Love - Da Capo
Any fan of Love (and Arthur Lee), and a fan of vinyl and all the sonic possibilities that it provides, could agree that the best experience of Arthur Lee’s original line-up would have been the third and seminal Forever Changes on your turntable, fresh out of the plastic of a first edition pressing in 1967, the smell of fresh petroleum product filling your nose as you spin.
The second best experience would be the same circumstances with the album that hinted at the creative peaks of Forever Changes, Da Capo. From the proto punk rush of “7 and 7 is”, to Arthur’s ‘Stones-inspiring “She Comes in Colors”, Da Capo came remarkably close to the heights of a psychedelic masterpiece. The only thing holding it back was the half-hazard and messy “Revelation”. The song essentially sounds like an excuse to Elektra to fill the second half of a long player. Yet what is remarkable about the album is that the 18 minutes and 57 seconds of deadweight on side B can’t eclipse the six, near perfectly crafted pop pieces on side A. The impulse to simply lift the needle and repeat is pervasive, and practically undeniable.
Unfortunately, wearing the grooves on this particular copy isn’t a huge draw for Side A, much less Side B. Sundazed records, who repressed Da Capo on 180 gram vinyl in 2001, has built a steady reputation over the years for keeping the beach torches of Surf music and Psych 60’s rock alive, among other members of the same family tree, all on vinyl- a very valid and respectable mission. Vexingly, in this resurgent age of vinyl, not everyone is on the fidelity boat. Vinyl not only offers the benefit of nostalgia and scraggly sounds of yesteryear, but with the right mastering and playback, can provide superior sound quality to almost every other popular audio media out there.
Today, with “Audiophile” pressings abound, with claims of “Mastered from Original tapes”, “180 gram” and name-drops of reputable remaster-masters gracing stickers on plastic, the noise can create a cloud of confusion that can make it hard to discern quality from claims.
The Sundazed 2001 reissue of Da Capo, sadly, falls under the latter category. The cloudiness of the remastering of the album is very confusing, especially with access to original masters, as the sticker told when I picked it off the shelf. Ken Forssi’s bass gets the worst of it here, with his lines running all over the other instruments, while never sounding tight enough or even in it’s right place, sonically speaking. Michael Stuart’s drums also get the short end, falling short of providing that true punch the music needs as though they wrapped him and his kit in cellophane before the sessions began. The high end seems to suffer overall, always keeping the repress sounding like a relic, never like a fresh vibrant slice of 1966. The production seems to focus mainly on boosting the midrange as much as possible; with the admirable goal of granting the music its muscle, yet never achieving that goal.
Sundazed, on paper, has my vote for one of the best repress labels out there, with an allegiance to finding the best, forgotten 60’s masterpieces, and seeing that they are not forgotten. Recent additions to their catalogue such as Leonard Cohen and The Velvet Underground make the name Sundazed all the more enticing. But after this listen, I just won’t bite.
The song that is crippled most here is “7 and 7 is”, the album’s cornerstone, a hard-rocking attack of stream-of-consciousness, stripped of its brutal beat and persistence through lousy sound.
The soundstage, or the space that is created between instruments, seems squished and forgotten. Overall, one feels the engineer is asking a Sitar-guitar player to rock out in a muddy bog. You just want to move forward, strip away the layers to get a sense of the raw power of the music, but your legs (or ears as it were) can’t seem to pull out of that first step into the muck.
The music on Side A is hardly muck. Bryan MacLean was starting to flex his pop-songwriting muscle on the slightly saccharine, Latin-tinged “Orange Skies”, and Arthur was as manic and brilliant as ever, warming up for his tour de force to come. This is music that deserves to be front and center-in your face. All Sundazed has done with this repress is remind you that A) A romp in a bog is no fun B) “180 gram” and “Mastered from Original Tapes” is not an insurance policy against said romp in the bog and C) You still need to be saving your bread for that first edition in M- condition on eBay.