Friday, November 11, 2005

Love vs. Love

Alone Again Or AndMoreAgain

"AndMoreAgain" is, of course, the name of this blog. I've always thought of it as a sequel of sorts to "Alone Again Or."

The latter isn't just another song off Love's third and finest recording, 1967's Forever Changesit's the song. Similarly, "Time of the Season" is the
track that elevates the Zombies' (strangely spelled) Odessey and Oracle (1968) to classic status. If you remove it, you have a pretty terrific album on your hands, but is it still a masterpiece? Perhaps, but I think both records would be more likely to qualify as cult classics without these signature compositions.

As for "AndMoreAgain," it's got the same weird syntax as "Alone Again Or," but why are the title words separated in one song,
run together in the other? Only God—or Arthur Lee—knows.

Musically, they're also quite different, although both represent
the softer side of Love. Neither is likely to be confused with

such driving rockers as Love's "My Little Red Book" or Da Capo's "Seven and Seven Is" (Love also features a cut called "And More," the first song in the "And/Or" trilogy). Songwriters Lee and Bryan MacLean are in a more melancholy mood on these numbers.

Oddly enough, however, Love's most recognizable voice doesn't sing lead on "Alone Again Or," but rather MacLean, its composer...sounding a lot like Lee. Turns out, there's a reason for that. As MacLean explained to Ben Edmonds in the liner notes:

One thing about the Forever Changes album: Arthur wasn't confident in my singing. So the harmony is actually the melody you're hearing. You're not really hearing the song the way
it was written. You're hearing the harmony part from Arthur,
but I was singing lead. They mixed Arthur's harmony over
my lead vocals. So what you hear, after it bleeds in on the mix,
is actually Arthur's harmony, which is mistaken for the lead vocal...I understand why he did it, because I knew I wasn't
that great of a singer at that point. I think it would bother me now, because now I can hit the notes. He probably did it out of necessity, and I probably knew that in my heart.

"AndMoreAgain," which was co-written by the two, sounds more like Lee. According to Edmonds, it's "one of the loveliest melodies Arthur ever conceived." The vocal is Brit-inflected and over-enunciated—especially on the "pum-pum" part ("Then you feel your heart beating / Thrum-pum-pum-pum"). It's "twee," yet totally affecting. "Alone Again Or" is more straightforward. It's less cutesy, more mystical, and downright spooky. (And Rod Argent's "Time of the Season" is pretty spooky, too, come to think of it.)

I first heard "Alone Again Or" while in college. It wasn't the original version of the song, but rather a cover. The band was the Damned, the album was Anything (1986). It's the sound of a once-great punk group in decline, which is to say it isn't punk at all.

The Damned were more of a goth rock concern at this point,

but their version of "Alone Again Or" doesn't creep the song out
or send it scuttering towards the darkness of doom and gloom.
It's actually quite lovely. Dave Vanian over-sings it a bit, perhaps, but you sense the band "gets it" and it doesn't hurt that the track was accompanied by a psychedelic Western of a video. All dust and sand and elongated images. It encouraged me to seek out the original. Naturally, I prefer it, but the Damned certainly deserves their propers, even if I'll always prefer their early material.

Alone Again Or

Yeah, said it’s all right
I won’t forget
All the times I’ve waited patiently for you
And you’ll do just what you choose to do
And I will be alone again tonight my dear

Yeah, I heard a funny thing
Somebody said to me
You know that I could be in love with almost everyone
I think that people are
The greatest fun
And I will be alone again tonight my dear

I first picked up Forever Changes a few years later. After "Alone Again Or," "AndMoreAgain" quickly became my favorite track.
So much so that I—briefly—took it as my air name when I started working at The End (KNDD) in the early-1990s. Phonetically, the title resolves as "Ann Morgan." My program director, however, thought I should stick with my real name (even if no one can pronounce it correctly), so I let Ann go. Nonetheless, I've adopted it as my pseudonym—should I ever need one. The other thing I like about the song is that it's fun to sing along to. So why haven't more bands covered it, as they have "Alone Again Or"? After all, it's harder to do the latter justice, even if it is better known.

