cream of the crate: album  review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

"Much of it still carries an air of subdued menace" - (Richie Unterberger - CD Universe) .. .. .. "Gerry Humphreys was without question one of the most distinctive and powerful rock singers ever." - (Dave Furgess Head Heritage) .. .. .. "This album is a must! It represents not just unique and quality work, but a piece of Australian music heritage." - (This review)

This is album retro-review number 165 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

Every fifth album I review is an Australian release, and this week I have dug into the crate and pulled out an album by a group with one of the most unique vocalists ever to front an Aussie group.

The group is the Loved Ones and the album is titled – Magic Box.

Released on vinyl in 1967, it was re-released on CD in 1985, and then again in 1995, which is the version I am reviewing.

It was released on the Karussell label and it has the identifying code of 551 130-2. This version has the 12 tracks the original vinyl album had plus an additional 5 tracks.

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box
CD Label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Now the album really is in many ways, a collection of the singles released by the group plus some live tracks.

However, while the album was never as such a studio recording it does not lessen the quality or the importance of it. Before I get onto discussing the group and the album, a quick word on the booklet.

Well, really one word will suffice – “pathetic”!

It adds absolutely nothing to the generally known information on the group and Brenton Currie who ostensibly wrote the liner notes in the booklet, hasn’t got much reason to hold his head high.

It’s a cheaper version of gloss paper, all the photos in it are underexposed and look like they have been pulled from various sources with no effort to make them presentable.

The print is amongst the largest I have ever seen in a CD booklet. Now while that’s a bonus in some ways for those of us getting on in age, it represents an attempt to provide little info and to make the six sides of the booklet still look “crammed’ with info.

It didn’t work for me!

The information on the members of the group is almost non existent and that lack of info is only matched by a lack of anything about the tracks.

This might just be the worst example of a information booklet accompanying a CD that I have come across. The cover of the booklet is used as the cover of the CD, and the rear cover of the booklet provides the same info as the rear of the CD, with an additional picture.

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box
Rear of the “booklet” – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The range of music on the CD is however, pretty damn comprehensive and it has bonus tracks not available on the original vinyl.

Track Listing:

1. The Loved One
2. Everlovin’ Man
3. Sad Dark Eyes
4. A Love Like Ours
5. Love Song
6. Blueberry Hill
7. Shake, Rattle & Roll
8. This Is Love
9. Magic Box
10. More Than Love
11. The Woman I Love
12. The Loverly Car
13. I Want You To Love Me
14. Everlovin’ Man (Live)
15. Sad Dark Eyes (Live)
16. The Loved One (Live)

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box
Rear CD Cover: Including track listing – [CLICK to enlarge]


Of course the story of the Loved Ones is the story of Gerry Humphrys, Rob Lovett [Bass], Ian Clyne [original keyboards],Trev Richards[keyboards], Gavin Anderson [drums] and Kim Lynch [guitar].

All members were indeed Melbourne boys and formed in 1965 as a direct result of the power and influence of the British Music Invasion.

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box
Loved Ones (Left to Right – Trevor, Rob, Gerry, Kim, Gavin – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

In fact over a relatively short period there were many changes in the group’s lineup, but that early lineup both with Clyne and Richards is the one that is most often talked about as the best.

  • Gerry Humphrys* (b. 19 July 1941, London – d. 4 December 2005, London) – vocals, harmonica, hand-claps (1965–1967, 1987)
  • Kim Lynch (b. 18 May 1945, Sydney) – bass guitar (1965–1967, 1987)
  • Rob Lovett (b. 11 November 1944, Melbourne) – guitar, bass guitar (1965–1967, 1987)
  • Ian Clyne – piano, organ, guitar (1965–1966, 1987)
  • Terence “Terry” Nott (b. 28 September 1945, Melbourne) – drums (1965)
  • Gavin Anderson (b. 12 September 1945, Melbourne) – drums (1965–1967)
  • Treva Richards(b. 3 December 1945, Hamilton, Victoria) – electric piano, piano, organ (1966–1967)
  • Danny De Lacy (b. 5 August 1943, Los Angeles, USA) – guitar (1967)
  • Peter Luscombe – drums (1987)

* Note: There is NO “e” in Gerry’s surname

The original members (with Clyne) all came from one of Melbourne’s premier jazz bands – the Red Onion Jazz Band.

