Thursday, 28 January 2016

"The Complete Them 1964-1967" by THEM [featuring Van Morrison] (2015 Exile/Sony/Legacy 3CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...I Gave My Love A Diamond..." 

The last time I bought the two 60ts THEM albums on CD was way back in 1998 (remastered by Decca) and subsequently there's been other compilations covering Van Morrison's brilliant first band. But they were all quickly deleted and thereafter began accumulating unhealthy price tags. Well at last in 2015 (after acquiring his catalogue) - Sony/Legacy has rectified this gaping hole in truly brilliant 60ts R&B music by giving Joe Public this all-encompassing 3CD peach-a-rooney - "The Complete Them 1964-1967". A whopping 69-Tracks - 20 of which are Previously Unissued - and all of it newly remastered from the best sources. So once more unto the "Baby Please Don't Go" breach for our Six Counties Heroes...

UK released 4 December 2015 – "The Complete Them 1964-1967" by THEM [featuring Van Morrison] on Exile/Sony/Legacy 88875150542 (Barcode 0888751505421) is a 3CD Anthology of New Remasters and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (64:17 minutes):
1. Don't Start Crying Now
2. One Two Brown Eyes
Tracks 1 & 2 are the A&B-sides of their debut UK 7" single on Decca F.11973 released 6 September 1964 - USA on Parrot 7702
3. Baby Please Don't Go
4. Gloria
Tracks 3 & 4 are the A&B-sides of their 2nd UK 7" single on Decca F.12018 released 6 November 1964 (March 1965 in the USA on Parrot 9727). In April 1966 – the American Parrot label flipped the tracks and put out “Gloria” as the A-side which resulted in a chart placing at 71
5. Philosophy
Track 5 was exclusive to the UK "Them" 4-Track EP on Decca DFE 8612 released February 1965 (no US release). The other tracks on the EP are "Don't Stop Crying Now", "One Two Brown Eyes" and "Baby Please Don't Go"
6. Here Comes The Night
7. All For Myself
Tracks 6 and 7 are the A&B-sides of their 3rd UK 7" single on Decca F. 12094 released March 1965 – May 1965 in the USA on Parrot 9747
8. One More Time
9. How Long Baby
Tracks 8 & 9 are the A&B-sides of their 4th UK 7" single on Decca F.12175 released June 1965 (no US release)

10. Mystic Eyes
11. If You And I Could Be As Two
12. Little Girl
13. Just A Little Bit
14. I Gave My Love A Diamond
15. You Just Can't Win
16. Go On Home Baby [Side 2]
17. Don't Look Back
18. I Like It Like That
19. I’m Gonna Dress In Black
20. Bright Lights, Big City
21. My Little Baby
22. (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66
Tracks 10 to 22 are their debut UK album "Them" [aka "The Angry Young Them!"] – released 11 June 1965 in Mono on Decca LK 4700.

The US "Them" album was released July 1965 in both Mono (PA 61005) and Stereo (PAS 71005) and featured 12 rejiggered tracks as opposed to the UK configuration of 14. Using Disc 1 of this 3CD set - fans can configure the US album as follows [4] = Track 4:
Side 1:
1. Here Comes The Night [6]
2. Mystic Eyes [10]
3. Don't Look Back [17]
4. Little Girl [12]
5. One Two Brown Eyes [2]
6. Gloria [4]
Side 2:
1. One More Time [8]
2. If You And I Could Be As Two [11]
3. I Like It Like That [18]
4. I'm Gonna Dress In Black [19]
5. (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 [22]
6. Go On Home Baby [16]

23. (It Won't Hurt) Half As Much
Tracks 23 is the non-album A-side of their 5th UK 7" single on Decca F. 12215 released August 1965 – USA on Parrot 9784 (the album track "I'm Gonna Dress In Black" was its B-side in both countries)

Note: "Mystic Eyes" b/w "If You And I Could Be As Two" was issued as their 5th 7" single – released November 1965 in the UK on Decca F.12281 and October 1965 in the USA on Parrot 9796

Disc 2 (63:47 minutes):
1. Could You Would You
2. Something You Got
3. Call My Name
4. Turn On Your Love Light
5. I Put A Spell On You
6. I Can Only Give You Everything
7. My Lonely Sad Eyes
8. I Got A Woman
9. Out Of Sight [Side 2]
10. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
11. Bad Or Good
How Long Baby [see NOTE}
12. Hello Josephine
13. Don’t You Know
14. Hey Girl
15. Bring 'Em On In
Tracks 1 to 15 and Track 9 on Disc 1 make up their 2nd album "Them Again" – released 21 January 1966 in the UK on Decca LK 4751 (Mono) and April 1965 in the USA on Parrot PA 61008 (Mono) and PAS 71008 (Stereo).
NOTE: The UK LP had 16 tracks with "How Long Baby" slotting in between "Bad Or Good" and "Hello Josephine" on Side 2 - but as "How Long Baby" is already featured on Disc 1 – it isn't duplicated on Disc 2.

16. Richard Cory
Track 16 is the non-album A-side of a May 1966 7" single – released UK May 1966 on Decca F. 12355 and in the USA on Parrot 3003 – the album track "Don't You Know" from "Them Again" was its B-side in both countries

17. Friday's Child
July 1967 UK-only 7" single on Major Minor MM 509 – this Stereo Mix is Previously Unreleased

18. The Story Of Them Part 1
19. The Story Of Them Part 2
Tracks 18 and 19 are the A&B-sides of a non-album UK-only 7" single released September 1967 on Major Minor MM 513

20. Baby What You Want Me To Do
21. Stormy Monday Blues
22. Times Getting Tougher Than Tough
Tracks 20 to 22 are non-album songs that appeared on the Dutch-Only 4-track "Friday's Child" EP released 1967 on Decca BU 70 500 – it's pictured on Page 10 of the booklet

Disc 3 "Demos, Sessions & Rarities 1964-1976" (74:15 minutes):
1. Don't Start Crying Now (Demo) – Previously Unissued
2. Gloria (Demo) – Previously Unissued
3. One Two Brown Eyes (Demo) – Previously Unissued
4. Stormy Monday Blues (Demo) – Previously Unissued
5. Turn On Your Love Light (Alternate Version) – Previously Unissued
6. Baby Please Don't Go (Take 4) – Previously Unissued
7. Here Comes The Night (Take 2) – Previously Unissued
8. Gloria (Live On BBC's "Saturday Club") recorded 1 March 1965 – Previously Unissued
9. All For Myself (Live On BBC's "Saturday Club") recorded 1 March 1965 – Previously Unissued)
10. Here Comes The Night (Live On BBC's "Saturday Club") recorded 1 March 1965 – Previously Unissued
11. Little Girl (Version One) – first appeared on the 1965 Various Artists UK compilation LP "14" on Decca LK 4695 – reissued on the 1997 2CD set "The Story Of Them" – this take is different to the version on the "Them" LP
12. Go On Home Baby (Take 4) – Previously Unissued
13. I Gave My Love A Diamond (Take 8) – Previously Unissued
14. (It Won't Hurt) Half As Much (Take 2) – Previously Unissued
15. My Little Baby (Take 1) – Previously Unissued
16. How Long Baby (Take 1) – Previously Unissued
17. One More Time (Take 14) – Previously Unissued
18. Gloria (Live on BBC's "Saturday Club" Version 2) recorded 22 June 1965 – Previously Unissued
19. Here Comes The Night (Live on BBC's "Saturday Club" Version 2) recorded 22 June 1965 – Previously Unissued
20. One More Time (Live on BBC's "Saturday Club") recorded 22 June 1965 – Previously Unissued
21. Call My Name (Single Version)
22. Bring 'Em On In (Single Version)
Tracks 21 and 22 are the A&B-sides of their 6th 7" single – released March 1966 in the UK on Decca F. 12355 and in the USA on Parrot 9819
23. Mighty Like A Rose – Van Morrison song recorded April 1966 which first appeared on the US-only Them LP "Backtrackin'" on London PS 639
24. Richard Cory (Alternate Version) – Previously Unissued

