False Start is the sixth album by the American rock band Love, released in December 1970. The second and final Love album for Blue Thumb Records saw bandleader Arthur Lee heavily influenced by his friend, Jimi Hendrix, with Hendrix appearing on the opening track, "The Everlasting First", one of several tracks that Hendrix recorded with Love at a March 1970 session.
Although Arthur Lee & Love established themselves as a premier California folk-rock-psychedelic group with their mid-to-late-1960s albums on Elektra, the two LPs they released after moving to the Blue Thumb label were much different from the material with which they'd first made their mark. In fact, the Blue Thumb LPs were considerably different from each other, both in sound and personnel.
The first of these, 'Out Here', was actually recorded at around the same time as their final Elektra album, 'Four Sail. Like Four Sail', it showed the group exploring different directions than they had on their first three LPs, with leader and chief singer-songwriter Arthur Lee the only remaining member from the previous Love lineups.
Recorded in 1970, 'False Start' was another shift, going into a harder-rocking mode than any previous Love release. There was another lineup change between Out Here and False Start as well, with Gary Rowles replacing Jay Donnellan on lead guitar, though Lee, bassist Frank Fayad and drummer George Suranovich remained aboard the Love train.
Rowles's history with Fayad and Suranovich predated his enlistment into Love's ranks by some time. He was playing with Fayad in Las Vegas in 1967 when Nooney Rickett—"an amazing R&B singer and rhythm guitarist," as Rowles describes him today—approached Gary and Frank to be in a new band he was starting. Suranovich, who had drummed with Pittsburgh doo wop greats the Skyliners (famous for the classic 1959 smash "Since I Don't Have You"), joined to complete the quartet early the following year. As the Noon Express, they were playing the Brass Ring club in Encino in the San Fernando Valley in September 1968 when Arthur Lee, looking to form a new lineup of Love after his latest Elektra version had dissolved, checked them out.
|Arthur Lee 1969|
"Arthur wanted that band to be Love," Rowles explains. "So when Nooney's band broke up and I went up to San Francisco, Arthur hired Frank and George and Jay for the Out Here album." But Rowles did play on one
cut of the Out Here IP, as Lee "wanted something specific that was part of my style at the time. 1 went up to San Francisco to play with a band up there for a while, and when I came back to L.A., Arthur called me and said, 'I really would like you to be a part of this,' He mentioned something about a European tour and a record after that, so I was definitely interested."
Love's metamorphosis into a more hard rock-oriented outfit, Gary adds, "didn't come as a surprise to me because the band basically had transformed from this eclectic group of individuals that Love was before, [when] it seemed to me like there was some struggle for identity within the group. You had different people writing, different people saying 'this is how I want it to sound.' Certainly to a listener, that's very appealing, because it gives a lot of colors to the palette of the presentation. But Arthur realized that the future was a little bit more hard rock, because that was when Zeppelin came out, and all of a sudden, that was the beginnings of metal. It was also an outflowing of the Jimi Hendrix presentation, which really changed quite a bit of how guitar players thought and what the expanded capabilities of the instrument could be. So actually the change of direction was a result of Arthur being exposed to us—the Nooney Rickett band—and him wanting that to be what he could identify his songwriting and his presentation with."
Before most of the studio recordings were done for the record, Love embarked on their first European tour in early 1970. Indeed, Love were perhaps more popular in the UK than they were in their native US at this point, 1968's classic Forever Changes album having charted far higher there (peaking at #24) than any Love LP had in the States. It was. in England during this tour that Love would record two of the tracks to appear on its forthcoming album, one of them being the live concert recording "Stand Out." The other would be the most famous cut on the record, "The Everlasting First," for the simple reason that it featured some guest lead guitar by none other than Jimi Hendrix.
