Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1964)

- Billy Harrison -- lead guitar, backing vocals

- Alan Henderson (RIP 2017) -- bass

- Ronnie Millings -- drums

- Van Morrison -- vocals, harmonica, sax

- Eric Wrixon (RIP 2015) -- piano, harmonica


  line up 2 (1964-65)

- Billy Harrison -- lead guitar, backing vocals

- Alan Henderson (RIP 2017) -- bass

NEW - Jackie McAuley -- keyboards (replaced Eric Wrixon)

NEW - Pat McAuley -- organ, drums (replaced  Ronnie Millings)

- Van Morrison -- vocals, harmonica, saxophone


  line up 3 (1965)

NEW - Pete Bardens -- keyboards (replaced Jackie McAuley)

- Billy Harrison -- lead guitar, backing vocals

- Alan Henderson -- bass

- Van Morrison -- vocals, harmonica, saxophone

NEW - John Wilson -- drums (replaced Pat McAuley)


  line up 4 (1965-66)

NEW - Jim Armstrong -- lead guitar (replaced Billy Harrison)

NEW - Ray Elliott -- keyboards, sax (replaced Peter Bardens)

- Alan Henderson -- bass

- Van Morrison -- vocals, harmonica, sax

- John Wilson -- drums 


  line up 5 (1966)

- Jim Armstrong -- lead guitar 

- Ray Elliott -- keyboards, sax

- Alan Henderson -- bass

- Van Morrison -- vocals, harmonica, sax

NEW - Terry Noone -- drums, percussion (replaced John Wilson)


  line up 6 (1966)

- Jim Armstrong -- lead guitar 

- Ray Elliott -- keyboards, sax

NEW - Dave Harvey -- drums, percussion (replaced Terry Noone)

- Alan Henderson -- bass

- Van Morrison -- vocals, harmonica, sax


  line up 7 (1967-68)

- Jim Armstrong -- lead guitar 

- Ray Elliott -- keyboards, sax, flute

- Dave Harvey -- drums, percussion 

- Alan Henderson -- bass

NEW - Ken McDowell -- vocals (replaced Van Morrison)


  line up 7 (1968-69)

- Jim Armstrong -- lead guitar 

- Dave Harvey -- drums, percussion

- Alan Henderson -- bass

- Ken McDowell -- vocals 


  line up 8 (1969-70)

NEW - Jerry Cole -- vocals, guitar (replaced Ken McDowell)

- Alan Henderson -- bass


  line up 9 (1971)

- Alan Henderson -- bass 

NEW - Jim Parker -- lead guitar 

NEW - John Stark -- drums, percussion


  line up 10 (1979)

NEW - Mel Austin -- vocals

NEW - Billy Bell -- drums, percussion

NEW - Billy Harrison -- lead guitar

- Alan Henderson -- bass 

NEW - Eric Wrixon (RIP 2015) -- keyboards, harmonica


  supporting musicians (1978-79)

- Rainer Bach -- pedal steel guitar

- Brigitte Blunck -- backing vocals
- Antje Busch -- backing vocals

- Roy Dyke -- percussion

- Waldemar Erbe -- trombone

- Herb Geller -- sax

- Bob Lanse -- trumpet

- Rale Oberpichler -- backing vocals




l (drums, 1979)

Armageddon (James Parker and  Johnny Stark)

- The Banshees (Mel Austin)

- Peter Bardens (solo efforts)

- Belfast Gypsies (Jackie McAuley and Patrick McAuley)

- Camel (Peter Bardens)

- Jerry Cole (solo efforts)

- Bill Harrison (solo efforts)

- Alan Henderson (solo efforts)

- The Illusions (James Parker and Johnny Stark)

- The Kitchen Cinq (James Parker and  Johnny Stark)

- Light (Jim Armstrong)

- Mad Lads (Kenny McDowell)

- The People (Eric Wixon)

- Simon Stokes Nighthawks (Robert Ledger)

- Stud (John Wilson)

- Taste (John Wilson)

- Thin Lizzy (Eric Wixon)

- Truth (Alan Henderson)

- The Wheels (Eric Wrixon)

- John Wilson (solo efforts)

- The Y'Alls ( Alan Henderson, James Parker and Johnny Stark)




Genre: rock

Rating: ***** (5 stars)

Title:  Now and "Them"

Company: Tower

Catalog: ST 5104

Year: 1968

Country/State: Belfast, Ireland / US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring and edge wear; minor soiling on white areas; plays wonderfully

Available: SOLD 

Catalog ID: SOLD 5970

Price: SOLD $170.00


In the wake of an extended American tour that left the band exhausted, things turned increasingly nasty. Unhappy with Decca Records and Phil Soloman's heavy handed management style, Van Morrison tendered notice, returning to Ireland where he spent some time relaxing and playing with friends, before accepting an offer from Bert Berns to relocate to the States and start a solo career.  The McAuley brothers promptly hit the road with their own version of Them, which after some legal proceedings over rights to the 'Them' name, quickly mutated into The Freaks of Nature and then The Belfast Gypsies.

