Does Gloria's Mother Know What Yer Up To?
The Lineup Card (1965-1968)
Van Morrison (vocals) until 1966
Pete Bardens (keyboards)
Alan Henderson (bass)
Jim Parker (guitar)
John Starks (drums)
Kenny McDowell (vocals) 1966-8
I really have no good reason for reviewing Them right now, other than no one else seems to have done so, they're Irish and last week was the annual St. Patrick's Day mass liver poisoning festival, and they only have five albums anyway, so what the fuck? Few people know about this British Invasion R&B band, and that's a shame, though only a minor, tinky-winky sort of shame. It's not like they're the Zombies or something. Misinformation abounds - Wilson and Allroy claim the band only has two albums, the ones made with Van Morrison. This, as you can see from the above listing, is dead wrong (They're now moving from being merely irritating and deadly dull to being factually questionable, huh? They only take a bizarre pride in listing every last little nobody sideman and chart position, and they can't even get a catalog listing right? That's like finding out Dale Earnhardt, Jr. can't drive a stick). Their most important member just left after those two - the rest of the band soldiered on nearly to the end of the Sixties with two more (increasingly bizarre) records, primarily due to the fact that they were pretty much the only rock 'n' roll band of note in Ireland. There's also an offshoot group that split off from the original Van Morrison-era Them called the Belfast Gypsies who released one album, which I suppose I'll review here, confusingly titled Them Belfast Gypsies. As if the world needed a little more confusion in their record collections.
Musically, the original Thems are a sort of cross between the Animals, primarily, and American slamnasty garage rock, but have the ability to bring their street-fighting soul down to a much more controlled level of sweet organ twiddles and Morrison crooning. Their strict blues and R&B stylings are more on the authentic side than, say, the Yardbirds or Small Faces, and they have enough range to make believable ballads. There's some controversy about who played what on what songs, with the usual suspect Jimmy Page being mentioned as a frequent replacement for Jim Parker on several tracks, so I may be praising a group that never actually recorded any of these songs in the first place. Who fucking knows anymore? All I can say is that Morrison was a big-voiced bastard of a charismatic singer back in the 60's before he turned into a baleen whale, and one listen to Them Again should show each and every one of you that the number of late-60's hard rock groups that stole from Them was a staggering figure, to be sure.
I dunno, I think they're great, at least until frontman Van Morrison left to begin a nigh half-century quest to become the biggest wet blanket in all of rock and roll music. (To those of you waiting with baited breath for me to break out the Van solo album reviews, I say this - the man has enough albums to fill a rec room library shelf all by his lonesome, and as such I'll be refraining from conducting the tactical nightmare that would be wading through such undeniable gutbucket grindcore classics as A Period of Transition and his 1983 groundbreaker I Suppose You Still Think I Like Singing That Rock and Roll Bullshit, Don't You? I Mean, 'Gloria' was like 15 year ago. Fucking Get Over It.), after which Them continued onward sounding absolutely nothing like Themselves for two albums. Confused yet? I wasn't until I started writing this damn intro blurb. Ah, well...considering that there's probably, what, five people out there who'll care enough to read these reviews, let's just call the story done and get down to calling Them and Them Again great albums, whaddya say?
Them - Decca 1965
The first thing I gotta say here is that Van Morrison, along with fellow London outsider Eric Burdon, possessed the coolest white R&B voice of the mid-sixties. Not surprisingly, they're very similar to each other - that unmistakable pipsqueak ball-of-muscle gritpaper mewl. Burdon was a little closer to the hep street culture, I suppose, and only Van could do the jazzbo thing that makes an appearance as early as the next album. I suppose my Them reviews can be summed up with the statement that Van Morrison was one motherflipper of a great vocalist back in the 60's (and, as far as I've heard, continued to be until about the end of the Nixon Administation, when the UDA captured him, chopped off his nuts, and replaced his brain with that of a 17-year old female Moonie from Pasadena, California who describes her turn-ons as 'finger cymbals and oatmeal laced with mind-numbing barbiturates), and his band was good enough not to get in the way. The first Them album is typical of the fads of the times - several Morrison originals, four tracks by people I have never heard of (no doubt record company darlings), Jimmy Reed's 'Bright Lights, Big City', Bobby Troup's 'Route 66' (both of which had been done by the Stones by this point), and John Lee Hooker's 'Don't Look Back' (which, as far as I can tell, hadn't been done by anybody), packed with thinly veiled rewrites of favorites ala the Small Faces first album and flimsy but listenable riff tunes that inevitably wrap up with a 'rave up' section that pops the boners and tosses the soggy panties off each and every teenager wiggling in the first three dozen rows. I'll remind you that, due to the sadly typical record company studio meddling, there probably isn't a man alive than can tell you for sure who plays on each track. Is that tremelo'ed guitar on 'I Gave My Love A Diamond' Jim Parker? Or is it Jimmy Page working his 17th session that day? Could it be someone they scraped off the sticky floor of a Dublin pub that very morning? Sheet, brother, you tell me.
Thing is, I don't really hear all that many clues that would point to the fact that this was Recordmaking By Small Army. The rhythm section is uniformly crisp, if not necessarily the most swinging bunch of dudes since the Newark Ironworkers Union Local 124 Christmastime Marching Band, if you 'covet' my 'Stretch Armstrong', and I think you do. The organ work is just shy of Alan Price virtuosity, especially on the more sonically adventurous, pounding marathon rumbling of 'Mystic Eyes'. Still, man, it's all Van Morrison. The man takes hold of our nerve endings on the opening 'Eyes' and never quite lets go again for the duration of the record album. He plays fawning loverboy on 'If You and I Could Be As Two' (a G-rated version of the alternate title 'If You And I Could Be As One', or the far more scandalous 'If You And I, My Mate From The Pub, The Maidstaff and My Great Dane Could Be As One'), soul preacher man on 'Little Girl', drooling pussy predator on 'Gloria', and just about everything in between. He's the fucking man, the fucking Irish man, getting worked up enough to max out his mic levels at least once per track. Consequently, the best tracks are the ones that have enough jizz to push him to that level legitimately. This leaves out crap like the derivative 'My Little Baby' (cross 'Here Comes the Night' and Buddy Holly at his tritest), and the obvious Animals ripoff 'I'm Gonna Dress In Black', not to mention every single one of the covers. The six dozenth version of 'Route 66' on my record shelf simply cannot be viewed in the same league as a wide-open broodfest like 'You Just Can't Win' (just about teaches the Doors everything they ever knew), or the bright groovin' of 'Go On Home'. Only 'Don't Look Back', featuring some positively heavenly slapback piano tinkling, sounds like something truly special. It doesn't, however, sound much like John Lee Hooker. Huh.
Your ears do not deceive you. The hookline of 'Sloop John B' was pretty much copied from Them's 'Go Home Baby'. Brian Wilson, a genius! Pah-sha! I scoff! I snicker! I make some noise in the back of my throat that makes me enter a coughing fit for the next several minutes! Bwahahaha!
Oh, and then there's the garage band cover titan 'Gloria', which features three chords, repeated over and over again while Van Morrison spells his girlfriends name. So they picked the right chords. So it sounds like rock and roll come rolling down the mountain in a flood of sweat and testosterone and bodily fluids. So it just about creates a peak of sexual tension in popular music that's never been equaled by any of your alcoholic hairball weiner-wavers, no matter how hard they tried. So what? So what, indeed.
Capn's Final Word: Who Them really are is up to debate, but Van Morrison is not. They say the Irish are the blacks of Europe...after listening to this album I have to say I agree.
Them Again - Decca 1966
It's probably a mistake to refer to most of these British Invasion-era records as 'little' albums - for every Beach Boys CD with 23 minutes of record company ass-raping going on, there's a Decca reissue of Them's second album clocking in at a respectable 45 minutes. I just know that these guys have a 25 minute drum solo in 'em just dying to come out. That is, if we knew who the fucking drummer was. Again is, if anything, even less of a true group effort than the first Them album, with just about anybody who happened to be on Decca's payroll being hired to come in and lay down a track or two, including but not limited to the guy who rewinds the tape reels, the janitor, and the assistant fry cook in the company cafeteria. The only thing for sure is Mr. Van Morrison on lead mewl. Lemme tell ya, as long as he's doing R&B that's just about enough, as far as I'm concerned.