With Gerry Humphrys unique vocal style and a repertoire of blues based material mixed with the then “Rolling Stones Song Book”, and a regular gig at Melbourne’s Mad Hatter disco, they garnered an immediate and passionate following.

Encouraged by the response of the audiences the entered the recording studio early in 1966 to record a cover of Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill.

The story goes that as the time approached to actually record it, there was great nervousness and unease among the group about the track, and at literally the last moment they chose to record a piece they had hastily thrown together in the studio while warming up.

That track was titled, The Loved One – the rest is indeed history.

Buoyed by the reaction to the record and with an ever growing fan base the group moved from strength to strength.

Even the music critics were hailing the group as “sensational” and were falling over themselves over Gerry’s stage performances.

The group then tackled, with great enthusiasm, what is often described as the most difficult task for any artist or band, that follow-up to a hit!

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box
Gerry in the studio – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Three elements stood out.

The first was the sound achieved by Ian Clyne on the then newly released Hohner electric piano, secondly was the use of handclaps and finally. the overall sound which was becoming referred to as the Gerry Humphrys Sound.

By the end of 1966 the Loved Ones rightly enjoyed both star status and the fan adulation that comes with it – and strangely, is often a group’s undoing.

According to the liner notes with the CD, suddenly “money making” supplanted creativity and Ian Clyne called it quits.

Now he was quickly replaced by Treva Richards, then an up and coming keyboard player who was with another Melbourne band – the Roadrunners (who had among its members Chris Stockley, Robert Lloyd and John Pugh).

Technically in my mind, Richards was equal to Clyne and it seemed for a while as if the transition between keyboard players would have no negative effects upon the band.

They then released, what has been also described as a lacklustre, E.P. called “Blueberry Hill“.

On that E.P. was the track Sad Dark Eyes, the first single with Richards playing, and while it did not chart in the top 20 like previous releases, it was sufficient to keep the fans happy, who were unaware that “bits of the group were falling off”!

As a result of their success they were invited (to the chagrin of many other “competing Aussie groups) to join a national tour supporting The Animals and The Hollies, which was a highly sought after gig, and one that would give them brilliant exposure.

They bought out a single to support the tour – A Love Like Ours, which didn’t make the top 20 [reaching number 26] but did just rate a bit better than Sad Dark Eyes [reaching number 27].

Musically, it really wasn’t happening, on record or live. So it is that when even your core hardened fans start questioning whether “you” had “lost it” – then the end is very near.

One final single released in August of 1967 sealed the group’s fate – Love Song, which stalled at number 83!

But to quote a Rolling Stone track, this group would “Not Fade Away”!

Unlike most groups whose time is up, and slink off into oblivion, the Loved Ones announced loudly and proudly their demise – one final show at Melbourne’s notorious Opus club, and they went out with a bang!

 

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box

Members went their own way and were part of a variety of music projects – but collectively as the Loved Ones we remember them not just fondly, but with great admiration.

So where does a retro-review go with the music of one of the most recognised groups ever to have been born in “our” music scene.

I have the choice of looking at those tracks released as singles and that charted, tracks released and rarely plated, or some of the previously unreleased live tracks. well, the answer is pretty obvious, lets go for a bit of them all.

Track 1The Loved One.

This was the track that started it all. It’s a track that was quite rightly identified by Pepperell and Talbot in their publication, “100 Greatest Australian Singles of the ’60s“, as indeed one of “those singles” – memorable is only the beginning!~

In fact it is one of the true classic singles from the Australian music scene of the 1960’s.