Amidst the ongoing confusion and legal wrangling lead guitarist Jim Armstrong, keyboard player Ray Elliott, drummer Dave Harvey and bassist Alan Henderson elected to continue the band.  Recruiting former Mad Lads singer Kenny McDowell to fill Morrison's shoes, they started looking for a new manager, eventually asking American Ray Ruff to take the job.  Originally uninterested in the job, Henderson eventually convinced Ruff to reconsider and in late 1967 he (Ruff) paid to have the revitalized line up relocate to Los Angeles.  Under Ruff's tutelage the quintet released the single 'Walking In the Queen's Garden' b/w 'I Happen To Love You' on Ruff Records (Ruff catalog number RR-1086). 


While the single did little in terms of sales, it attracted the attention of Capitol's Tower subsidiary, which quickly signed the band to a contract. 


Produced by Ruff, the band made their Tower label debut with 1968's "Now and Them".  While McDowell lacked Morrison's unique chops, he proved an excellent replacement, his voice more flexible and varied than the former.  Even though it offered up a weird and unfocused mix of R&B ('Witch Doctor'), blue-eyed soul ('What's the Matter Baby') and psychedelic ('You're Just What I Was'), musically the set was nothing short of great.  Earlier albums frequently sounded like Van Morrison and backing band, but this time out the collection sounded much more like a true band collaboration.  The set was also interesting in that it sounded very much like a Southern California band rather than a bunch of Belfast toughs.   Highlights included the previously released raunchy garage rocker 'Walking In the Queen's Garden', the Monkees wannabe pop track 'You're Just What I Was', and the extended raga influenced 'Square Room'.  Curiously, one of the tracks listed on the liner notes 'Looking for Today' was inexplicably pulled from the set prior to release.  


"Now and Them" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Witch Doctor   (John Mayall) - 2:33  rating: *** stars

In spite of the oddball intro sound effects, the band's cover of John Mayall's 'Witch Doctor' wasn't a major departure from their R&B roots.  Powered by Alexander's fuzz guitar and Elliott's organ, the track had a likeable blues vibe that served as a nice introduction to new vocals Ken McDowell without straying too far from a known quantity.  While McDowell's voice wasn't as instantly recognizable as Morrison's, he acquitted himself well on the song, meshing nicely with the band's taunt performance.

2.) What's the Matter Baby   (Otis - Beyer) - 2:45  rating: ***** stars   

'What's the Matter Baby' found the band diving enthusiastically into blue-eyed soul.  Complete with horns, the band sounded like they were having a blast. Hard to imagine Van Morrison-era Them with a smile on their collective faces. Simply a killer song !   

3.) Truth Machine   (L. Thornton) - 2:05   rating: ** stars 

The first mild disappointment, 'Truth Machine' was an okay song, but the performance came off as a tad safe and middle-of-the-road-ish.  Nice melody and backing vocals, but the overall feel was like something that had been thrown together for one of those 'hip' party scenes in a mid-1960s television show.

4.) Square Room   (Them) - 9:51  rating: ***** stars   

Opening up with a blast of feedback that launched into a droning, raga influenced Alexander solo, 'Square Room' was easily the album's most interesting and impressive performance.  Stretched out over nine minutes it was a bit long, but the Indian-influenced trance moves made for a great slice of mid-1960s psychedelic - certainly unlike anything you'd ever heard from Them.   McDowell's acid drenched vocals (impossible to image Morrison having been able to pull this one off), Elliott's flute solo (you won't see ms praise a flute solo very often), and Alexander's guitar/sitar work (especially towards the end of the song) were uniformly impressive.  Very much a timepiece, but what a cool song and I'd have no problem putting it on a list of Them's top-5 performances.   


(side 2)

1.) You're Just What I Was Looking for Today   (Gerry Goffin - Carole King) - 2:55   rating: ***** stars

Offering up a nifty mix of jangle guitars, sweet harmony vocals, a couple of lysergic touches, and an insidiously catchy melody, at least to my ears 'You're Just What I was Looking for Today' sounded like a Monkees track ...  by the way, that wasn't meant as a criticism.   Perhaps the album's most commercial offering, it would have made a dandy single.

-2.) Dirty Old Man (At the Age of Sixteen)   (T. Lane) - 1:44   rating: ***** stars

I have to admit that every time I hear 'Dirty Old Man (At the Age of Sixteen)' it brings a smile to my face.  The contrasts between the lyrics and the poppy Association-styled  backing vocals made the song all the funnier.  Another great performance and one of the set's most commercial numbers.    