I've come around like Dan Rather at a Microsoft Word seminar after listening to this album over the past several days (Jesus, work's gotten in the way of a lot of my usual writing time. Not that I've stayed late or anything, or even been very busy at all. Let's just say that it's sucked all the soul out of my fingers, resulting in two-week delays between updates and crappy reviews like the one for Them I wrote the other day. This one is gonna be crappy too, so whatever your expectations are, just lower them a peg or three. Unless you're one of those guys who writes in with thinly veiled death threats about my Kiss and CCR reviews - your expectations are probably spot-on). At first I was convinced that this was a better album than the first one (which, incidentally, is aka Angry Young Them, which I think is pretty snap-snap-snappy) because of it's wide variety of styles. Then I realized that that wide variety of styles is probably more a result of having absolutely no idea who was going to be in the backing band from day to day. One day you might have a gospel band ('Turn On Your Lovelight'), the next day a folk-rock/proto psychedelic combo ('It's All Over Now, Baby Blue'). Hell, Van might've had to figure out what the hell to do with an unholy combination of Jimmy Page, a Mariachi band, and an Alpenhornist showing up at the studio on the same day. God knows what that would've sounded like, but I'm pretty goddamn sure I can guarantee it's better than the Searchers.
Them Again is so varied and eclectic, (well, varied and eclectic for a mid-60's rock band...this isn't They Might Be Giants or anything) it almost sounds like Van Morrison is consciously gathering together a resume for a solo career. He takes controls of the vocals with even more confidence than before, standin' up and knockin' down everything from James Brown to Dylan to Fats Domino to Ray Charles with equal amounts of Irish hubris and close-yer-eyes-and-jump daring. In fact, this time around, the best songs are the covers. It's truly hard to miss with a singer who's on full tilt doing songs that are as good as 'I Got A Woman' or Chris Kenner's 'Something You Got'. The version of 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue' is as damn close to definitive as you can get, Van putting his own stamp on the track like Hendrix did with 'All Along the Watchtower' or the Byrds did with, umm...every track on the man's second, third, and fourth records, I guess. Here, Van transforms the song into something resembling a prayer, with the guitarist lilting over some tremeloed arpeggios that sounds like sunshine through tree leaves. Or something. Whatever. Ham-handed pretension time for the Capn, I guess. The roots of Astral Weeks begins here.
While Van tackles rootsy hard-swingers like 'Hello Josephine' with garage gusto, It's hard to beat James Brown at his own game, and not only can't the small band that attempts 'Out Of Sight' equal the lockstep perfection of the Flames, Van almost sounds like he's giving this one a pass vocally. Maybe Decca wanted a Brown tune on there because the Small Faces always did so many of 'em on their records. Perversely, I think I enjoy Steve Marriott's buzzsaw demolitions of Brown's songs more than Van's restrained poking with a stick.
Unfortunately, Morrison's originals aren't the brilliant gems they were on the last one - 'Could You, Would You' is another 'Here Comes the Night' with louder drums, 'My Lonely Sad Eyes' is 'Could You, Would You' with jazzier vocals and less of a hook, 'Hey Girl' is a nearly transparent, wussy, flute-ridden ballad featuring the line 'I wanna walk your dog' in an absolutely non-'Gloria'-esque context (Van would later base half his career on better versions of exactly this same sort of ballad), and 'Bring 'Em On In' and 'How Long Baby' rock with jolly abandon but not so much in the memorability department. The dark, post-midnight mojo of the last album seems almost completely lost, not to mention a whole helluva lot of the garage rock ass-whoopin' rock n' roll. Outside of the fuzztone orgy of 'I Can Only Give You Everything', there isn't very much of what I'd call 'Gloria-rock' here, and that's a mighty shame. 'Everything' is sort of a little too similar to '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction', but in the midst of all this uptempo, gospelly, increasingly jazzbo R&B, a little bit of punkified lechery is always a welcome thing.
Accept this album as a jump forward for Van Morrison at a time that his band was being torn apart by record-company vultures intent on having them become the DaveClarkRollingYardFaceTurtles instead of just letting them follow their own, quite acceptable thank you, artistic path. All the covers seem to indicate a whole lot of meddling by outside forces, in the form of some asshole in a suit coming down from HQ and requesting (firmly) that Them record whatever the execs had decided was the hot record of the week, or failing that, have Van just rerecord his last hit with different vocals. Luckily, what was left of the band and their session-man skin-grafts still put out a surprisingly good product, ranging from almost straight jazz ('Don't You Know') to bash-yer-face rumble rock, all led by the dude with the roundest face in rock, Mr. Van Morrison, who'd be sailing off into the sunset (or, rather, sitting on his porch swing in Woodstock having some tea) soon after the completion of this record. The picture gets mighty fuzzy from here on out, and I wouldn't complain if you just got these first albums because you'd have to be completely nuts to track down these next three on purpose.
Capn's Final Word: Van fights off the execs, and pulls this stew of styles from a deep, deep place.
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Gypsies (As Belfast
Guys from the Sixties sure liked to talk about Gypsies. Band of Gypsies, 'Gypsy Queen', gypsy this and gypsy that. You know, thoughts of a life free of the reigns of society, ready to ramble on to the next town whenever the urge (or the fuzz) hits, dark-eyed dancing girls in gauzy tops, and weird voodoo spells (and potions! Oh boy, those potions!) were just the kind of earthy bullshit hippies bought into hook, line, and sinker (or rather hookworm, lyme disease, and syphilis) back then, I dunno if most of you have ever actually SEEN a gypsy in person, but lemme tell you - they're about as romantic as watching a cockroach scratch his belly segments against your mother's toothbrush. They stink, they have a litany of infections and infestations, they sleep in piles on the street like stray dogs, and they'll be happy to stick a small knife in your leg if they think that might persuade you to surrender your wallet a little faster. Gypsy queen? Psha! A 12 year-old breastfeeding a mud-encrusted infant next to a dumpster is more like it. It's depressing as hell, but it's nice to pop a few illusions now and then, especially those of foggy-minded hippies who probably never got more 'free' than taking half a tab of cheap bathtub acid at a Grand Funk Railroad concert and going without a bath for a week. But Gypsies, man, they have a smell. Oh baby...you can't mistake it. Smells like old fish. And you can smell it all over these wingnuts I'm reviewing here.
The Gypsies were a Them derivative based around the McAuley brothers Jackie and John (keys and drums, respectively, or in their case, disrespectfully) championed by weirdo Kim Fowley, who I know kext to nothing about except as having written a zillion songs for a zillion people over the years and forming the Runaways, which seems to be a pretty circuitous route to get some underage pussy. ('Hey, baby, wanna wrestle...erm, um, I mean, wanna rock?' Plus the fact that the majority of that band would turn out to be lesbian. Heh, serves ya right, you Malcolm McClaren wannabe!) Anyway, this album now has some sort of cult following as far as I've read, which makes about as much sense as speed bumps in the paraplegic ward hallway. Cultists, I've learned, will go for anything as long as it's rare (yet with a recognizable pedigree!) enough to ensure most people would've never heard of it. Let's just put it this way - the Belfast Gypsies were positioned as a Them knockoff band when they released this album, and that's just about how we'll leave them. This is like Them rendered in 8-bit graphics - all of the subtlety, all of the soul, all of the inventiveness is sapped away. Singer Jackie McCauley sounds like a cross between Roger Daltrey doing a Van Morrison impression and a garbage disposal with a box of marbles banging around in it. He constantly warps and contorts his voice to do that 'natural distortion' thing that comes so effortlessly to Van. After such cord-shredding misuse of what was otherwise a completely mediocre voice (as the verses of 'Portland Town' attest), the number of Luden's cough drops used the mornings after sessions was no doubt staggering. The rest of the band ain't no virtuosos, neither, but that shouldn't be a problem as long as they make the songs themselves interesting.
"Oh, FUCK! I knew we shoulda thought of that! Playing the same goddamn fill in between each line and leaning on the same organ chords over and over again is no way of making a great rock 'n' roll song, now is it? Goddamn it! At least our lyrics are good...'I saw her down in the infirmary' Dylanesque, isn't it? Well, isn't it?"