Hendrix and Lee had first met in the mid-1960s before either musician became famous, Jimi even playing on an obscure soul single written by Arthur, Rosa Lee Brooks' "My Diary," On March 17, 1970, as Rowles tells it, he came back from a walk in London to find "Jimi Hendrix sitting on the couch in the apartment. I happened to have an old '54 Stratocaster, and I wanted him to see it. He looked at my guitar and played it a little bit, and then Arthur says, 'You know, we should go jam.' Everybody thought that was a great idea, SO Arthur called Olympic Studios, and it just so happened that they didn't have anything booked that night in the main room. I'd say we played a good eight or nine hours that night. I don't know what happened to all of the material. I do know that we did a version of 'Ezy Ryder' [Hendrix's own version later showing up on his first posthumous album, 1971's Cry of Love] that was quite spectacular. He wanted to show it to us, 'cause he liked our rhythm section a lot. We did some jamming—there was a percussionist friend of his there, I can't remember who it was— just two-chord stuff."
|Arthur Lee & Jimi Hendrix|
"The Everlasting First" itself, adds Gary, "represents a dream of any guitar player who's ever played a Stratocaster. I sat next to Jimi Hendrix, three feet away from him, for almost eight hours, and none of us even got up to go to the bathroom. When that song fades out, you have no idea what happened after that. No one does—I may be one of the only people left alive who knows. That thing went on for twenty minutes; I mean, we sat there for twenty minutes and just played that riff. The roof came off of the building several times that night."
Most of False Start, however, was recorded a few months later, in June and July, at the Record Plant in Los Angeles. Here again, there was a strong Hendrix connection, as Record Plant co-founder and engineer Gary Kellgren had done a lot of work with Jimi, who visited Love to hang out with the band during the recording. Although Hendrix didn't play on any more tracks to find release on False Start, another old friend who did was
Nooney Rickett, who contributed some vocals and rhythm guitar. "Ride That Vibration" is a particular favorite of Rowles as it was "a chance for me to do my thing, and I loved the feel. There's that George Suranovich 16-bar phrases thing, and Frank Fayad's psychedelic bass thing, and my just kind of going out into my little place in outer space thing."
|Arthur Lee Fillmore West 1970|
False Start received a glowing review in Rolling Stone by Mike Saunders, who enthused, "Arthur Lee is now a good and unaffected singer, having both a soft and a screaming voice...[his] songs are engaging in their simple structure, this album is engaging in its whole, and I think I could rave on all day saying wonderful things about it." But despite the praise, it could only struggle to #184 in the charts, and the lineup that recorded it started to crumble soon after it was recorded. "There were substance abuse problems," admits Rowles. "Arthur had some issues, they're probably well known. It started getting to the point that when we would go to play a gig, he would basically almost have to be dragged on the stage. I couldn't be a part of that, so I left; I was the first one to quit." Though he was replaced by John Sterling, and Fayad and Suranovich carried on playing with Lee in Love for a while, no more albums were recorded before this version of the band broke up.
Rowles, who today runs Audio Media Services in Oregon, remains proud of his stint with Love. For all Arthur Lee's quirks, Gary emphasizes, "He was a very powerful singer, and his writing was very good, timely prose and lyrics for the culture at the time. He knew how to get good things out of people, and there were a lot of good times working with him." He's also thankful that "my opportunity to play with Arthur Lee afforded me probably one of the greatest opportunities that anyone of my era could have experienced, and that is the opportunity to play with Jimi Hendrix three times. Any guitar player on this earth that's ever heard that from me...immediately, their jaws drop." [Liner Notes by Richie Unterberger]
Record Mirror February 6, 1971 - "Right from the Hendrix guitar solo on track one to the end of the album, you become more and more convinced that this is Love's best ever album. Arthur Lee's lyrics are just what you want to feel and Gary Rowles's guitar solos excite on every number. R&B name Nonny Rickett is featured as an addition to the group on all but three tracks and his voice blends well with the feel of the album. The whole album is splendid, but listen to Anytime or Slick Dick as samplers"
Mike Saunders in Rolling Stone February 4, 1971 - "Surprise! This is a fine album. Particularly so for this depressing year in rock, because if you wished for once that you could hear a band who actually plays good songs, has a little life for a change and maybe even a lotta zest and humor, well…./.../To begin with, there are ten good three minute songs. And, most surprising of all, probably, is that Arthur Lee is now a good and unaffected singer, having both a soft and a screaming voice. And these guys even do really neat group singing. And even more weird are the two main influences heard on False Start: Jimi Hendrix (who plays a bit on the LP) and the early Mothers /.../And so it goes, Arthur Lee's songs are engaging in their simple structure, this album is engaging in its whole, and I think I could rave on all day saying wonderful things about it. If you like happy music /.../ and just sorta love rock and roll in general, this album may well be right up your alley. It certainly knocked me out"
False Start – If Out Here was an album where Arthur Lee threw in everything making it a not very successful and mostly joyless mishmash of different styles, False Start is a tight funky and short album, in no way a masterpiece, but somewhat underrated. You get the feeling that Arthur Lee did exactly enough to produce the required album, not putting a lot of effort into it, but that vibe has a certain charm to it. Actually, I would say that (after Forever Changes), it was not until Reel to Real that Arthur put a substantial effort into making an album. That is not to say that the recordings between 1970 and 1973 (False Start, Love Lost, Vindicator and Black beauty) are bad, it’s more that during the early seventies, Arthur Lee and whatever band that was backing him sounded like a quite funky bar band playing in a bar in a less than stellar part of town, making a lot noise, some bad and some really good.
