"The Complete Them (1964-1967)"

(Legacy); Pop

By ​Phil ​Bennett

This fabulous, bulky 3 disc set contains all the songs recorded for the first two albums that this fiery Belfast outfit released - The Angry Young Them and Them Again as well singles, demos, outtakes and other goodies.

And these are the recordings that mattered as they were the ones that featured that bristling old man of Celtic Soul, Sir George Ivan Morrison Jnr OBE, otherwise known as Van the Man, or simply Van Morrison.

These recordings give little indication of the direction he would take for his 40 year solo career - there is no stream of conscious, jazz inflected vocal meanderings, no Celtic musings, no middle of the road sweetness. What we have instead is a gritty snapshot of one of Ireland’s best blues/R&B shouters backed by a band burning with the fire and ambition a group of youths who know there must be more out there.

Compare his performance of Just A Little Bit with Eric Burdon’s and Van leaves his contemporary in a cloud of dust, even against a singer of Burdon’s stature.

Or take a title like Mystic Eyes. On a Van Morrison album, one imagines a dreamy excursion on his sweetheart’s soul windows over a repeated two chord groove, held in place by a chorus and Van Morrison’s ability to bend the song every which way but tight. Instead we get a pile driving, Bo Diddley bastardisation with wailing harp, wandering bass, stinging guitar licks, and a voice rambling about nothing in particular but with the conviction and bluntness of an overfamiliar barfly.

From the overanxious Don’t Start Cryin’ Now with its mad organ solo and the primitive, throbbing One Two Brown Eyes to the barely controlled Baby Please Don’t Go and the staple of every cover band for the last 40 years, Gloria, these recordings are prime slices of visceral, optimistic fortitude - all wide eyed idealism, unbridled energy and acne.

Fans of Them will love the outtakes and live rarities, the casual listener will enjoy the opportunity to explore their output, while the uninitiated will listen open mouthed to the sheer rawness of it all.


​Phil ​Bennett

Musician, actor, singer, music reviewer, Phil’s interests cover a lot of bases and this is reflected in the music he writes about. From blues to soul, ambient to electronic, Phil writes about artists he feels are interesting, true to their craft and worthy of your ears.