These three-way card digipaks are a bugger to keep from being crumpled – but at least "The Complete Them" looks the part. Each of the CDs sports the red 'Decca' writing aping the original English LP labels - while the 16-page booklet contains in-depth liner notes by none other than the great man himself (yes Van Morrison writes and speaks). The two UK album front covers are pictured, rare EPs, concert posters, trade adverts and newspaper reviews along with track-by-track annotation. Each of the flaps have classy black & whites of Them live - but it's a shame they didn't picture some of the many Parrot singles or LP sleeves (different covers) underneath the three blank see-through trays.

Still all of that pales into the trivial when you clap ears on the fabulous new remasters. A team of three handled the transfers – Rhino's long-time Sound Engineer DAN HERSCH was abled helped by ANDREW SANDOVAL and RICHARD WHITTAKER – and the results are fantastic. Hersch and Sandoval are names that have appeared on The Band, Love and The Kinks CD reissues to great acclaim (amongst others) - while Richard Whittaker has handled Elton John, The Rolling Stones and Thin Lizzy SACD and SHM-CD Remasters with equally impressive results. This primordial 60ts R&B music has always sounded ballsy – but now it's positively standing up and wanting to start a fight. These are not amped for the sake of it either – they're just wonderfully muscular and clear – full of presence and warmth...a job well done boys.

The young Van Morrison devoured Pye International 45s that he bought in a local Belfast record shop only a few streets away from where he lived. Along with London and Decca – they were amongst a slew of primo British labels releasing the tastiest American R&B and Soul tunes of the day. Them's debut 45 "Don't Start Crying Now" came from a Slim Harpo LP while he found the 1933 Big Joe Williams classic "Baby Please Don"t Go" on a John Lee Hooker 'Audio Lab' album he'd bought from a mate. For the flipsides of their first two 45s – Van stumped up two absolute barnstormers – "One Two Brown Eyes" and the immortal "Gloria" - fans are just gonna eat up the Audio Blast on these. Producer Bert Berns brought his own song to the table – the wonderful "Here Comes The Night" which features an uncredited Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin on Guitars (he's also on "Baby Please Don't Go") with Alan White on Drums and Ireland's Phil Coulter on Keyboards. The session also included John Carter, Ken Lewis and Perry Ford from The Ivy League on Backing Vocals. Their Producer Tommy Scott wrote "How Long Baby" under the songwriting guise of 'Gillon' while Van's own "All For Myself" is a superb riff John Lee Hooker would have smiled at.

By the time we get to the self-titled debut album (known in some circles as "The Angry Young Them!") and its opener "Mystic Eyes" – I'm already on a major British R&B high. The frantic "Mystic Eyes" with Van's wicked harmonica warbling is presented here in speaker-rattling Mono. But it has to be said that the strange 'lo-fi' production of "If You And I Could Be As Two" still sounds like it was recorded in Uncle Bill's dodgy bucket on well-used Scotch tape. The Audio however immediately improves with Van's "Little Girl" – a great Doors type groove (a version of it turned up on the 1965 Decca compilation LP "14" which is very hard to find – one of the rarities included on Disc 3). Other goodies on the album include his cover of Rosco Gordon's "Just A Little Bit" and his own songwriting stretching out lyrically in the 'Camden Town' song "You Just Can't Win". But my fave on here is his superb warbling treatment of John Lee Hooker's "Don't Look Back" where the keyboards, his voice and the cool rhythm section all combine perfectly into something old meets something new. Collectors will know that Peter Bardens of Camel plays keyboards on the album while Jimmy Page plays Guitar (both uncredited).