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box
Gerry: The Loved One – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Gerry Humphrys could never be accused of having a “sweet” voice. What he did have was a voice that was pure gold when it came to expression and passion.

While the band laid down a brilliantly tight music track, Gerry “screamed”, “sobbed”, “pleaded”, “demanded”, and actually even more.

What was also amazing was that the vocals didn’t actually commence until 38 seconds into the track – 25% of the total track had passed as it slowly built up to Gerry’s entrance.

The sheer power of the music and those handclaps and, “that” chorus: we all sang along!

It was irresistible and when released in May of 1966 it shot up to number 11. The only unanswered mystery in my mind, is why did it not go higher?

Yonder she’s walking
She comes my way
Her red dress on, her long black hair
Walking like, talking like
Wanting like, she comes to me

Oh baby I love you so
I need you now
I want you back
I can’t go on

Helpless baby, evil child
I’ve known you well and if you wanna stay that’s alright
You want me again and then you come a running to me, well
That’s alright
That’s alright
That’s alright

Now she’s gone
She’s walking away
Her red dress on, her long black hair
I love her so
Now she’ll come running
Anytime I say
Well that’s alright

Oh baby I love you so
I need you now
I want you back

I can’t go on
(rpt and fade)

The Loved One

Track 2Everlovin’ Man.

This was always a crowd pleaser and builds on the style and success of The Loved One.

Now while it didn’t chart as long as The Loved One, it did reach number 9 in August of 1966. There seems to have been a bit of confusion over the correct title of the track. The liner notes list it as Everlovin’ man – but clearly the song on the original single is, Ever Lovin’ Man!

 

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

Track 3Sad Dark Eyes.

This track might have been the first indicator that all was not well musically. It only reached number 27 and was only in the charts for about 1/3 the length of time of The Loved One.

However it really was a reflection of incredibly poor handling by the record company W&G, at a time just prior to the end of the year when the record presses were closing down, and instead of being to trade off the Christmas period, buyers found it hard to locate a copy.

Incidentally, Nick Cave would re-release the track many years later. I’ve included this track in the videos later on in this retro-review.

Really, the CD is mostly composed of the singles and their B-sides, three live performances and some pieces which really don’t do the group any justice, such as track 7Shake Rattle and Roll.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box

When we come to track 9 we come to Magic Box.

This is the track that the album took its name from. The track really isn’t the greatest track they ever recorded. It’s a pacy piece as opposed to the more moody pace of their more popular tracks.

The keyboards on the track are not the traditional piano but feature an organ played by Trev. There is some typical 1960’s style lead break courtesy of Danny de Lacy and Gerry attempts to inject some passion toward the end, but it just feels and sounds as if it was all being forced.

Yet given the relative few tracks the group recorded, it is by no means their worst, and probably sits comfortably around the middle on the quality scale.

Magic Box

More Than Love is the following track and was the B-side to the 1966 Everlovin’ Man.

Now all these years later we listen to this and it absolutely smacks of The Loved Ones – and in retrospect had it been released as a single in its own right it probably would have been a moderate hit.

It has the classic “vamping’ type pulse, the handclaps but also has Gerry playing harmonica on it, which is a reflection of the “blues-base’ that the group started from once they left their jazz roots behind.

In fact the track is a rather gritty blues track and because it was produced during the more halcyon period of the group, it stands up as a damn fine track totally representing the sound and ability of the group to both entertain, and to be masters of their instruments.

More Than Love

We don’t have to go far for the next track, because it is track number 11The Woman I Love.

It’s the B-side to Sad Dark Eyes.

In his book – “Tomorrow Is Today: Australia in the Psychedelic Era, 1966-1970“, Iain McIntyre writes of this single, “….sees the Loved Ones at their most gothic and sensual“.

Yet much like More Than Love, the track should have been released in its own right, especially with the decline in the quality of music that was subsequently released.

The track is quite a sensual piece, very much a “club style’ piece with some fantastic piano playing by Treva Richards and Gerry taking the lead with the vocals.