3.) Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out   (Jimmie Cox) - 3:33   rating: ** stars 

The album's second disappointment, their cover of the Jimmie Cox chestnut 'Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out' was thoroughly forgettable.  Them blues remakes were usually had at least some passing interest, but this one was a total waste.  

4.) Walking In the Queen's Garden   (Them) - 3:02   rating: ***** stars

Previously released as a single, 'Walking In the Queen's Garden' was a fantastic throwback to their earlier R&B/garage sound.  Kicked along by Armstrong's meltdown guitar solo and Elliott's keyboards, the track sounded positively raw and dangerous compared to the rest of the album.  The perfect song for anyone who thought they'd lost their rock and roll edge.  Another one that would effortlessly go on my top-5 Them list.  

5.) I Happen To Love You   (Gerry Goffin - Carole King) - 2:52   rating: ***** stars

Previously released as a 'B' side, 'I Happen To Love You' offered up another slice of garage rock.  This one really sounded like a mid--1960s American garage band - echoes of The Electric Prunes, The Human Beinz, Shadows of the Knight, etc.  Another personal favorite.    

6.) Come To Me   (Them) - 2:20   rating: ***** stars

Supported by some breath taking Beach Boys-styled backing harmonies, 'Come To Me' was a surprisingly likeable ballad with McDowell turning in one of his best lead vocals.  Nice way to end the album.    


For a band that was just undergone major trauma with the loss of their front man and creative leader (Morrison), this was a pretty impressive comeback.  Most bands would have been hard pressed to deliver something this good on their best days.  Shame Tower didn't do anything to promote it ...  definitely an album that deserves the hype that surrounds it.  Perhaps my favorite post-Morrison release, the set sold next to nothing, making it a valued collector's item.


For diehard collectors, Tower also reissued the earlier single and a follow-up:




- 1968's 'Walking In the Queen's Garden' b/w 'I Happen To Love You' on Ruff Records (Tower catalog number 384)

- 1968's 'Square Room' b/w 'But It's Alright' (Tower catalog number 384)

Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Time Out!, Time In for Them

Company: Tower

Catalog: ST 5116

Year: 1968

Country/State: Belfast, Ireland / US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring and edge wear

Available: SOLD 

Catalog ID: SOLD 5971

Price: SOLD $250.00



Issued less than a year after the "Now and Them" set and in the wake of multi-instrumentalist Ray Elliott's departure, "Time Out! Time In for Them" was another strong effort.  Continuing their partnership with American producer Ray Ruff, the set found Them having fully reinvented themselves as a psychedelic outfit. Unless you knew they were Irish, there simply was no way you would have made the connection; the ten songs having a distinctive American feel.  Largely written by Tom Lane and Sharon Pulley (anyone know anything about the pair?), the album found Them apparently determined to kill off their earlier scruffy R&B image.  The resulting ten tracks melding trippy lyrics ('Waltz of the Flies' and 'The Moth'), raga influenced rhythm patterns ('Black Widow Spider' and 'Just One Conception'), tons of sitar (Time Out For Time In'), and fuzz guitar ('Young Woman') into a first- rate psych album.  Even more fascinating was the fact the results remained so commercial and catchy - check out 'We've All Agreed To Help').  The downside was that anyone who had latched onto the band for their R&B moves was going to be thoroughly disappointed by this set.  With the possible exception of the song '', nothing on this collection even remotely recalled that earlier sound.  Still, seldom have I seen a band so successfully reinvent itself.  Unfortunately, unlike it's predecessor, the album generated little attention and failed to chart. (This is another one listed in Hans Pokora's rarities series which seems fitting since I've only seen two copies in the last 20 years of collecting.)


"Time Out! Time In for Them" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Time Out For Time In   (Tom Lane - Sharon Pulley) - 2:52    rating: **** stars

Kicked along by Jim Alexander's electric sitar, ' Time Out For Time In' showcased an interesting blend of jazz and psychedelic moves.  That probably didn't sound like a great combination, but the hybrid was surprisingly inventive and attractive.  Sure, the lyrics sound dated, but the melody was quite intriguing ...  imagine The Association getting truly psychedelic and you'd have a vague feel for the song.

2.) She Put a Hex On You   (Tom Lane - Sharon Pulley) - 2:21    rating: **** stars

With Alexander contributing some tasty fuzz guitar, ' She Put a Hex On You' was a fantastic slice of blues-rock.  Nah, you weren't about to mistake it for something out of  the band's Van Morrison-era catalog. but the results were almost as good.   