If Disc 1 is good-to-great – Disc 2 ups the ante even further as the tunes simply got better and better (from all sources). The 2nd Them LP also saw what Van felt was their most 'stable' line-up - but on the downside it also ultimately contributed to the end of the band as it included three songs he'd planned for a solo project – "Could You Would You", "My Sad Lonely Eyes" and the Phil Coulter/Tommy Scott composition "I Can Only Give You Everything". Tommy Scott put those three masters on the LP (Van claims) without his permission and even though shows in Los Angeles went down a storm (The Doors were the support act!) – the gig was up once they got back home. Van Morrison was also lurching towards Soul Music – a direction the rest of the band weren't into ("Don't Look Back" and "Friday's Child" have more than a few hints of his preferred musical direction). I also love his version of Paul Simon's "Richard Cory" and those three non-album cuts from the Dutch "Friday's Child" EP still have a whack to me by virtue of the fact that I never saw them on vinyl back in the day – ever. They still feel like discoveries...

Having said that their covers of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You", Fats Domino's "Hello Josephine" and Bobby Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light" are good time R&B fun still – slow for "Spell" and rocking for "Love Light". Them even get a bit Count Five "Psychotic Reaction" for "I Can Only Give You Everything" (or is it the other way around) – a manic Tommy Scott winner that would have made for an adventurous single release in 1965. And you can already hear the 1968 Bang Records solo LP "Blowin' Your Mind" sound in the very Van Soulfulness of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" – an inspired rearrangement of the Bob Dylan classic. Van's own "Bad Or Good" and the lovely "Hey Girl" are classy originals for someone so young - while the jaunty "Don't You Know" is probably Tommy Scott's most accomplished tune. The 'True Stereo' of "Friday's Child" is properly gorgeous too. The UK-only Major Minor 7" single "The Story Of Them Part 1 & 2" still sounds impossibly cool as he raps on about 'The Maritime Club' in Belfast where they used to play with Rory Gallagher and the bouncer would smack people on the head and even knock them out...

Juicy is what describes the "1964 to 1967 Rarities" of Disc 3 – 20 Previously Unissued tracks out of 24 is a mighty big haul in any fan's books. What comes as a shock is how good they all are. The first four demos show the Belfast Gypsies raw and ready to boogie – Van's harmonica wailing out of the speakers (even if that thinny organ sound is almost comical) – "Gloria" still sounding astonishing even in embryonic form. There's a count-in to the 5 May 1964 take on Bobby Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light" where the version is more relaxed but somehow missing that punch that the finished cut had. Page fans will be glued to "Baby Please Don't Go (Take 4)" where there’s extra rhythm guitar and perhaps a tad more echo on Van's vocals (taped 1 October 1964). The tune is still kicking like a mule and presented here with absolutely stunning sound quality. The same goes to a wonderful Take 2 of "Here Comes The Night" sounding like it’s live in your living room...

"...Over again now to the group from Ireland..." goes the so-BBC introduction to a decidedly lo-fi "Gloria" taped 1 March 1965 at The Playhouse in London for the BBC's "Saturday Club". The audio is good as you can imagine rather than being great – but the performance is full on and cool into the bargain. Tremendous Bass on "All By Myself" – nicely transferred. The Audio goes back to Studio Quality again with 'Version One' of "Little Girl" – but then goes stratospheric on 'Take 4' of "Go On Home Baby" taped 5 May 1965 at Decca's Studio 2. Another audio shocker is "Mighty Like A Rose" which first saw the light of day in 1974 on the American "Backtrackin'" LP on London – sounding fantastic here. It ends on an 'Alternate Version' of Paul Simon's S&G classic "Richard Cory" taped 19 April 1966 at Decca's Studios – stunning stuff and a hugely satisfying end to a Disc that blows you away rather than just impresses...

Van Morrison's original version of THEM burned brightly for two to three years only – but man they lit up the musical sky on the evidence presented here.

An easy 2015 'Reissue Of The Year' in my books. Buy "The Complete Them 1964-1967" and give it some ‘G-L-O-R-I-A’ across your limp hydrangeas...if you know what I mean...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is COOL 1960s MUSIC - an E-Book with over 200 entries and 2000 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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