If Da Capo and especially Forever Changes is the sound of the L.A canyons is in the late sixties where “the trees have leaves of prisms that break the light up into colors that no one knows the names of”, Arthur Lee/Love of the early seventies is the soundtrack to the motorways, junkyards, and pawn shops of the asphalt world of L.A, the same world that Warren Zevon would visit albeit from a completely different perspective. False Start kicks off that part of Arthur Lee’s career, most of the songs are quite joyful throwaways, even if Arthur Lee perhaps did not do “joy” in the Stevie Wonder sense. For what it’s worth (and not comparing it with the Elektra classics), I think that False Start is great little album. Not in anyway necessary, but as Steve E said above "I don't care about the specific songs as much as the vibe. And the craziness. It's a short (too short), funny record with great playing"
Track by Track Review:
1. THE EVERLASTING FIRST
Arthur Lee with Jimi Hendrix, a heaven sent combo of talents are brought together to find some of the magic present in Love’s earlier work. Lee brings a great song that somehow feels incomplete, and Jimi brings a dynamite wah-wah guitar to light up the proceedings with much needed fire. Jimi’s long intro is great, but when this song was released years later on Jimi’s box as “Everlasting First”, we find that the true intro was cut and Jimi’s solo became the intro. Jimi therefore opens and closes the song on some tremendous soloing-almost average for Hendrix, but explosive fireworks for Love.
Lyrically, again Lee takes a love song and blurs the focus so that by the end of the lyric, Lee is going to "play the feeling they all left behind"-then Hendrix's powerful somersaults work out another stellar moment-here syncopating his guitar to Lee's ad-libs; a definite bonding moment between the legendary black rock artists-used as the declaration for civil rights heroes like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Jesus who had all died tragically. Lee should have focused more on the legend/political aspect instead of including the 'love song' 1st verse. Still the song is better on the Hendrix box because it feels more complete.
“Flying” flies right in over top “The Everlasting First” as it takes that hard rock baton and softens it into a pleasant pop/rock song that shows some nice spirit despite the passive-aggressive lyrics. “He dropped in, and I dropped out”. It’s got a Beatlesque quality about it for some reason and the piano keeps it a bit joyous to contrast against Lee’s deceivingly bitter lyric.
3. GIMI A LITTLE BREAK
More Hendrix influence here solidified Lee’s reputation as a Jimi-wannabe now-flying off into the hard rock direction as much as possible to maybe hide a drop in his songwriting. It’s never good to categorise Lee though, as he shifts with every album. There’s some decent elements going on here, but the song is around the mediocre level and feels incomplete. It feels appealing, like a few of the positive songs here. The stuttering funk guitar riff is one of the more memorable riffs on the album.
4. STAND OUT (Live version)
And here we go for another run of “Stand Out”, but without the stingy guitar riffs that permeate and stabilize the “Out Here” track. It feels looser, but never hits hard enough. The song is above average, but this is the 2nd time it gets a below average instrumental performance that doesn’t beef it up any. It seems standard-not a stand out, with a lack of energy though Suranovich works up a nice sweat. Rowles’ version of the song lacks any kind of logic or connection to the actual song. The solo is uninspired.
5. KEEP ON SHINING
Lee is in a rare positive reaffirming state of mind here, comforting his friends/fans about how we can overcome rough lives. It also works as a plea to help Lee work out his own problems. It’s a nice reciprocal thought process that shows how humans can help each other. The gospel feel of the track reminds us of “I’ll Pray For You” but with a better melody and a more focused effort from the band. This became a favourite of Lee’s and it was included on “Love Story” as one of only two songs here that made that compilation. When he sings “you got to love love love everybody”, some say he almost feels trapped in the ‘love message’, screaming it like he can’t representing it anymore.
