LOVE at the Roxy: Concert Review

Harold Sherrick
Nearly four decades after their first and only recording, Arthur Lee's Black Beauty band reunited was worth the wait

Arthur Lee returns to the Sunset Strip in spirit as the surviving members of his seminal 'Black Beauty' band reunite at the Roxy.

Fans of the once local band LOVE gathered beneath the red glow of the Roxy Theater Friday night to witness a rare event: the reunion of the surviving members of Arthur Lee’s Black Beauty band in anticipation of High Moon Records’ release coming in June. 

Craig Hyman, manager of High Moon Records, took the stage before the band performed, and said that although the boutique record label was based in New York, the event needed to happen in Los Angeles, the hometown of Arthur Lee and his LOVE creation. “That’s where their families are from,” Hyman said, “that’s where the communities are, that’s where they came to be.”

And rightly so. The crowd was littered with fans of all shapes and sizes, devoted followers of the psychedelic scene of the sixties, older men with long hair and bell bottoms, tie-dyed shirts underneath blazers, and the random assortment of young adults curious about a legend that came and went before their time. 

Thirty-eight years ago, Arthur Lee and a lineup of all black musicians created Black Beauty, a ten track album saturated in rhythm and blues and a soulful rock and roll aesthetic. The album was finished just as Lee’s record label went bankrupt, and Black Beauty was shelved indefinitely. 

That was until George Wallace, president of High Moon Records, unearthed it. With his help, and living members Melvin Whittington and Joe Blocker on lead guitar and drums respectively, Black Beauty was heard live for the first time ever on the Sunset Strip. The band, joined by bassist Sherwood Akuna and guitarist John Sterling, performed almost all of the songs from the album, including an acoustic “Five Finger Serenade,” a whimsical whistled ballad, and the breathtaking psychedelic whirlwind “Everlasting First,” which originally featured Jimi Hendrix on guitar and backing vocals. Wallace spoke of Lee’s style as somewhat genre-less, and the effect of that was seen on stage throughout the night. 

Wallace quoted the legendary Jac Holzman of Elektra Records before introducing the band. “Jac said, ‘I’ve met only three geniuses in my whole career in rock and roll: Brian Wilson, John Lennon, and Arthur Lee.’” Lee’s genius behind the album Black Beauty will finally be heard by the world on June 7, and, needless to say, Holzman’s quote still stands. 

High Moon Records is also reissuing Gene Clark’s rare classic, Two Sides To Every Story, in tandem with the release of Black Beauty on June 7th. 

Set list:

Young & Able
Lonely Pigs
Walk Right In
My Reflection
Beep Beep
Stay Away
Five Finger Serenade
Can’t Find It
Everlasting First