The arrangements here seem like they were copied in crayon out of the first chapter of a Songwriting for Complete and Utter Imbeciles book. AABA! AABA! It's not the oddly sexually attractive new pop sensation from Scandinavia, it's how each and every motherslapping song on this album goes. Except for the ones with no structure at all (this was 1967, after all), which are even worse. These are marginally talented sidemen with no imagination whatsoever forced prematurely into making an album by an overenthusiastic producer intent on making some cash. There's not a single compelling solo, and the number of cool lead lines numbers somewhere between three and zero. This is bang-bang chord rock by people who never color outside the lines. The only one who ever really steps out in the mix is that goddamn croquet mallet-for-brains singer, who has no qualms about chewing up the scenery like horse devouring a box of Triscuits.
The main problem I see here, even more than their stone-age arrangement skills, is that the Belfast Gypsies simply have no idea what their limitations are, and therefore make complete asses of themselves when they decide to increase their 'range' beyond merely aping Them. They set themselves up for inevitable failure by covering John Lee Hooker's 'Boom Boom' in a way similar to, but godawfully worse than the well-known Animals version of a couple of years before. Even worse is their insistence on attempting to Dyanize their lyrics, which in a sense is very much similar to how Mike Tyson uses a thesaurus. Why write a normal, human love song with normal, human love song lyrics about sunshine and slow dancing when you can make some nasty perversion called 'Last Will and Testament' that encourages no feelings save nausea, or a cheap ripoff version of Dylan's paranoid schizophrenic blues predictably called 'Secret Police' and filled with impressionistic lyrics so convoluted he may as well be reading random phrases out of On the Road (and just might be, for all I know). Dylan's lyrical style was so unique and fraught with potential pitfalls (which the Gypsies never fail to fall into, one and all) that anyone, and I mean anyone, who tries to emulate it gets burned to a crisp every time. Hell, these guys are so incompetent they can't even make Dylan's own work (a cover of 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue', yet another do-you-really-think-we're-that-stupid moment since Them themselves did a light-years superior version the year before) sound decent.
Oh, and the vomitessently titled 'Aria Of the Fallen Angels' is a shameless burglary of 'Whiter Shade of Pale', except with a men's choir backing that sounds like they just escaped from recording the soundtrack to Spartacus, the opening (!) 'Gloria's Dream' is no less than a shitheap junkyard rewrite of 'Gloria', and 'Portland Town' similarly takes the Byrds and virtually rapes their sound. 'Portland' is one of those unnaturally earnest, unintentionally hilarious folk-rock tunes that revels in listing every misery and whine experienced in a lifetime of depressing greyness, as if we're supposed to somehow come down off our high horses and feel pity, when in reality death seems like a nice, fuzzy alternative to the baby-dying, marriage-destroying dead-ender life the guy leads "In Portland Town" (each and every line ends with that phrase). What about some more misfortune and pain? Let's make up our own lines - like, f'r instance, where are the unfortunate venereal diseases? What about selling one of your kids for food? A nice house fire or slaughterhouse accident would sure spice up this one. Listen, wading through the number of times the Belfast Gypsies make complete ass-hats of themselves on this record is like watching Tom run around trying to catch Jerry and stepping on the same rake six or seven times. It stops being funny not long after you see it the first time. By the third or fourth you get bored, and by the fifth, you turn it off. One last question I'm sure no one in their right mind will be able to answer - why, pray tell, are there THREE songs that use the exact same Bo Diddley beat on this record? What, did your guitar player not learn his second chord yet when you started recording?
This is mercifully the last time we have to hear from the Belfast Gypsies, as they broke up before this album was even released. One can only hope they retired to quiet, music-free lives in Northern Ireland, or else got intentionally blown up by an IRA bomb after ruining several other cover songs at some gig. One can only hope.
What, not all Brit Invasion stuff was decent? Some of it was absolute horse snot? Call this review a wake-up call to the deaf-eared cultists.
Capn's Final Word: Truly schizoid mix of the cutting edge hard pop of late 1965 and the dancehall R&B of the '64 days, but contains some heart-stoppingly great material.
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Now and Them - Tower 1967..
