While the Loved Ones physically call Northern California’s Bay Area home, spiritually, their musical domain is Chicago by way of London’s Marquee Club. By the time the foursome united their bowl cuts in 1991, most of the rhythm and beat groups that littered the West Coast in the ’80s had faded away, but that didn’t stop them from declaring their stylistic allegiance to those who paid tribute to the Yardbirds, Pretty Things, Animals and Them.
Beyond its vintage graphic conceits, the debut EP exudes sharp Carnaby Street style on Little Walter’s “Boom Boom (Out Goes the Lights),” Jesse Turner’s “Sticks & Stones” and two originals: the Otis Redding-influenced “Hold On,” written by Van Morrison soundalike singer Bart Davenport, and guitarist Nicolas Rossi’s “Crying in the Morning.”
Rossi and bassist Michael Ducasse split, replaced by bass-strumming songwriter Mike Therieau. With lead guitarist Xan McCurdy and a solid rhythm section completed by drummer John Kent, the quartet was able to step up to the next level on The Price for Love, produced by Scott Mathews and Bruce Bromberg. Highlights of this mostly original collection include Davenport’s harmonica work on the instrumental label tribute “Hightone Hop” as well as the stomping “None of Your Business.” With Mathews adding Otis Spann-style piano, the Loved Ones muster a convincing Chess Records sound on “I Told the Truth.”
Following the lead of other revivalists (like the Chesterfield Kings) who’ve changed stylistic obsessions in mid-career, Better Do Right swaps the first album’s upbeat blues charge for the laid-back groove-oriented soul sound of Stax and Muscle Shoals in the late ’60s. Davenport’s “What Is Love?” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Rufus Thomas or Otis Redding platter. The Loved Ones have since broken up, with McCurdy and Davenport forming a band called the Supernaturals.