THEM - Now-And 'Them' (1968) & Time Out! Time In For Them (1969)
The average '60s rock fan should be aware of this vital fact about Now & Them right away: This is not the version of the band that is most familiar, with Van Morrison on lead vocals. In fact, Morrison does not appear at all on this album, the first of the obscure LPs recorded by a reorganized Them after Morrison's departure for a solo career. For that simple reason, it cannot be compared to Them's previous recordings, either in quality or in style. Getting beyond that, it's not a bad record, though not a particularly good one, and pretty lacking in consistent direction. Perhaps because this was recorded in Hollywood (where Them was based at the time), it has a surprisingly American sound in many places. Yet their new sound, whatever it was, didn't coalesce, and the record seemed almost the work of several bands rather than one. There was fairly hard-nosed British R&B in the cover of John Mayall's "I'm Your Witch Doctor," American-styled blue-eyed soul on the cover of Timi Yuro's "What's the Matter Baby," bubblegummy psych-pop on "Truth Machine," echoes of the Monkees and the Association on "You're Just What I Was Looking for Today," a muted "Gloria" rewrite on "Dirty Old Man (At the Age of Sixteen)" (whose Strawberry Alarm Clock-like harmonies dilute the original arrangement, cut by the group slightly earlier on a non-LP single), disposable jazz-blues on "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out," Standells-styled garage rock on "Walking in the Queen's Garden," and an inferior cover of "I Happen to Love You" (done better by both the Myddle Class and the Electric Prunes). The big problem, however, was that the group simply did not have a lead singer miles within Van Morrison, nor did they write original material miles within what Morrison penned for the earlier Them records. For all that, it does contain one nice, lengthy, haunting raga rock piece, "Square Room," undoubtedly the most original work on the record, and the album's highlight. The 2003 CD reissue adds mono single mixes of "Walking in the Queen's Garden" and "I Happen to Love You" as bonus tracks.
Them's second post-Van Morrison album, even more than their first such effort (Now & Them), grew further away from their mid-'60s style, to the point where there were few audible links to how Them sounded in the British Invasion era. And like Now & Them, it was an intermittently worthwhile but somewhat characterless record, reflecting late-'60s trends in album-oriented rock without adding much to them or innovating paths of their own. It was even more Los Angeles-psychedelia-influenced than their prior LP, taking the lead of Now & Them's strongest cut ("Square Room") to explore sitar-laden raga-rock on several songs. "Time Out for Time In" adds a nice waltz overlay to the raga-rock sound, but "Black Widow Spider" and "Just on Conception" frankly live up to the stereotypes of "oh wow!" hippie-trippy word soups from the era. So does "The Moth," but at least there some Roger McGuinn-like vocals and dreamy orchestration add spice. Other songs are competently done but nonstandout heavy soul rock, with "She Put a Hex on You" sounding right off the cutting room floor of a 1968 psychedelic dance rock club movie scene; you can just see the bandana-swathed babe from central casting gyrating as the strobe lights flash. "Waltz of the Flies," the best song, is indeed a beguiling psychedelic waltz, and Jim Armstrong's guitar work throughout is far more instrumentally accomplished than what you'll hear on many similar albums. Yet the record's not in the same league as either the Van Morrison-era Them or the better psychedelic/raga-rock endeavors of the late '60s. The 2003 Rev-Ola CD reissue adds eight bonus cuts (all taken from 45s) of value to anyone interested in the post-Van Morrison Them, including the non-LP single "Corinna"/"Dark Are the Shadows," the rare original single version of the punky "Dirty Old Man" (which is superior to the one on Now and Them), and the rare original 45 version of "Square Room" (which isn't as good as, and is much shorter than, the one on Now and Them).
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