Judith Durham became lead singer of Australian folkies The Seekers in 1963. The next year saw the group relocate to London from where they achieved world wide success with number ones in the UK and US as well as back home down under. In 1968 she decided to quit and go solo. Her first LP outing was a Christmas album which I haven’t heard and don’t really feel the need to. ‘The Gift Of Song’ was her second, released in 1970.
When I came across a copy I was in two minds whether to buy it or not. I knew who she was, and that wasn’t working in her favor. The only song by The Seekers I could go as far as to say I liked was ‘Georgy Girl’, and that’s probably as much to do with the film association as with the song itself. But I read the small print on the back, as you do, and noticed that it was recorded live in Hollywood. I noticed it was produced by Chad Stuart of Chad & Jeremy. And it featured the cream of LA sessioners such as Hal Blaine and Larry Knechtel, a full orchestra and songs by Mason WIlliams, Roger Nichols and Harry Nilsson. Oh, and it was a mint white label promo. OK OK, I thought. It’s gotta be worth a shot. And off I went with it tucked under my arm while I fished the dollar and tax out of my pocket.
A few weeks later I finally got round to giving ‘Gift’ a spin. I don’t know if it was just the mood I was in at the time, but I fairly loved it. It sounded instantly familiar, which is always a good sign. It was lush and well-recorded, with a fragility that made it precious. The better moments reminded me of Francoise Hardy’s nigh perfect 1972 LP ‘If You Listen’. I was amazed I hadn’t heard about the album before since records a lot worse are regularly revered in the kind of magazines and blogs I read. I have listened many times since and it only gets better. Sure, it’s a tad poppy and twee. But so are McCartney’s solo records, and we all love them.
I’ll admit sometimes I’m guilty of reading glowing reviews and then enjoying a record a little more because someone else who takes this stuff seriously just raved about it. But when the only kind of reviews I could find about ‘Gift’ were mediocre I wasn’t put off a bit. Listening again now as I type I’m loving it for the umpteenth time. I’ve pulled out a couple highlights below to whet your appetite, but it’s one of those records that you can enjoy start to finish. Find it cheap someday and I think you’ll agree.
Drenched in melancholia, ‘That’s How My Love Is’ sounds it should be the song before the intermission in a West End musical, leaving the story on somewhat of a cliffhanger and sending you off to join the long refreshment line so you can get that G&T you’ve been looking forward to. But instead it’s the fourth song on side one, where it propagates the same emotions instilled by the song before it, the equally melancholy ‘There’s A Baby’.
Written by songwriter Richard Kerr, who most famously wrote ‘Mandy’ for Barry Manilow, ‘The Light Is Dark Enough’ is a gorgeous song which suits Ms Durham down to a tee and is perfectly presented by her and the band. Make it the last track on your next mix tape and you won’t be sorry. The song was also recorded by British band Spectrum on their 1970 album of the same name. Their version is great too, albeit a little…ahem, darker.