A song can grow on you, and this is ultimately catchy pop that Lee can write in his sleep, but it works well. It’s a less aggressive moment, again Lee asks a friend to rely on him if he needs help, like on “Keep On Shining”. I’ve read that some thought Lee was trying to gain sales by staying more positive on this album, and it is one of least bitter of the catalog. Lee speaks of dreaming again like on the similar sounding “Dream”. Lee has caught some knack for a cliched lyric and here it’s clear. He’s playing it too straight, but it wouldn’t be bad if we knew Lee couldn’t do better, but he can. This has one of the better guitar solos from Rowles.
7. SLICK DICK
Another political parody that is too obvious and lacks the subtlety of Lee’s best lyrics, this song feels like an assembly line anti-Richard Nixon song-this one is not a stand out either. Lee’s politics are once again hurt by some rudimentary tongue-in-cheek lyrics that show none of the intelligence of Lee’s best. He starts singing “Wooly Bully” midway through and “call my name” like he just lost focus out of nowhere. The “looky here looky there” verse is just ridiculous like Lee has run low on ideas once the wah-wah solo kicks in wandering to no effect. Again, Rowles is not showing that he is as capable a guitarist as Donnellan, or perhaps can not fit in to Lee’s vision even with his original band around him. This also feels dated like some of Love’s late 60’s work though that doesn’t matter here.
8. LOVE IS COMING
This does feel like a theme song for the band, a bit corny, a bit singalong, a bit jokey-it’s less than 2 minutes but feels strange sitting amongst the other songs. It has a bit of a hook, but its incomplete ultimately and feels like it belongs on “Out Here” as a quick excursion. Lee just repeats “you’re gonna get it, yeah” too much despite the short length of the song. Again, the idea starts off alright, but Lee has no idea on how to complete it. This song is typical of the more appealing imaginative Lee that morphs into a more generic blues rock singer. His personal stamp is losing ink.
|LOVE still alive and well in L.A|
9. FEEL DADDY FEEL GOOD
Another song that has some nice elements to it, the melody and riff are good, but they feel unoriginal and ultimately not good enough to save this from sounding like filler. Again, the cliché-ridden lyric is disappointing- “I’ve got everything you need in the palm of my hand”. Just unemotional, inconsequential words sung here by Lee. The guitar tone is different and intriguing, but the arrangement bores.
10. RIDE THAT VIBRATION
Ah, a hidden nugget; here is the obscure Lee we know and love, ambiguous in this pseudo-positive sounding song. It’s got a stellar melody and nice organ work. It’s got spunk and spirit, with a beautiful Lee vocal, until the rave up shouting coda that demands we ‘ride the vibration’ over some nice guitar tones from Rowles and a chaotic finish.
Supposedly Jimi Hendrix watches Love record this after “The Everlasting First” and left after one of the lyrics totally 'creeped' him out. The lines were:
Ride that vibration down like a six foot grave
Don’t let it get you down
One of my favourite Lee couplets. But Hendrix thought it was too intense and left the studio immediately. Great story hey!
This post consists of FLACs ripped from my pristine vinyl and also comes with full album artwork for both vinyl and CD releases. My record cover is labelled with a release date of 1972, however the album was first released in 1970. My copy must therefore be a second issue put out by Blue Thumb records is reaction to the high volume of sales the album experienced with its first pressing. This album is special for me as it features Jimi Hendrix playing guitar on the opening track and was probably contributed to the success of this album for Love. If you want to hear more music from the sessions that produced this awesome track, you'll find it available elsewhere on my blog - Jimi Hendrix with Love & Stephen Stills - The Blue Thumb Acetate
01 - The Everlasting First*
02 - Flying
03 - Gimi A Little Break
04 - Stand Out
05 - Keep On Shining
06 - Anytime
07 - Slick Dick
08 - Love Is Coming
09 - Feel Daddy Feel Good
10 - Ride That Vibration
Bass – Frank Fayad
Drums – George Suranovich
Lead Guitar - Jimi Hendrix *
Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Piano – Arthur Lee
Rhythm Guitar – Noony Ricket (tracks: 2 to 10)
Vocals – Noony Ricket (tracks: 2, 3, 5 to 10)
False Start FLAC Link (202Mb) New Link 01/05/2020