Tuesday, 4 September 2018
Them - Them Again (1966)
Released January 1966
Them's second album, and last with Van Morrison, saw the group in a sort of state of flux, with members coming and going. Morrison was the constant at the time, and the album is basically a vehicle for his increasing developing voice and persona.
The album is more of the same straight up r 'n' b that we got on the debut album, but here the group are forging more of their own sound, as opposed to sounding just like the early Rolling Stones or The Animals. "Could You Would You" (later covered by Willy De Ville), is a good example of Them having their own, more unique sound. "Something You Got" continues in that vein too, featuring saxophone, which was something many of the other contemporary r 'n' b groups did not do. "Call My Name", though, it has to be said, is very Animals-like. "Turn On Your Love Light" has Morrison in complete control, vocally, on an upbeat number, while "I Put A Spell On You" saw Morrison ploughing the jazz blues furrow that would serve him so well. Many other groups didn't tackle this sort of material. Morrison was prepared to go down the jazz/saxophone/laid-back blues route and he developed his own identity in doing so.
"I Can Only Give You Everything" employs a fuzzy, Stonesy riff and has Morrison in Jagger-esque vocal mode. It even has a lyric that echoes "Satisfaction" in the repeated "I try, I try" bit. "My Lonely Sad Eyes" has hints of The Stones' "Ride On Baby", but Morrison's voice is so good on this one that he makes it his own. Ray Charles' "I Got A Woman" is another pointer to the sort of jazzy blues that Them liked to cover. They do it energetically too. "Out Of Sight" is a slab of rock 'n' roll blues. Again, Morrison makes this his own, enhancing it with some great saxophone. The lively, jazzy influence can be heard again on the infectious "Hello Josephine" and the smoky, piano-driven "Don't You Know".
Their Dylan cover, "It's All Over Now Baby Blue", is so good as to be almost definitive. "Bad Or Good" is a lively bit of rhythmic, singalong r 'n' b. You get the picture by now. The rest of the album follows the same path. One notable exception is the floaty, jazzy blues of "Hey Girl" on which the flute is used. This is the first direct antecedent of the sort of thing that would appear on Morrison's "Astral Weeks" album two years later.
In fact, the two tracks I haven't mentioned are the standard r 'n' b of "How Long Baby" and the effervescent jazzy rock of "Bring 'Em On In", which has Morrison singing in that ad hoc style that sees him controlling the band, effortlessly. Something we would come to know and love over the many subsequent years.