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Consider two mid-'60s groups. Each is from Los Angeles, each is signed to Elektra Records, and each releases a series of albums that stand as some of the finest rock 'n' roll of the era. But in the early '70s, one of the groups' lead singers dies--and the then-defunct band's popularity grows to unbelievably massive proportions. By the early '90s, the group is immortalized when a prestigious film director devotes an entire movie to them.

Now consider that the two groups' names are Doors and Love--and in 1993, while the legend of late Doors vocalist Jim Morrison continued to grow two decades after his death, Love's singer Arthur Lee--in his 19th year without a major American record deal--was actually opening for a Doors cover band at a small Los Angeles club. One suspects he would have rather been hit by a bus.

Just one in a series of major ironies for Arthur Lee (b. 1944, Memphis, Tennessee) is the fact that his pioneering work with Love is now as revered internationally--at least on some critical levels--as the music of Jim Morrison's Doors. The first rock group to be signed by Elektra, Love was an unusual group by many standards--not least because both Lee, the band's lead singer and main songwriter, and John Echols, the band's guitarist, were black men who played rock 'n' roll. Very much an underground group (they rarely performed outside Los Angeles), Love first made their name on the basis of two superb 1966 singles: a remake of Manfred Mann's "My Little Red Book" (penned by Burt Bacharach & Hal David) from What's New Pussycat? and Lee's own "Seven And Seven Is," a top 40 hit. But much more influential were Love's albums, the first three of which displayed remarkable diversity and artistic growth.

The 1966 debut album Love was a much better than average collection of melodic, Byrds and Beatles-inspired pop, most of it written by Lee himself. By 1967's Da Capo, Love's original quintet had added two members, and the group's sound had grown much more sophisticated (including flute, saxophone and harpsichord)--as did Lee's compositions. Tracks like "Stephanie Knows Who" and "The Castle" were enormously inventive and dynamic, filled with complex chords and atmospheric shadings that sound contemporary even today. And the group had experimented even further by filling the second side of their LP with a 19-minute single track called "Revelation."
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