Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Complete Them 1964 - 1967

Of course, everyone knows Van Morrison's 60's band, Them, for their original version of "Gloria", but as this collection clearly shows, there were plenty more classic cuts where that came from! Mixing R'n'B, blues, garage and even a little jazz, this combo served up a potent, rockin' stew and gave the Americans lots of material to use while stompin'n'shoutin' in their garages.

This 3 disc set compiles their first two albums as well as singles, demos, live tracks and previously unreleased material. Unfortunately, I got this from our local library and it did not have the booklet, so I am left without that information, but with all of the amazing tunes!

Starting with a frantic take on the R'n'B classic "Don't Start Cryin' Now", they then slow down for a sultry groover, "One Two Brown Eyes", followed by THEE version of "Baby Please Don't Go" that was used as a template by damn near every garage and rock band to come. Their original "Gloria" is dirtier'n'grungier than the Shadows of Knight take (great as that is - and that was the hit in Chicago-land, where I grew up), "Philosphy" is cool'n'bluesy, and then another of their best, "Here Comes the Night", movin' from slow to fast and damn soulful throughout. "All For Myself" is pure blues, fueled by Van's keyboard, "One More Time" is a bluesy ballad, "How Long Baby" is a bit more soulful, highlighted by Morrison organ arpeggios and nicely tremelo'd guitar, and then we get the outta control, ravin' r'n'b stomper, "Mystic Eyes" - it moves dynamically from cool blues to frenzied mayhem and never loses its power. Still a classic! "If You and I Could Be As Two" is more of a mid-tempo swinger, "Little Girl" is more uptempo blues, with a quintessential guitar/keyboard trade-off breakdown before a fine rave-up ending. They borrow from "Green Onions" for their version of "Just a Little Bit", and thrown in cool sax and keyboard solos and then they almost rescue the folk song "I Gave My Love a Diamond" from its own sappiness. I dig the minor key moodiness and excessive echo of "You Just Can't Win", the Stones-y "Go On Home Baby", the pop-soul of the ballad "Don't Look Back", the white-boy James Brown stylings of "I Like It Like That", the dark blues/soul of "I'm Gonna Dress in Black", the lift from "Hit the Road Jack" for their jazzy take on "Bright Lights, Big City", the "borrowing" of Bo Diddley's "Crackin' Up" in "My Little Baby", the jumpin' romp through "Route 66" and the disc's finale with the ballad "(It Won't Hurt) Half As Much".

Disc 2 is equally jam-packed with great garage/r'n'b numbers done in their distinctive style - cool keys, raw, raspy vocals and tight backings. There are lots of highlights here, but especially great is their jazzy/blues version of "I Put a Spell on You", their incredibly rockin' "I Can Only Give You Everything" (again, covered by almost every garage band from the MC5 to the Strypes and everyone in between), their take on Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman", a nicely funky "Out of Sight", a fantastic "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (once more, how many bands used this as their template for their covers?), a swingin' "Hello Josephine", their extraordinary take on "Richard Cory", with groovy 6-string bass solos, and excellent jazzy blues with "Stormy Monday" and "Times Gettin' Tougher Than Tough", among numerous others.

On the third disc we get demos and live cuts, including several versions of "Gloria" (of course - and some of them have pretty different deliveries), as well as "Stormy Monday", "Turn On Your Love Light" (rockin' rave up in this one), "Baby Please Don't Go", "Here Comes the Night" (several takes), "Little Girl" (amazing dynamics), and a very dissimilar take on "Richard Cory", along with lots more!

Pretty amazing set that will remind you of just how great this band was, as if you would need that!