Love's stay on the Blue Thumb label for a couple of albums in the late '60s and early '70s wouldn't be rated by anyone as the high point in the band's career. Still, for those who want that material, this three-CD set includes both of the albums they released with the company, Out Here and False Start, as well as -- in what will be the big draw for collectors -- nearly an hour of previously unreleased recordings, all taped live in England in 1970. Though the two studio albums have their admirers, many Love fans find them frustrating listening, as they stack up poorly against the superior LPs they cut in the '60s, particularly their first three. Much of leader and principal singer/songwriter Arthur Lee's gift for melodic, idiosyncratic folk-rock with touches of flamenco, jazz, punky R&B and show tunes is still in evidence, but the songs simply aren't as strong or fully developed. As for his composing skills (though not his singing ones), it almost feels as though you're listening to a recuperating stroke victim -- some of the skillful thoughts and ideas are coming through, but only between cracks and in bits and pieces. There's also a disturbing bent toward hard rock that doesn't suit Lee's strengths (especially on False Start), and while the rest of Love are competent players, they don't push or complement Lee in the same way the original version of the band did in the mid-'60s. The live recordings that conclude the set aren't bad , and the sound quality's OK (though not perfect). In this concert segment, Lee and the band sing and play pretty well on songs spanning their entire career to that point, including a few ("My Little Red Book," "Orange Skies," "Andmoreagain," "Signed D.C.," and "Bummer in the Summer") from the earliest and most celebrated phase of their career. Those numbers are performed pretty credibly, albeit with a slight strange lisp on some of Lee's vocals. But as a whole the live arrangements are more likely to fly into pedestrian hard rock riffing than the early Love would, though more often than not those tendencies are kept in check.
It all adds up to an anthology that will appeal to some hardcore Love fans, but isn't one of the first places to start to appreciate the band's legacy.