3.) Bent Over You   (Tom Lane - Sharon Pulley) - 3:17   rating: **** stars

'Bent Over You' found the band taking a credible stab at conventional hard rock.  McDowell's voice proved surprisingly well suited to the genre; even if the overall performance sounded a little bit like a tougher version of 'American Woman'-era The Guess Who ...   Not to sound like a broken record, but Alexander's screeching lead guitar made the song.  Very nice.  

4.) Waltz of the Flies   (Tom Lane) - 2:21   rating: **** stars

Musically and lyrically the lysergic-tinged ' Waltz of the Flies' made for one of the album's more interesting songs ...  yes, the song actually was a waltz.  As for what the plotline was about ...  beats me though my guess is it had something to do with increased awareness while tripping on illicit substances.  Maybe McDowell was just interested in fly behavior ...  

5.) Black Widow Spider   (Tom Lane - Sharon Pulley) - 4:29    rating: **** stars

The psych and raga influenced ' Black Widow Spider' shifted the spotlight dead center to Alexander, who seemed intent on showing George Harrison wasn't the English guitarist who could master the sitar.  While it may not have been the most original song you've ever heard, you had to admire Alexander's performance.  I'm told sitar is extremely difficult to master and play, but Alexander managed to turn in one of the few true sitar solos I've ever heard on a rock song.   


(side 2)

1.) We've All Agreed To Help   (D. Dunn - T. McCashen) - 2:18   rating: **** stars

Side two started with what was probably the album's most conventional and commercial number; which probably explained why it was tapped as an instantly forgotten single.  With a bouncy melody and uplifting lyric the song actually had considerable radio appeal which probably explained why it disappeared in a heartbeat.  




- 1968's 'We All Agreed To Help' b/w ' Waltz of the Flies' (Tower catalog number 461

2.) Market Place   (Tom Lane - Sharon Pulley) - 3:02   rating: **** stars

Ah, time for a little bit of subtle social commentary ... well why not?  If you wanted to be taken as a serious act you had to have something to complain about.  That bit of cynicism aside, I have to admit I liked 'Market Place' quite a bit.  Great little rocker and lyrically it was just as good as 'Taxman'.

3.) Just One Conception   (Them) - 5:00   rating: ** stars

Opening up with sitar and tablas, 'Just One Conception' took awhile to get going ...  well to be honest it really didn't get going until the end when Alexander's sitar solo kicked it.  Basically an Indian inspired meditative drone, this one sounded like a third rate George Harrison outtake.  Give lead singer McDowell credit for giving it his all ...   The first real disappointment.

4.) Young Woman   (Tom Lane - Sharon Pulley) - 2:40   rating: **** stars

Powered by Alexander's squealing lead guitar, 'Young Woman' was as close as the band came to offering up a garage rocker.  With an engaging ominous edge (if you had a young daughter you probably didn't want McDowell near her), this one was fantastic.   

5.) The Moth   (Tom Lane - Sharon Pulley) - 3:20    rating: *** stars

Opening up with some nice mandolins, 'The Moth' took a sudden and unexpected turn into heavily orchestrated psychedelia with some suitably acid-tinged lyrics ...  stay away from the brown acid folks.  Another one with lyrics that haven't aged all that well, but certainly was cool from a nostalgia angle.   


Funny that my appreciation of this album has changed over the years.  At one time I rated it higher than "Now and Them", but now I'd be inclined to go the other way.  

The band also managed to release one final non-LP single for Tower before falling apart.  Both sides were great, making your wonder why they didn't make it on to one of the Tower albums.

- 1969's 'Dark Are the Shadows' b/w 'Corina' (Tower catalog number 493)





Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Them

Company: Happy Tiger

Catalog: HT 1004

Year: 1969

Country/State: Belfast, Ireland / US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap - opened

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5968

Price: $75.00


By 1970 Them's stock was in steep decline.  On the personnel front the band had imploded leaving bass player Alan Henderson standing as the lone link to the band's original Belfast roots.  On the business front things were equally unsettled with the band having been dropped by Capitol's Tower subsidiary, leaving them signed with the small California-based Happy Tiger label.  To his credit, for better or worse Henderson tried to keep the Them nameplate afloat via 1969's cleverly-titled "Them".   Produced by Ray Ruff, the album was recorded in L.A. with support from singer/guitarist Jerry Cole (replacing Ken McDowell) and an un-credited John Stark on drums. (Ry Cooder reportedly provided guitar on several tracks.) Even though the album sounded like it was recorded in a rush and with very little financing, musically the collection was surprisingly diverse and impressive. Admittedly, as lead singer Cole was an acquired taste, but his raspy voice, occasionally recalling AC/DC's Bon Scott (check out his performance on the rocker 'Jo Ann'), was well suited to the set's urgent, raw sound. Quite diverse, the track lineup included stabs at country ('Take A Little Time'), hard rock ('I Keep Singing') and the now-requisite psych ('Memphis Lady').


