Them: The Complete Them – 1964-1967

Them_CompleteThemThe complete Them with Van Morrison

It’s tempting to see Them primarily as a launching pad for Van Morrison, and though anyone who saw them live or heard these early singles would quickly zero in on Morrison, the band’s tight, tough sound was as essential to framing Morrison’s vocals as Morrison’s vocals were to defining Them. Though not a huge commercial success in the U.S., cracking the Top 40 only twice with “Here Comes the Night” and “Mystic Eyes,” the band still had a lasting impact on American music. In addition to their iconic cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go” (a single that failed to crack the stateside Top 100 but remains as familiar as if it had), Morrison’s original “Gloria” proved to be one of the foundational pillars of garage and punk rock.

Sony’s three-CD set gathers together all of the material recorded for their first two albums, Angry Young Them and Them Again, non-LP singles and EPs, and adds a large helping of demo tracks, live recordings and alternate takes. In the process the set provides a huge helping of crisply remastered mono originals and introduces a few new stereo sides on disc three. Some will be disappointed that true stereo mixes weren’t used everywhere they were available, but mono is what just about everyone heard in the mid-60s, and the punch of these mixes makes the band sound all the more visceral. Neither Morrison nor the band ever seem to lose steam, even when the tempo slows they remain ferocious, and their mix of original and cover material is seamless.

The three discs come packed in a four-panel digipack with a 16-page booklet that includes newly written notes from Morrison. The return to the original mono master tapes undoes some of the changes brought by 1997’s The Story of Them; the earlier collection is worth hanging onto for its true stereo mixes, but it’s no substitute for the original mono sides presented here. Add in the demos, alternate and live tracks featured on this set’s third disc (including “Mighty Like a Rose,” which was omitted from the 1997 set), and this compilation becomes an essential addition to any Van Morrison fan’s collection. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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