There is a decent backing vocal / harmony, and I never could find out who it was that was singing with Gerry.

The Woman I Love

Track 14 is a previously unreleased rehearsal piece called (I’m No Good) Without You.

It’s one of only three tracks on the CD not written by the Loved Ones – the others being Blueberry Hill and Shake Rattle and Roll.

Sadly the CD has no indication of when the recording took place. This is yet another example of the poor liner notes in the accompanying booklet.

Listening to the track stylistically suggests it was a track being played with earlier in their short career rather than later.

It is a very much blues based and sounds like it is just a four-piece effort, there are no keyboards. Incomplete and rough, somehow it absolutely deserves to be on the CD because I found it a fascinating insight into the group finding their way, and experimenting with the blues form.

Close your eyes and really, you can see Gerry at the microphone in the rehearsal studio, eyes closed putting some real feeling into his delivery.

(I’m No Good) Without You

The final tracks to consider together are two of the three live performances. Track 15 is Ever Lovin’ Man.

Of course it hasn’t the fullness of the studio recording, but this is live, in what was probably a large venue with little attention to sound equalisation, in fact the cymbals are almost at a disturbing frequency.

Recorded at the same show, track 14 is Sad Dark Eyes – possibly equal in every way to the magnificent track, The Loved One.

This is a fantastic live performance and Gerry does the vocal delivery proud, his tonality and passion is just amazing, and it is a shame the recording is so lacking in the bottom end (the bass end)

Despite that it is a track to listen to and enjoy and appreciate for it does capture, albeit only a little, the magic of the group and the passion of the audience.

Ever Lovin’ Man/Sad Dark Eyes

Sadly Gerry is no longer with us, as he died of a heart attack in London, aged 62.

He had a radiating influence on the Melbourne music scene in the ’60s, more than anybody else,” said Nigel Buesst, director of the documentary Gerry Humphrys — the Loved One, which was shown at the 2000 Melbourne International Film Festival.

He had a lot of emotion in his music. There are a lot of singers that might have beautiful voices but the emotion doesn’t come through.

 

 

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box
Last resting place

 

So, there we have it.

What can we conclude? Well the Loved Ones were never a rock outfit, hence I believe that despite other writers trying to find reasons to like Shake Rattle and Roll, for me that was one track that simply didn’t work.

They came from a jazz pedigree and found the transition into blues and easy one. They had quality musicians and they did not enter the “pop’ world banging and thrashing away as they tried to master their instruments (as a lot of their contemporaries were forced to do.)

They had a frontman whose voice and use of that voice was unequaled and while their collective journey as the Loved Ones was quite short, their impact has been long lasting.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 165 – the loved ones: magic box

 

This album, Magic Box, is a must!

It represents not just unique and quality work, but a piece of Australian music heritage.

I have always appreciated vinyl over CD and I never owned a copy of the vinyl form of Magic Box, but I guess the advantage of this CD version is that the tracks are clearly audible, which sadly old vinyl generally struggles with unless kept in prime condition.

It is a collection of their singles, rarities and live performances and that is a valuable collage.

Copies of the vinyl are available for between $30 and $70,00 and the CD is also readily available for as little as $11.00.

For god’s sake do yourself and your collection a favour and if you can’t afford the vinyl, or want the bonus tracks, spend that two glasses of cafe latte instead on the CD.


VIDEOS:

Video text


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 151 onward.

#151.  The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World

#152.  The Animals – The Animals

#153. Omah Khorshid & His Group  – Live In Australia 1981

#154. Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe

#155. Billy Thorpe – Tangier

#156. Aretha Franklin – The Best Of

#157. Big Bill Broonzy – Big Bill’s Blues

#158. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go 

#159. The Band – Stage Fright

#160. Ray Brown and the Whispers – Hits and More 1965 – 1968

#161. Guitar Junior – The Crawl

#162. Jimi Hendrix – Radio One

#163. Memphis Minnie – Queen of the Blues

#164. Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy)