FOREVER AMBER - The Love Cycle (Background HBG 122/7) UK 1969 CD
CD, booklet and inlay in mint to mint-
Love Cycle (1969) from the virtually unknown and short-lived sextet Forever Amber is practically the definition of an obscure sleeper album. One primary reason that it never gained significant status at the time of its creation was a built-in collectability. This was a result of the no-budget band only pressing up a mere 99 copies of the album to avoid having to pay a purchase tax that was applicable on any orders of 100 or more. At least one of the platter's eventually did resurface in the late '80s and on sheer mystique and caché alone -- as so few had actually ever heard the endeavor -- bootleg vinyl and eventually CDs began to surface among traders. These eventually circulated far and wide enough for The Love Cycle to land in a countdown by a glossy music fanzine who trumpeted it as "one of the dozen best British pop albums of the late '60s." The story of Forever Amber in some ways reflects the unrequited relationship depicted in the project's unified narrative and is divided into seven distinct stages. In a decidedly unorthodox combining of talents, the author and arranger was not actually a member of the Cambridge-based combo. Prior to adopting the moniker of Kathleen Winsor's racy novel Forever Amber, the group played the lucrative local cover band circuit of private parties and the like as "the Country Cousins". The Cousins' manager Derek Buxton became the liaison between the band and John M. Hudson. Made for around $200.00, the 16-track Love Cycle was documented in a mammoth 19-hour recording session in September of 1969 at the D.I.Y. Studio Sound in Hitchin, England -- who likewise ran the small Advance Records label. The music is a mélange of Brit-pop and psychedelia, with considerable folkie overtones. Immediately, the wispy and reflective ballad "Me Oh My" sets the tune stack's tenor. The suitably frolicking "Silly Sunshine" is steeped in a discernible giddiness reflecting the sheer joy of a budding affair. "Bits of Your Life, Bits of My Life" is one of several brilliant sonic time capsules. The tender tune defines both the lovesick Love Cycle context while also standing on its own merits as an affecting '60s British pop song. The reflective "For a Very Special Person" as well as the Baroque leanings of "Misunderstood" directly contrast the overt psychedelia of "The Dreamer Flies Back" and heavier freakbeat stylings heard on the catchy "Better Things Are Bound to Come." The cheery "On a Night in Winter" is followed by The Love Cycle's primary trifecta: the stylish psych rave-up "My Own Special Mountain," the Northern Soul influenced "Mary (The Painter)," and the propulsive rocker "All the Colours of My Book." As the two parties depicted in the lyrics dissolve their interaction, titles such as the melancholy "She's Going Away," "A Chance to Be Free," and "Letters from Her" clearly reflect the sadness of a receding romance. Love Cycle concludes with a final bit of inspired songwriting by way of the haunting and introspective "My Friend," by efficiently infusing a bit of whimsical folk and producing yet another memorable masterwork. In 2007, Love Cycle was finally issued on CD under the auspices of John M. Hudson who contributed to the CD booklet and even added eight re-recordings -- circa 1978 -- of key cuts from the outing.