It should tell you exactly what the angle of my dangle is that I much prefer the group that retained the name Them to the one that merely put the word in big huge letters on their album cover. This Them also had no longer anything to do with Van Morrison, but while the Belfast Bedsores leaned on every last shred of Them's legacy to squeeze out the tiniest bit of recognition as being the true 'heirs', this group sounds nothing like the band that did 'Gloria' or 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue' (and by that I mean the Them Again version, and not the Them Belfast Gypsies version....holy fuck, this is harder to keep straight than Anne Heche at a Millionaire Dyke Convention). It's probably advisable just to treat this group as a completely different one anyway, since they seem to have no use whatsoever for R&B or garage rock. Instead, this hepster lounge swinger polyester blend of a rock 'n' roll band has bought into a sort of cross between cheapskate psychedelia ala a third-rate Strawberry Alarm Clock and good ol' fashioned Tom Jones crooning. They can't even make it a whole minute through the album without breaking out their first fuzztone guitar freakshow, and they seem to be way enamored with eastern-tuned drone rock like they probably heard on the Doors 'The End'. They're so much in love with this stuff they decide to pack on a ten-minute track of the stuff ('Square Room'), except leave out all of the crescendos and climaxes that made Jimbo's original so huh-huh-huh huge sounding. That and the reference to having sex with your mother after murdering your father and saying a quick 'Howdy-do!' to your sister. So it's a little dull and longish...it's also moody as hell, and this Them band sounds as professional as all you wanna be. Besides, it saves us from more of that hairy-chest go-go dance music that populates so much of the rest of the record, the stuff I simply just don't like no matter who does it. Songs like 'What's the Matter Baby'. 'Truth Machine', 'I Happen to Love You', and especially 'Come to Me' are the products of a rock band making music for people who are either afraid of or disdainful of real rock 'n' roll music, people a little too old to be sitting in the dirt at Monterrey watching Jimi barbecue a Strat, people who'd rather 'play' counterculture by growing sideburns, screwing in a pink-tinted lightbulb, and getting one of those little mini-skirted honeys into their bachelor pad for a little free love than actually do any serious dropping out. People, you know, who like lots and lots of horns and flute in their music, and not a lot of Negro jungle drumming like Van Morrison liked so much.
Funny thing is, no matter how much I don't really like the style they play in, they actually do it pretty well, far better than similar efforts I've heard from people like David Bowie, whose self-titled debut album is a complete and utter snickerfest as far as I'm concerned. Sure, it's kitschy, but the new Them singer does do this smarmy shtick with a fair amont of skill, the arrangements are sharp and (besides the 10 minute raga thingo) never get boring. Them sound enough like the Monkees on 'You're Just What I Was Looking For' and enough like they belong on Nuggets on 'Walking In the Queen's Garden' to make those songs a lot of fun, and what the hell, 'Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out' sounds almost like Nat Cole in comparison to the barn-burner version Eric Clapton would put out a few years later on Layla.
Which reminds me...why the FLIPPER FIN FUCK haven't I reviewed Layla yet? Goddamn, man, here I am spending three pages on Them albums no one will ever want to buy anyway, and I haven't even told everyone how Layla's really the only thing anyone needs out of the whole Earwhig Clap-tongue catalogue. What the fuck is wrong with me? Does it have anything to do with the fact that I used to pick large sheets of soft paint off the railing of the baby bed in my grandmother's house and eat it? It couldn't be that, could it? Could that have anything to do with the fact that I can't recite any of the alphabet past letter K? Huh....
Capn's Final Word: Groo-vay bay-bay. Not really my cuppa Gingko Tea, but maybe you'd like to listen to it while burning incense, reading your horoscope, and ordering Nudie pants out of the Montgomery Wards for Swingers catalogue.
