by David Chiu
For fans of Arthur Lee and Love, the belated release of Black Beauty on vinyl in 2012 is the rock and roll equivalent of finding the Holy Grail. Originally recorded back in 1973, it got shelved when Buffalo Records folded. Now available on CD, this rollicking and robust album is a further testament to the eccentric genius of Arthur Lee. Stylistically, Black Beauty is worlds away from the baroque pop of Love’s 1967 masterpiece Forever Changes – rather, it’s a swaggering hard rock album more aligned with Hendrix than the Beatles, starting off with the electrifying “Young and Able (Good and Evil)”; through taught rockers such as “Midnight Sunday” (Lee sings like a man possessed) and the bluesy “See Myself in You” and the funky swing of “Stay Way.” A little bit of soul pervades the proceeding such as on the broken-hearted sounding “Can’t Find It” as well as some reggae on the bouncy “Beep Beep.” On those rockers, Lee recalls a bit of Bob Seger with his throaty and gritty voice while aided by a hot backing band. It’s a shame this record never got the proper release its due, which makes Black Beauty all the more special and lends a certain mythology to it. This reissue also contains an archival interview with Lee and three live performances from 1974, as well a track titled “L.A. Blues” recorded by Lee and Ventilator from 1996.