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Here is a collection of reviews of some THEM albums.


THEM (1965)

The debut album by the group, also known as The Angry Young Them, and half its tracks make it a dead-on rival to the Stones' debut album. This reissue features the album's original British configuration ("Just a Little Bit," "I Gave My Love a Diamond," "Bright Lights, Big City," and "My LittleBaby" are here, "One Two Brown Eyes" and "Here Comes the Night" are absent); "My Little Baby" was no huge loss, being a pale imitation of "Here Comes the Night," but the omitted "Just a Little Bit" features a Howlin' Wolf/"Spoonful"-style performance by Van Morrison that would have incinerated a lot of American teens. On the other hand, Morrison's soul-shouting performance on the deleted "I Gave My Love a Diamond," andappropriated by Bert Berns from the public domain "Cherry Song," andwould have shocked any folkie familiar with the original. Morrison's "You Just Can't Win" isn't nearly as impressive, but even as a time-filler it isn't half bad. And then there's "Gloria," androck's ultimate '60s sex anthem, and one of the handful of white-authored songs that can just about hold its own against any blues standard you'd care to name. -- Bruce Eder, All-Music Guide


THEM AGAIN (1966)

The group's second and, for all intents and purposes, last full album was recorded while Them was in a state of imminent collapse. To this day, nobody knows who played on the album, other than Van Morrison and bassist Alan Henderson, though it is probable that Jimmy Page was seldom very far away when Them was recording. The 16 songs here are a little less focused than the first LP. The material was cut under siege conditions, with a constantly shifting lineup and a grueling tour schedule; essentially, there was no "group" to provide focus to the sound, only Morrison's voice, so the material bounces from a surprisingly restrained "I Put a Spell on You" to the garage-punkoid "I Can Only Give You Everything." Folk-rock rears its head not only on the moody cover of Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" but also the Morrison-authored "My Lonely Sad Eyes," but the main thrust is soul, which Morrison oozes everywhere -- while there's some filler, his is a voice that could easily have knocked Mick Jagger or Eric Burdon off their respective perches. -- Bruce Eder, All-Music Guide


Backtrackin' (1974)

This collection of ten tracks from all phases of their career is haphazard, but the material is mostly excellent. Highlights include their blistering raveup of "Baby Please Don't Go" with Jimmy Page on guitar, a Top Ten hit in Britain; the angry cover of Paul Simon's "Richard Cory," andtheir breakneck version of Slim Harpo's "Don't Start Crying Now," andwhich was their first single in 1964; the great obscure, bluesy Morrison-penned B-side, "All for Myself," and the vicious cover of the R&B standard "Just a Little Bit." -- Richie Unterberger, All-Music Guide


Them Featuring Van Morrison (1987)

Not to be confused with the identically titled Parrot Records release, which is an out-of-print 20-track double-LP set, this is a 13-track single CD set and a U.S. reissue of the Decca U.K. LP from 1982. It would have been less confusing if they had called it Them's Greatest Hits, since it is primarily a singles compilation. But then, only four of Them's singles were hits, either in the U.K. or the U.S. -- "Baby, Please Don't Go," "Gloria," "Here Comes the Night," and "Mystic Eyes," andall included here. Also featured are such non-charting singles as "Don't Start Crying Now," "One More Time," "(It Won't Hurt) Half As Much," and "Richard Cory." This is not the ideal Them compilation, but this is the one that contains Them's most familiar material. -- William Ruhlmann, All-Music Guide


The Story of Them featuring Van Morrison (1997)

Long-overdue double CD, collecting all but one of the 50 songs (only "Mighty Like a Rose" is missing) the legendary British blues band left behind in the English Decca and American London vaults. The sound is a significant improvement over prior reissues -- really loud, the way it was meant to be heard -- with little touches like "The Story of Them Parts 1 and 2" linked together. It doesn't follow chronological order of release, but the order is entertaining, with alternate takes (stereo single mixes, American single edits, etc.) broken up between the two discs. It would have been nice to have had recording dates and personnel, but considering the fact that the band's lineup, apart from Morrison and bassist Alan Henderson, seemed to change every month, it's conceivable that any session information would be suspect. And one wishes for a coherent essay on the history of the band to go with the spread of photographs of the different lineups that are reprinted here. -- Bruce Eder, All-Music Guide