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Time Out! Time
In For Them - Tower 1968
The worst thing about exciting cultural movements is not just that they attract bandwagon jumpers - it's the fact that most of those people who snatch onto the coattails of the real pioneers tend to talk a lot about what groovy shit is happening. While, say, the Beatles wrote evocative near-nonsense songs about holes in the Royal Albert Hall, the latter-day Them like to pretty much keep a running play-by-play commentary of the hippie movement. 'Changes! Changes! Changes are happening everywhere....it's in the air!'...yeah, whatever Paddy O' Leprechaun. No matter how much you El Lay your sound, you're still the same band who attached 'Here Comes the Night' to 60,000 volts of testosterone not three years before, and while Now and Them was cute in a sort of smarmy bachelor-pad way, this one is simply a depressing, poseurish mess. They've gone from coming across as, essentially, a bunch of little Austin Powers'-style bird-pulling, Martini-guzzling, velvet-wearing crooners nodding reluctantly at hippiedom, for the sole reason that they heard girls who take acid were easy, (which probably wasn't far from the truth) to guys so bent on clumsily proving their psychedelic credentials on every song they make the 60's-era Spinal Tap look like the 13th Floor Elevators. If you really just listed what each of the songs were about, you'd figure out that whomever the songwriter is, he's still the same hornball bachelor who was so hot-to-snot on the last album. Let's all Get Together. C'Mon Baby, All We Need To Do Is Love And Everything Will Be Alright. Here, Take a Hit of My Joint and Tell Me You Don't Feel The Love Is Around Us. Hey, Maybe You Just Need Another Hit. Wow, My Perception Is Altered. Hey, baby, Why Won't You Love Me? There's Love All Around, Dammit! Don't You Feel It? What's Fucking Wrong With You, Bitch? Don't You Understand There's LOVE Goin' On Here? Okay, Go Then! I Was Just About to Hit the Road Again Anyway.
This album is really boring and really incompetent, managing to fall into each and every amateurish psychedelic pit that comes along. This is the kind of album that has a song ('Market Place') that starts out seemingly about buying drugs, but sadly ends up just being about how needy the singer is in a relationship, so much so he sounds like he might need a trained monkey to order around rather than, you know, a woman or whatever. The respectable swingin' loungey style of the last album is still perceptible, but it's all hidden under a fairly unattractive reverb-heavy mix and WAY too much fucking cheap fuzztone. Listen, guys, I'm a guitar player and I love them stompboxes, too. I have way too many of them and have spent an unconscionable amount of dough on 'em for what a shitty guitar player I really am. But even the most tone-deaf picker knows when there's too much goddamn buzzy noise eminating from the direction of the lead guitar.
Sigh. Dammit. I really don't like this album much. Maybe it's the fact that the lead singer, still busy doing a sort of warped Tom Jones/Bobby Darin impersonation, overdoes every note that comes out of his mouth as if it might be, just maybe, if we close our eyes and wish really, really hard...the mystical Lost Chord that will bring us all together and banish greed and hatred for all times. And I'm damn sure he feels that way about his stupid, obvious lyrics. There's also an irritatingly high level (which, for me, is close to any amount at all above zero) of gratuitous sitar. Maybe it was intended that would set a mood or something, but the sitar is played just as uninterestingly as anything else on the album, so who cares anyway? There's also allegedly a song that's like 19 minutes long or something else perverse like that, but I've never been able to download the whole thing (okay, I tried for about 5 minutes and gave up), but if it's anything like the first several minutes, or anything like any of the rest of this album, I'm not missing anything.
I'd like to reinforce this - Them after Van Morrison left sounds not one Tony Orlando like Them WITH Van Morrison. I would never, in good conscience and respect for my mental well-being, review a band that sounded like this if they hadn't had a glorious past behind them. So unless you dig psychedelic kitsch and have one monster of a high tolerance for smarmy, slimy crap, you should just seek out the two Morrison albums and forget these completely. Even if you are a vintage alarm clock collector or Liberace aficionado and DO fit the criteria above, you may not enjoy this album at all. Stick with Now and Them and consider getting yourself laid at least once in your miserable, flea-market tweed-suited life.
Capn's Final Word: The pop hooks evaporate, the judgement gets impaired, and we get some asshole expounding the lamer and more generalized facets of the hippie life for an eternity. Leave it lost. It ended up hidden under a rock for a good reason.
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Any Short Comments?: If you like either of the two post-Van Them albums that were on the Tower label -- and more recently reissued on CD by Rev-Ola, then you need "Of Them And Other Tales" by TRUTH, the band formed by Jim Armstrong, Ray Elliot and Kenny McDowell in 1969 after leaving the name "Them" to Alan Henderson's care.
To order, contact "Truth" c/o John Berg, P.O.Box 359,Lynnwood, WA 98046 USA Cost is 10 Pounds Sterling (cash or IMO) including postage to Europe, or $15.00 (cash or postal money order) including postage within North America.
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