Which leads me to the second cover of "Alone Again Or" to
catch my ear: Arizona-based band Calexico's 2004 version.
I had been a fan of Giant Sand for several years before Joey
Burns and John Convertino left to form their own combo. I've always liked what I've heard of their music, but felt they lacked

a vocalist as distinctive as their old frontman, Howe Gelb, and didn't pick up one of their recordings until 2003's Feast of Wire.

Not too surprisingly, it was the influence of Love that won me over. It's as if they had come up with the musical equivalent of that Damned video, i.e. "All dust and sand (and elongated images)." Plus, a healthy dose of mariachi to brighten the corners.

So it made perfect sense when they issued their Love cover

the following year on the Convict Pool EP (which includes a slowed-down version of the Minutemen's "Corona," AKA the Jackass theme). From the time I first heard it, I noticed that the vocal was stronger than usual, but it still sounded like Burns.

Not until I picked up a copy did I realize that Sweden's
Nicolai Dunger (and his band) actually guests on the track.
How could I have missed that? I have three of his recordings.
Well, I think it's because, as with Bryan MacLean on the original, he's made an effort not to deviate too much from the group's primary vocalist. Or maybe it just came naturally to him.

In any case, there's less of his patented Van Morrison-meets-Tim Hardin thing going on, which is to say, Dunger has taken things down a notch. It was a wise move. Arguably, his approach is too subtle, but that's preferable to overwhelming such a fragile composition with his usual, if highly appealing vocal gymnastics.

The same week I picked up Convict Pool, I traded in my old
copy of Forever Changes for the new remaster with bonus material. A few years before, I had done the same with Odessey and Oracle. Forever Changes has seven extra tracks to Odessey's 15 ("30th Anniversary Edition"), but they're more interesting, because they include previously-unreleased songs (not just alternate takes), as well as some feisty studio chatter, i.e. "You're playin' too hard on the're rushing guys should just relax a little." As an experiment, I played the albums back to back to see if I could pick a favorite. No dice, as Badfinger might say, even if Forever Changes does include the unfortunate line, "The snot has caked against my pants" ("Live and Let Live").

The two records couldn't be more alike and yet more different. They're from the same era, they're both often categorized as psychedelic or baroque, and yet they have less in common than
I expected. Of course, one group was American (LA's multi-racial Love) and the other was British (St. Albans' Zombies), but Lee always sang like a Brit, so that tends to narrow the geographical gap. The main difference is simply that one is more rock (Love), the other is more pop (the Zombies). Some people, like Joe Carducci (Rock and the Pop Narcotic), have no problem throwing their lot in with one genre to the exclusion of the other. I'm not one of them. I love the two equally, so I call it a draw.

As for "Alone Again Or" vs. "AndMoreAgain," I gotta go with the obvious choice: "Alone Again Or." "AndMoreAgain" in its wistful whimsy speaks to me in a way the enigmatic "Alone Again Or"
does not, but in the end it's all about quality and I think "Alone Again Or" is simply the better song. That said, when it came time
to pick a name for this blog, "AndMoreAgain" was the first title
that came to mind. For better or for worse, it's my song.


And if you’ll see andmoreagain
Then you will know andmoreagain
For you can see you in her eyes
Then you feel your heart beating

And when you’ve given all you had
And everything still turns out
Bad, and all your secrets are your own
Then you feel your heart beating

And i’m
Wrapped in my armor
But my things are material
And i’m
Lost in confusions
’cause my things are material

And you don’t know how much
I love you
Oh, oh, oh...

And if you’ll see andmoreagain
Then you might be andmoreagain
For you just wish and you are here
Then you feel your heart beating

Note: Cover image from the AMG. Lyrics from lyricsfreak.

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