Them [1970]

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Them's star attraction, Van Morrison, had been out of the group for four years by the time they released their self-titled sixth album in 1970, though when Them came out they barely qualified as a band -- bassist Alan Henderson was the sole holdover from the original lineup, and the only other member cited was American session musician Jerry Cole, who played guitar and drums as well as handling lead vocals. The tough blues-influenced rock of Them's early sides had been replaced a by a psychedelic-tinged garage sound, and the fuzzy report of Cole's guitar and the fevered (if somewhat mannered) sneer of his voice made for a better-than-average slice of West Coast studio-centric garage howling, though 1970 was pretty late in the game for this sort of stuff. Rumor has it that Ry Cooder and Jack Nitzsche are among the sessionmen helping out on this set, but if this is true neither brought their A-game to the studio for this project. The performances are pretty straightforward stuff, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with the execution, Them has the inescapable feel of a rush job, especially since it clocks in at under 29 minutes and features a whopping two original songs from Cole, no songwriting credits for Henderson, and covers of hits by the Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett, and the Beau Brummels. If Them had been some budget-priced throwaway project from a handful of L.A. studio cats, it might qualify as a pleasant surprise, but as a latter-day release from one of the better bands of the British Invasion era, it's competent fun but wildly disappointing.

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