"Them" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I Keep Singing   (Jerry Cole) - 4:25   rating: **** stars     

The rocker 'I Keep Singing' was a strange way to kick off the album.  Penned by Cole, the song was a true musical smorgasbord of influences including tribal percussion, acid rock fuzz guitar, and throwaway lyrics that continually referenced 1950s rock chestnuts.  Maybe it's just my dead ears, but the song's always reminded me of what Bon Scott and AC/DC would have sounded like had they done a '60s cover album.  To its credit, powered by Cole's raspy voice and his fuzz leads the song actually generated quite a but of energy.  One that grows on you if given a chance ...

2.) Lonely Weekends   (Charlie Rich) - 2:33   rating: **** stars     


Their cover of Charlie Rich's 'Lonely Weekends' opened up with a funny little nod to Them's 'Gloria'.  Actually the famous 'Gloria' chord pattern formed the basis for the entire song.  Overlooking that blatant cop, showcasing some early synthesizer and Cole's raging guitar, this was another one that I've come to appreciate.  "Gloria, Part 2" ...  The track was tapped as the album's leadoff single:


- 1970's 'Lonely Weekends' b/w 'I Am Waiting' (Happy Tiger catalog number HT 525)



3.) Take A Little Time   (Ron Joelson)- 2:14  rating: ** stars     

The first disappointment, 'Take A Little Time' was an up tempo country-flavored number.  With Cole and Henderson sharing the lead vocals there really wasn't a great deal to this one - basically the title track repeated over and over with a standard, throwaway country melody.  Call it forgettable and move on.    

4.) You Got Me Good   (Shawn Rudd) - 2:30   rating: **** stars     

'You Got Me Good' was a delight for anyone who considers themselves to be a fuzz guitar aficionado.  I'm a huge fuzz guitar fan so hearing Cole cut loose on this one was a treat.  Nice rocker with a touch of Indian influence scattered across it.  One of the album highlights.    

5.) Jo Ann   (Buddy Knox - Vance Smith) - 2:55   rating: **** stars 

As mentioned earlier, Cole's voice wasn't instantly likeable. He had a tendency to get raspy and raw with at least a slight resemblance to AC/DC's Bon Scott and those characteristics were on full display of the rocker 'Jo Ann'.   I happen to be a big AC/DC fan to those characteristics didn't bother me.  Great rocker  which showcased Henderson's hyperactive bass as the lead instrument.  Shame the song faded out so quickly.  

(side 1)

1.) Memphis Lady   (Jerry Cole) - 3:00   rating: **** stars     

Hum, who would have ever guessed that blues-eyed soul and psych would make such a tasty hybrid?  Cole's blazing 'Memphis Lady' was easily another one of the album's highlights.  Hard to understand why it was relegated to the "B" side of the album's second single.  Bet van Morrison couldn't have done it better ...   

2.) In the Midnight Hour   (Wilson Pickett - Steve Cropper) - 2:46   rating: ** stars     

Given the Wilson Pickett original was a classic, any attempt to tamper with it was bound to be a disappointment.  Credit Cole and Henderson for trying to give the song a garage-fuzz sheen, but it just didn't do anything to improve on the original.  

3.) Nobody Cares   (B. Duncan - C. Garrett) - 2:46   rating: *** stars 

Imagine Bon Scott singing a Tony Joe White swamp rock song and you'll get a feel for 'Nobody Cares'.  If it sounded like a strange hybrid, it was ...  though the slide fuzz guitar was kind of cool.  The song was tapped as the album's second 45 (though I've only seen promo copies of the single).:

- 1970's 'Nobody Cares' b/w 'Memphis Lady' (Happy Tiger catalog number HT 534)

4.) I Am Waiting   (Mick Jagger) - 3:24   rating: **** stars     

While Cole's fuzz guitar was prominently featured, 'I Am Waiting' was the album's oddest effort.  The ballad simply didn't sound anything else on the album; instead having a distinctive 'British' feel - imagine The Stones circa 'Lady Jane' and you'll get a feel for the sound.  Cole clearly didn't handle the lead vocal, leading you to wonder if this was a number that had been salvaged from earlier recording sessions with former lead singer Ken McDowell.  Regardless, it was a nice performance and because it was so different, stood as one of the album highlights.     

5.) Just a Little   (Ron Elliott) - 1:54   rating: **** stars     

Written by former Them member Ron Elliott (the song was featured on 1965's "The Angry Young Them"), their remake of 'Just a Little' was actually surprisingly enjoyable.  Kicked along by Cole's fuzz and reverb powered guitar, this was one where the decision to 'toughen up' the song's already rugged structure paid off handsomely.  Again, the only criticism was that the song faded out way too early.  


