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Them - Them In Reality

Them - Them In Reality

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Title:  Them In Reality
Company: Happy Tiger
Catalog: HT 1012
Year: 1971
Country/State: Belfast, Ireland / US
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

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 ...)

- As mentioned above, the album led off with a 'grudged-up' remake of 'Gloria'. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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'. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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).  rating: **** stars.  

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.

"In Reality" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Gloria (Van Morrison) - 6:00
2.) Baby Please Don't Go (Big Joe Williams) - 4:43
3.) Laugh - 2:59
4.) Let My Song Through (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 2:32

(side 2)
1.) California Man (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 2:06
2.) Lessons of the Sea (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 3:40
3.) Rayn (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 2:45
3.) Back In the Country (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 3:24
4.) Can You Believe (Jim Parker - John Stark) - 2:40
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