Them are best known as the band that singer Van Morrison got his start in, whose main hit was "Gloria." For Van fans who are unfamiliar with his early days, this 2 CD collection will be something of a revelation: Van has always been and still is a disciple of R&B music. For the last few decades of his career, he has been a mature sounding, but still passionate singer. However, in the years that this collection covers (1964-1966), being in an R&B band had nothing to do with maturity: The Rolling Stones, the Who and the Kinks were all considered R&B bands at that point. Hearing a young Van belt out Jimmy Reed's "Bright Lights, Big City" and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" sees Van sounding more like Mick Jagger than Al Green. Van was, and remains, both a great interpreter and songwriter. The covers on this set include "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66," and Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (recently sampled by Beck on his song "Jackass") and the originals include "Bad Or Good," and, of course, "Gloria." -- CDNOW

You've gotta feel sorry for Billy Harrison, Alan Henderson, Ronnie Millings, and all the other guys in Them. For forever, their group has been known as the band Van Morrison was in before he became, well, Van Morrison. The rest of Them, folks figure, were simply blessed to be in the company of such a prodigious talent. Harsh, perhaps, but generally true. Scan the credits of The Story of Them Featuring Van Morrison, the definitive new set on the group's nearly four-year career, and it becomes clear that Morrison had the voice and the vision: not only did he write all the crucial originals, but he also guided the selection of covers of Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, and James Brown tunes. But if the other guys in Them were just along for a ride, it was one helluva ride, and they put a perfectly adequate frame, chassis, and wheels under Morrison's steering wheels. In other words, there was more to Them than just "Gloria." On the seven-minute "The Story of Them," which kicks the set off, Morrison sounds young, vibrant, and less gruff than he would on his own, bringing life to what could easily have been turgid slow blues. Of course, when we get into stuff like "Gloria" and "Mystic Eyes," we're approaching British (okay, Irish) Invasion nirvana; and "Baby Please Don't Go"—with its guitar solo reportedly provided by Jimmy Page (the liner notes don't come clean on this matter)—throttles the set into overdrive. There are plenty of other treats, too, particularly in refreshingly naive but earnest covers of Brown's "Out of Sight," Charles' "I Got a Woman," and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You." Morrison and his mates clearly hadn't experienced a true "Stormy Monday" at this juncture in their lives, but that didn't keep them from shouting out their favorites with a dynamically winning spirit that sustains this two-disc, fifty-song collection. -- Gary Graff, Wall of Sound

"Damn! Straight outta Belfast!" are not some of Van Morrison's most memorable words (probably because he never said them). Nonetheless, Them took the mic in 1964 with a classic R&B number called "Baby Please Don't Go" and an original rock smash called "Gloria." As far as the general public goes, that's all that matters. But for folks that know good music when they hear it, Them's a little more than just another '60s band with a familiar song or two in their repertoire. Them was Van Morrison's first commercially successful band, whose soulful grunge inspired people like the Doors and Patti Smith to rock and roll. Between 1964 and 1966, Them put out two records with Morrison on vocals. They happen to be the only albums in the band's catalog that matter. It's weird when you think about how irritating old Van is these days-- what with him whining "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" over K-Mart PAs across the country-- that he was once the driving force behind an essential band. But, as difficult as that is to believe, The Story of Them, a two- disc compilation of the material they recorded while at their peak, is hard evidence. Them happen to have some cred in the indie world, but it's not just 'cause Beck used a sampled loop from one of their most outstanding tracks, "It's All Over Now Baby Blue," on 1996's ingenius Odelay. It's because they were a band that performed with raw intensity and because their thundering garage rock blues came on with its foot to the floor. --Ryan Schreiber Pitchfork Media

The ones who know Van only as the very introspective fellow with nice melodies like 'Have I told you lately (that I love you)', must certainly listen to this great collection of songs coming from the period during which the Irishman was still a wild punk kicking ass with the beat-formation Them. Fourty-nine times Van the Man releashes his demons not only in raw sixties-classics like Gloria, Here comes the Night, Baby please don't go and I can only give you everything, but also in forgotten beaties as Friday's Child, Mystic Eyes, I'm gonna dress in black and Times gettin' tougher than tough. Buy it if you want to hear real r&b! --Conterbel.com