Certainly not Them's finest moment, but a very nice late inning rebound and an album I return to time after time ...  Added bonus is that you can still find relatively affordable copies.




Genre: rock
Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Them In Reality

Company: Happy Tiger

Catalog: HT 1012

Year: 1971

Country/State: Belfast, Ireland / US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4199

Price: $250.00

Cost: $107.50


By 1971 Them had been reduced to a trio consisting of bassist Alan Henderson (the only original Them member), lead guitarist Jim Parker and drummer John Stark (all three had previously played in The Y'Alls, while Parker and Stark had been in The Kitchen Cinq and Armageddon).  


Recorded in Los Angeles, 1971's  "Them In Reality" found the group continuing their collaboration with producer Ray Ruff.  Anyone expecting a continuation of the psychedelic moves that marked the band's previous releases for Happy Tiger was in for a major shock.  Musically the set started out with a blast; in this case an extended, fuzz guitar powered cover of Them's own 'Gloria'.  While the remake may not have threatened Van Morrison's original, it boasted some killer lead guitar courtesy of Parker.  While some folks will certainly disagree, to my ears the band actually benefited from their new found direction.  With Parker and Stark writing most of the material, stripped of the elaborate production that characterized their last couple of releases, tracks such as 'Laugh' and 'Lessons of the Sea' found the trio turning in some roaring hard-rock sides.  This wasn't fancy, high-production material, rather had more in common with Them's original low-tech blues-rock moves.  Kudos to all three players.  Henderson wasn't the most subtle bassist you've ever heard, but he managed to hold his own on the collection.  Parker's growling vocals and sizzling lead guitar playing was simply amazing on material such as 'Baby Please Don't Go' and 'California Man'.  Finally, Stark's frenetic drumming recalled something out of the Keith Moon school of aural annihilation.  (Not to be snarky, but judging by the back panel photos these guys sure looked the part of a down-on-their-luck rock trio ...)


"In Reality" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Gloria   (Van Morrison) - 6:00   rating: **** stars

As mentioned above, the album led off with a 'grudged-up' remake of 'Gloria'.  Imagine AC/DC covering the tune and you'll get a feel for how hard this one punched.  From a marketing standpoint remaking the band's biggest hit was an odd choice and while their cover wasn't about to make you forget the hyper-speed Them original, kicked along by Parker's snarling fuzz lead guitar and leering vocals this version wasn't half bad.  I think Morrison himself would have approved of their stripped down, driving cover.   In fact, after the original and perhaps The Boots version, this was the version I'd reach for.

2.) Baby Please Don't Go   (Big Joe Williams) - 4:43   rating: **** stars

Also previously done by the Van Morrison-era band, their cover of Big Joe Williams 'Baby Please Don't Go' featured a loose and equally garage-ish sounding effort.  The track actually sounded like it was recorded during a studio session jam and once again Parker's slashing fuzz leads and Stark's wild drumming deserved special notice.  

3.) Laugh - 2:59   rating: **** stars

With a surprisingly catchy melody and some decent group harmonies, 'Laugh' was one of the album's more commercial offerings.  That wasn't to imply this was a slice of mindless top-40 pap.  Like the earlier tracks, this one was built on the combination of Henderson's pounding bass, Parker's wild guitar, and Starks' frenetic drum.  Hard to believe three guys could generate so much noise !!!  Great song.  

4.) Let My Song Through   (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 2:32   rating: **** stars

Penned by Parker and Stark, 'Let My Song Through' found the band adding a distinctive country-rock flavor to their attack.  While you wouldn't have thought country-rock would fit their sound very well, when packaged with some great slashing, wah-wah guitar and a catchy melody the results were quite impressive and while it may just be my damaged ears, every time I hear the song's opening chords it makes me think of Lynyrd Skynyrds' classic 'Sweet Home Alabama'.   


(side 2)
1.) California Man   (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 2:06   rating: **** stars

Powered by Henderson's rumbling bass, 'California Man' was easily the album's standout performance.  This one had everything needed for commercial success - great melody, fantastic vocals, and an enthusiastic performance. In fact the only complaint was that the song was simply too short.  Shame nobody paid any attention to it.  Curiously, the country twang has always reminded me of Paul McCartney and the backing harmonies were glorious.    

2.) Lessons of the Sea   (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 3:40   rating: *** stars

Another stab at a country-rock number, the mid tempo 'Lessons of the Sea' always reminded me of something The James Gang might have recorded.  Nice blend of melody and pounding rock with Henderson's fuzz bass again featured front and center.  

