The Complete Them 1964-1967 (CD Set) By Them

August 31, 2016


Before Van Morrison became a Knight of the British Empire, and before he won the first of his six Grammy Awards, and before he was inducted into The Rock And Roll and Songwriters Halls Of Fame; he was the front man for one of the grittiest rock/blues bands of the British Invasion era.

Them formed in 1964 and while a number of musicians came and went, vocalist Van Morrison and bassist Alan Henderson were the constants. Rounding out the original quintet were keyboardist Eric Witson, guitarist/vocalist Bob Harrison and drummer Ron Millings. They released two studio albums; The Angry Young Them (1965) and Them Again (1966), which produced the hits “Here Comes The Night,” “Mystic Eyes,” and the first version of the eternal rock song “Gloria.”

Now their entire recorded output has been reissued under the title The Complete Them 1964-1967. It contains all the tracks from their two albums, demos, alternate versions, and a number of live performances. It all adds up to their entire catalogue of 69 tracks, which are spread over three discs.

Everything has been remastered and the sound emerges with a clarity missing on the originals but beware that many of the tracks have been reissued in all their mono glory. Van Morrison provides a five page essay, which lends an authenticity to the project.

The live tracks, taken from the BBC’s Saturday Club give the best look into the heart and soul of the band. They were primitive and raw and can be clarified as a basic garage band playing blues material. In their favor was the fact they did it better than most of their contemporaries, plus their approach and sound set them apart from the smooth sound of the Beatles, Dave Clark 5, and other British bands who invaded America during the mid-1960’s.

As with many studio albums recorded during the 1960’s, you get the good with the bad. When the material is right, they produce energetic music that holds up well. In addition to their hits, tracks such as “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “I Put A Spell On You,” “If You And I Could Be As Two,” “Baby What You Want Me To Do,” and “Storm Monday Blues” explore a side of 1960’s British rock that rarely crossed the Atlantic ocean.

On the other hand, when they strayed from their basic approach, they results were less successful; “Richard Corey,” “Friday’s Child,” and “(Get Your Kicks On) n Route 66” being examples.

The song that always attracted me to the band is “Mystic Eyes,” which lyrically and rhythm-wise was very different from everything else that came out of Great Britain at the time and provided a good look toward the creative approach, which would dominate Van Morrison’s solo career.

The Complete Theme 1964-1967 is a long overdue tribute to one of the sometimes under-appreciated bands from the 1960’s. Not only was it the training ground for Sir Van Morrison but is also provided the foundation upon which rock and blues fusion was created.

Moondance by Van Morrison

November 22, 2013


When Van Morrison entered the recording studio in the fall of 1969, he was known as the former lead singer of Them, one of the grittier bands of the British Invasion, and for his big hit single “Brown Eyed Girl.” When he emerged, he had recorded one of the better albums in rock history. Moondance was released in February of 1970 and proved to be his critical and commercial breakthrough.

Moondance has now been remastered and reissued in several different configurations. There is the huge 4 CD/1 Blu-ray disc edition that contains over 50 unreleased takes, several of which are over 10 minutes in length, plus the debut of the lost song, “I Shall Sing.” It you want or need everything by Van Morrison, this is the set for you. If you do not need eight takes of “Caravan” or “Brand New Day,” there is the simple one-disc remaster of the original album.

The middle ground of the releases is Moondance (Expanded Edition), which contains the remastered album on the first disc and 11 alternate takes on the second. The out-takes give a flavor of the music’s developmental process without overwhelming the listener.  How many times you may want to listen to this second disc is unknown as when it comes to Moondance, it is the original album of songs that rings down through music history.

While Van Morrison can be considered a rock artist, he twists and turns that definition in a number of directions and at times leaves the rock and roll idiom behind all together. Depending on the material he can travel in a rhythm & blues, jazz, and blues direction and even infuse the music with some of his Celtic heritage. This confluence of styles is nowhere more apparent than on this seminal album.

In many ways Moondance is an album of moods and feelings. Various instruments swirl to create the music to support his incisive lyrics. The passion and emotion of his vocal performances adapts to each song.

There is no filler material and the tracks form a cohesive unit. The album begins with the autobiographical “And It Stoned Me,” which is about his childhood. The title track travels in a jazzy direction. “Crazy Love” is an intimate performance that makes one feel Morrison is speaking to you personally.

The two best tracks on a very good album are “Come Running” and “Into The Mystic.” The first is a layered piece of music where the two saxophones run counter point to each other. “Into The Mystic” has lyrical textures that bear repeated listening’s. It remains one of the better tracks of the era.

Moondance is an album that defies time. It remains relevant and highly listenable over 40 years after its initial release. It is an album that should grace any music collection.

Gloria 45 by Them

July 1, 2012

Van Morrison has had a legendary solo career extending from 1966 to the present. He was elected to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993.

He began with the group Them who placed several songs on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart during the mid-1960s.

“Gloria” reached the chart twice in the United States but did not become a big hit either time. It spent one week at number 93 on May 22, 1965 and reached number 71 during May of 1966.

While Van Morrison wrote the song, it was tha Shadows Of Knight who had the big hit, reaching number 10 during 1966.

Them’s version may have been a little to raw and bluesy for American singles radio at the time but it is well worth seeking out today.

Domino 45 by Van Morrison

March 4, 2012

Van Morrison is one of the most respected musicians in the world. His albums have contained thoughtful lyrics and creative music, while selling tens of millions of copies. He was inducted into the The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame during 1993.

While he was not known as a singles artist, every once in awhile he would release a song that was perfect for radio play and would achieve singles success.

“Domino” was released during the fall of 1970 and would peak at number nine on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. It was basically a rock song but remained true to his folk-type lyrics.

Over 40 years later, it remains one of the better singles of the early 1970s.

Baby Please Don’t Go 45 by Them

August 19, 2011

Them was a gritty blues/rock band from Belfast, Northern, Ireland that spawned the career of Van Morrison.

While they had several hits in the United States, they were always more popular in the U.K.

“Baby Please Don’t Go” appeared as the B side to their 1966 release, “Gloria,” in the USA. “Gloria” was their last chart single peaking at number 71.

In England it was a different story as “Baby Please Don’y Go” reached number 10 0n the British singles chart. It was a fine fusion of blues and rock and proves that Them issued a number of excellent songs beyond their few United States chart singles.

Brown Eyed Girl 45 by Van Morrison

May 30, 2011

Van Morrison began his career as a gritty and raw vocalist with Them. So it was a surprise when “Brown Eyes Girl” was released during the summer of 1967. It was a bright and catchy pop/rock song with one of the smoothest vocals of his career. It would quickly become the second bigest single hit of his career, reaching number ten on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

Van Morrison would go on to produce some of the most creative music in rock history. His expolrations of the myths and legends of his home country sold millions of albums and would enable him to be elected to The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame during 1993.

“Brown Eyed Girl” remains one of the more pleasant stops during his career.

Mystic Eyes 45 by Them

April 26, 2011

The first record I ever bought by Them was their big hit “Here Comes The Night.” I liked that song enough to purchase “Mystic Eyes” without having heard it.

Them consisted of vocalist Van Morrison, guitarist Billy Harrison, bassist Alan Henderson, keyboardist Pete Bardens, pianist John McAuley, and drummer Patrick McAuley. They would have a number of personnal changes before disbanding during 1966.

Released October 30, 1965, “Mystic Eyes” was a raw fusion of blues and rock. Van Morrison’s vocal is mesmorizing as he gets the phrasing needed just right. It would reach number 33 on The American singles charts.

Van Morrison would go on to one of the better and creative solo careers in music history leaving behind this unique single.