Forever Amber’s only album The Love Cycle was recorded in 1968 and eventually released a year later in an edition of just 99 copies. The English group’s efforts eventually finding an audience in avid psych collectors decades later. Several bootlegs and a, now out of print, re-issue back in 2007 meant the album remained little more than a footnote. However, this sumptuous new re-issue by Guerssen thankfully spotlights an album we’ve loved for years…
What’s actually so fantastic about the album is that it hangs together in the way that only albums of this vintage do. 16 tracks grouped into a narrative arc which attempts to trace the actual life cycle of love. The songs all grouped into little sections – the meeting, the talking, the walk home, the joy, the sorrow and the grief. Quite how this tale pans out is difficult to say but what results is a series of vintage grooves woven into the bigger album framework. A brand of late 60’s psych pop that exudes a vibe like footage on bleached out 16mm reels, full of duck ponds, rose gardens and wide-eyed wonder.
The Meeting: Me Oh My and The Meeting: Silly Sunshine have a swinging Zombie’s vibe. The Talking: Bits Of Your Life, Bits Of My Life adds Hammond swirls before the forlorn introspection of The Talking: For A Very Special Person. Whilst not a complete revelation, the album pleasantly skips along in the first 4 tracks, but things are about to change abruptly.
Bold flanging grips at The Talking: The Dreamer Flies Back immediately and after a few twists, erupts into trailing, raging psychedelic chem trails. We’ve just fallen through the hedgerow to where the freaks party. The odd hand brake turn into the medieval styling of The Talking: Misunderstood sound even stranger, after that lysergic curveball.
The Talking: Better Things Are Bound To Come regroups around another dry chugging groove, close harmonies and flaying guitars before the Kinks dusted The Walk Home: On A Night In Winter shuffles by.
The album continues to jump through odd stylistic hoops that feel like a compilation gathered from a previously invisible 60’s dimension. The overactive piano of The Joy: All The Colours Of My Book, the broken solitude The Sorrow: Going Away Again and a sense that the album never wants to settle into any one zone for long.
Eventually the album leads to the 4-minute closer The Grief: My Friend. The reverb heavy vocal grows into a thick cavern of sound, like it’s slowly gathering all the loose ends together, just in time for the channel cut into the vinyl to end…
The real strength with Forever Amber’s only ever slab of vinyl, is that it’s a genuinely curious listen. Some of it is polite and outdated, some of it is over ambitious and stretches beyond the production budget. Too gentle to be prog, too late to be sunshine pop, too psychedelic for the mainstream, too many ideas and stylistic jumps, too unknown to be loved…
That the band also seemed happy to swamp some tracks in wild sonic stylising, also makes it a fearless type of recording. Perhaps if Forever Amber’s story had been different, we’d have had an album that eclipsed Odessey and Oracle. Just maybe the germ of ideas inherent in The Dreamer Flies Back would have overwritten A Saucerful of Secrets.
The comparison to bigger things feels fair, despite the fact this privately pressed original was probably only ever meant as little more than an elaborate demo to attract label attention. The dream that one of those 99 original copies finding their way to someone with the foresight, connections and finance to get the band into the studio. But it didn’t pan out that way.
In an age where it seems many try to ration and drip feed creativity, careful to avoid giving up all of their ideas – Forever Amber delights in throwing everything they have at you, in one unwieldy 42-minute serving. A packed, spacious, moody, groovy and gloriously flanged elevator pitch in sound.