3.) Rayn   (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 2:45    rating: **** stars

My choice for second best performance, 'Rayn' really didn't sound all that different from other side two Parker and Stark compositions, but the mix of slashing guitar, rumbling bass, and wild drumming (Stark even got to turn in a brief solo), seldom sounded as good as on this tight little rocker.  

-3.) Back In the Country   (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 3:24   rating: *** stars

'Back In the Country' was another commercial rocker with a slight country-rock tinge.  Yeah, the anti-establishment, back-to-the-country lyrics sound a little dated, but so what ...  Always liked the stripped down harmony vocals.

4.) Can You Believe   (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 2:40   rating: **** stars

An atypical acoustic ballad with a spiritual lyric, 'Can You Believe' originally didn't do a great deal for me.  That said, Parker turned in a great acoustic guitar performance and the group lead vocals were simply dazzling.  I also have to admit the lyrics are quite thought provoking (even if you're not a believer).     


Yeah, this wasn't Van Morrison's Them which means it wasn't a true Them album in lots of peoples' minds, but overlooking that debatable issue, this remains a great Them release.  Simply one of my favorite, if least known early-1970s rock albums.   Unfortunately the set did little in terms of sales and didn't even see a release outside of the US.  That effectively ended Them until 1979 when Henderson reunited most of the original Them members (sans Van Morrison) for an instantly obscure, one shot reunion album.








Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Them Featuring Van Morrison

Company: London

Catalog: BP 71053-4

Year: 1973

Country/State: Belfast, Ireland / US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: double LP; minor ring and edge wear; gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 246

Price: $28.00


Since Van Morrison and Them's parted ways in 1967, reissues and compilation packages have become a cottage industry.  The first of an ongoing onslaught, 1973 saw London Records reissue the band's first two albums (less two tracks from each) as "Them, Featuring Van Morrison".  While the music was uniformly good, capturing the band at their most energetic, from a marketing standpoint it wasn't anything special and most true fans already owned the original studio sets.  Critic Lester Bangs contributed some interesting liner notes, but anyone looking for new material, or interesting odds and ends was going to be disappointed.  On the other hand, given the original studio LPs have become rather costly investments, this set is probably the place for the curious or casual fans to start. Certainly spurred on by Morrison's solo successes, the set sold well, reaching # 154. 

"Them, Featuring Van Morrison" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Could You Would You   (Van Morrison) - 3:05
2.) Something You Got   (Chris Kenner - Domino Jr.) - 2:31
3.) Turn On Your Lovelight   (Malone - Scott) - 2:20
4.) I Can Only Give You Everything   (Scott - Coutler) - 2:40
5.) My Lonely Sad Eyes   (Van Morrison) - 2:28

(side 2)

1.) Out of Sight   (Wright) - 2:21
2.) It's All Over Now Baby Blue   (Bob Dylan) - 3:48
3.) Bad On Good   (Van Morrison) - 2:07
4.) How Long Baby   (Gillon) - 3:38
5.) Bring 'em On In   (Van Morrison) - 3:44

(side 3)

1.) Gloria   (Van Morrison) - 2:38
2.) Here Comes the Night   (Bert Berns) - 2:45
3.) Mystic Eyes   (Van Morrison) - 2:41
4.) Don't Look Back   (Hooker) - 3:23
5.) Little Girl   (Van Morrison) - 2:21

(side 4)

1.) One More Time   (Van Morrison) - 2:47
2.) If Only You and I Could Be As Two   (Van Morrison) - 2:53
3.) I Like It Like That   (Van Morrison) - 3:35
4.) One Two Brown Eyes   (Van Morrison) - 2:39
5.) Route 66   (Troup) - 2:22




Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Shut Your Mouth

Company: Strand

Catalog: 6.23627

Year: 1979

Country/State: Belfast, Ireland / US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: German pressing; original lyric inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 31072

Price: $50.00



Geez, for a guy who loves Them, I hate to admit that it took me over thirty years to even know this album existed !!!  Admittedly you could debate whether 1979's "Shut Your Mouth" was a true Them LP.  Eight years had passed since their last studio album and a look at the players showed several members who had not played with the band in over a decade and a couple of new names.  Still, in genealogical terms I guess you could say it was a Them album since there were three original members in this line-up. It was a tentative linkage, but given the number of bands who continue their legacy without any original members ...


