs, flailing electric guitar licks, and rat-tat-tat drums. Listening to the song, its not hard to see why Jim Morrison called Love his favorite Los Angeles band, as The Lizard King clearly swiped Lee’s emphatic grunts and “c’mon” chants.

“Orange Skies” the album’s lone Bryan Maclean track, settles into a mellow psychedelic vibe, as the simply worded love song tosses out halcyon images like orange skies, cotton candy, carnivals and nightingales. It might be all hippy-dippy nonsense, but if you use your imagination, you can be instantly transported to Topanga Canyon in 1966, visualizing Maclean reclining back on a wood-grain balcony, trying not to wrinkle the paisley shirt he was inevitably rocking, staring into a blinding late afternoon sun and smoking what Ghost would call a baseball spliff.

Love Lead Singer Arthur Lee: The Only Thing Missing is a Wallet That Says Bad Mothafucka
“Que Vida,” the album’s third track marks a stark departure from the pleasant vibe of the first two songs, flashing the morbid undertones that Lee further explored on Forever Changes. While the songs honeyed electric guitars and velvet drums conjure nothing but pleasant vibes, the lyrics are a different story, fraught with indecision, and melancholic uncertainty. From there, the album darts suddenly into the frenetic 2 minute jam “Seven & Seven Is,” a proto-punk number similar to Love’s cover of “Little Red Book,” from their eponymous debut. The track was also deftly used by Wes Anderson Bottle Rocket, when Dignan and Anthony rob Anthony’s parents home.

One of the main reasons why the album gets less attention than Forever Changes is the half-finished nature of the songs, reflecting the mere five days that the band recorded the album in (or how much acid they were on). While the melodies are all fully-formed, the lyrical content seems like pencil sketchings of ideas to be expanded on at a later date. “The Castle,” named after the band’s Los Feliz Residence, (see this post on Poison Gone Forever) is under 50 words and doesn’t make all that much sense. Meanwhile, the penultimate song, “She Comes in Colors” seems overly simplistic by today’s standards, but taken as a pure love song, not many come more gorgeous, all willowy flutes, sunshine organs and Lee’s tear drop voice that adds an emotional heft to the number. If you’ve ever heard “She’s a Rainbow” from The Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request, you’ll notice its close and admittedly intentional similarity.

The album ends with a sprawling 19-minute jam, “Revelation” a love-it-or-hate-it proposition if there ever ever was. Unsurprisingly, I choose the former, with its loose improvised riffing, searing harmonica solos and the hints of the power of Love’s dynamic stage show. The album amply displays why Love have been called the quintessential Los Angeles band, capturing the city’s uneasy balance of lobotomized sunshine simplicity and its noir underbelly. One of the finest records of the 60s, Da Capo might have its rough-edges but it remains a brilliant early work from Arthur Lee, one of America’s greatest songwriters.

Buy it Here

MP3: Love-“She Comes in Colors”
MP3: Love-“Seven & Seven Is”

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