The Them – Now And Them (1967): Forgotten Series

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Not many people realize that the Them carried on after lead singer Van Morrison left for a solo career in 1966. A string of successive singles, along with four studio albums, may not have fared well in the sales department, but such endeavors were actually quite good and deserved a far better fate.

The Irish band’s first Van-less album, Now And Them (Tower Records) offers an impressive hodgepodge of styles that bear only fleeting resemblances to the grizzled blues rock they were previously associated with.

Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes in length, the Them’s “Square Room” guides the listener through a psychedelic voyage devised of tipsy sitar sensations, lolling rhythms and a chant-infected narrative, while Them further embraces their inner surrealism on “Truth Machine,” which swoops and sweeps with dreamy atmospherics and naval-gazing type lyrics.

Flush with a raw and alive feel, the jaunty “Walking In The Queen’s Garden” and the twisted bite of “Dirty Old Man (At The Age Of Sixteen)” seethe with garage rock finesse, and covers of Jimmy Cox’s “Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out” and John Mayall’s “I’m Your Witchdoctor” touch base on the Them’s blues roots.

Plush and polished harmonies, supported by a clean and tidy delivery altogether, make up a striking treatment of Timi Yuro’s “What’s the Matter Baby,” where a dark and yearning mood sets the wheels in motion on a reading of Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “I Happen to Love You” that was also relayed to vinyl by the Myddle Class and the Electric Prunes.

Due to its promiscuous play of genres and rather contrived presentation, the Them’s Now And Them occasionally sounds like an exploitation album. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering how catchy the songs are. Strewn with nagging hooks, strong arrangements and frequently fascinating flourishes, Now And Them warrants praise for the Them on both an audio and visual level.

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