The final Them line-up reunited original Them members Bill Harrison (guitar), Alan Henderson (bass) and  Eric Wrixon (keyboards) with ex-The Banshees vocalist Mel Austin and drummer Billy Bell.  I've always wondered about the forces behind this late inning project.  Given the buying public's infatuation with disco, punk and new wave sounds, what was the driving force behind this project.  Released by the German Strand label, the album was recorded in Hamburg's TELDEC Studio with Frank Dostal producing.  As far as I can tell the album was never distributed in the UK or the States.  All of those factors may explain the set's limited distribution and the indifference afforded the album.  That lack of publicity was unfortunate.  Featuring new material from guitarist Bill Harrison and outside collaborator Collin Campbell, the collection marked a return to the band's no-frills bluesy roots.  While Austin may not have been Van Morrison, or even Jerry Cole, the man's rough and craggy voice was well suited for no-frills blues-influenced numbers like the opener 'Hamburg Connection', 'I'm a Lover - Not a Worker' and the country-rocker 'Firewater.'  Probably because it avoided the bluesy vibe prominent throughout the collection, 'Child of the Sixties' was the most interesting song for me.  Certainly not a spectacular album and won't even appeal to the majority of Them fans, but a pleasant and consistent way to end the band's legacy.


I always wondered if the little kid on the cover was chosen as a nod to Van Morisson.  The resemblance and take-no-shi* look on his face sure bore a resemblance to the band's former namesake.


The band undertook a brief German tour  before calling it quits.  Wrixon continued to mine the Them catalog fronting "Them the Belfast Blues Band" which occasionally included original Them guitarists Jim Armstrong and Billy Harrison. 


"Shut Your Mouth" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Hamburg Connection (Colin Campbell) - 4:00 rating: **** stars

Given the public's fascination with punk, new wave and disco, I'm thinking the bluesy 'Hamburg Connection' was hopelessly out of date.  Admittedly there wasn't anything original on this one, but the blue-collar, no-frills sound combined with Mel Austin's "hack up a lung" delivery was somehow refreshing to my ears.

2.) I'm a Lover - Not a Worker (Bill Harrison) - 2:42 rating: **** stars

Anchored by Alan Henderson's no frills bass, I've always loved the taunt bluesy melody on 'I'm a Lover - Not a Worker.'  Again, it wasn't as if you'd never heard a song like this before, but Austin's pedal-the-metal delivery and the band's take-no-prisoners backing made for a song that was hard to sit still through.

3.) Shut Your Mouth (Colin Campbell) - 2:56 rating: ** stars

Hum, I could picture the late Jerry Lee Lewis serving 'Shut Your Mouth' up.  Well, in this day and age the lyrics come off as extremely misogynist.  Docked a star for that reason and what appeared to be the sound of a gunshot at the end of the track.  Was that a voice-box effect of Harrison's guitar?  

4.) Needed On the Farm (Colin Campbell) - 3:49 rating: *** stars

The boogie-rocker 'Needed On the Farm' was cute, but lacked a single second of originality.

5.) Street Walking Lady (Colin Campbell) - 3:40 rating: ** stars

The plotline was as old as rock and roll and the melody was fifth generation country-rock. Pretty, but plodding.  Odd choice for a single, even if it was only released in Germany:





- 1978's 'Street Walking Lady' b/w 'Shut Your Mouth' (Strand catalog number 6.12.400)







6.) Firewater (Bill Harrison) - 2:17 rating: *** stars

A rollicking country-tinged rocker, 'Firewater' was side one's most "contemporary" sounding performance and would have made a better single than 'Street Walking Lady.'

(side 2)

1.) Child of the Sixties (Billy Harrison) - 2:50  rating: *** stars

'Child of the Sixties' might not have sounded out of place on one the band's two late-'60s psych tinged albums.  Not to sound snotty, but the song would have benefited from less of Wrixon's harmonica.

2.) Slow Down (Billy Harrison) - 2:50  rating: *** stars

The slinky blues-rocker 'Slow Down' has always reminded me of Steve Gibbons.  Since I like Steve Gibbons that was a good thing.

3.) Losing You (Billy Harrison - Colin Campbell) - 4:04  rating: *** stars

Stevie Ray Vaughan-styled electric blues.

4.) Weekend Entertainer (Colin Campbell) - 3:23  rating: *** stars

Settling into a breezy country-rock melody, 'Weekend Entertainer' was Austin's nicest vocal.  You got the feeling he wasn't trying to impress on this one. It might have been he also identified with the lyrics.

5.) Holy Roller (Colin Campbell) - 3:28 rating: **** stars

To my ears the revitalized Them was at their best when ditching the ballads and blues numbers for more upbeat tunes like 'Holy Roller.'  I also liked the mid-song change in tempo.

6.) Cincinnati Dice Man (Colin Campbell - Billy Harrison) - 4:09  rating: ** stars

'Cincinnati Dice Man' closed the album with a slice of Tony Joe White-styled swamp rock.  Austin's extended spoken word vamp went on way too long and ultimately the song just faded intoa forgetable jam, complete with German female backing singers.