Them (1969)

Kronomyth 5.0

The Strange Sensation of Being Swallowed Whole by Happy Tigers

Ruff passage on the high seas of music. That would describe the journey of Them to date. They had been an R&B phenomenon from Northern Ireland, a psychedelic rock band and, now, an acid rock band featuring only one original member (Alan Henderson) and American studio musicians.

In reality, the release of another Them album was a happy accident. Producer Ray Ruff had just launched a new label with L.A. session player par excellence Jerry Cole, Happy Tiger. One of their first orders of business was to revive the storied, star-crossed Them by tying Cole to the mast as the band’s new singer/guitarist. Cole apparently played the drums too (the album’s liner notes are less than forthcoming) and writes the album’s two lone original songs, “Memphis Lady” and “I Keep Singing.” If you’re looking for the obligatory Gloria rewrite, you’ll find it on their cover of Charlie Rich’s “Lonely Weekends,” which sounds nothing like the original.

Cole and Ruff display a penchant for Elvis-influenced artists (Charlie Rich, Buddy Knox, Chad Garrett), filtering the material through the lurid lens of fuzzed-up guitars and bass. It’s an odd amalgam of old and new, none of it relevant to the history of Them to date. The music isn’t poorly played—in fact, it seems that some of Cole’s high-profile session mates, such as Ry Cooder, Jack Nitzsche and Billy Preston, may have helped in the making of Them—but it is all over the place.

If I don’t find the attempt to capitalize on Them’s brand as off-putting as, say, Velvet Underground’s Squeeze (and I don’t), it’s only because I had less skin in Them. Personally, I would pursue the Belfast Gypsies elpee before tracking down this tiger, as that album at least sounds like the original Them. This album is just another non sequitir in a conversation that most people tuned out after Van Morrison left the room. There are some interesting songs on here, such as their reworking of the Beau Brummels’ “Just A Little” and a faithful cover of the Stones’ “I Am Waiting.” Yet the album feels more like a Jerry Cole vanity project than a proper followup to anything in Them’s catalog. People paid Cole to play guitar, not to sing, and it’s not hard to hear why; as a singer, he’s only slightly more effective than other guitarists (e.g., Dave Davies of The Kinks).

You would think this the final ignominy Them would suffer but, no, Happy Tiger would trot out the band one last time (now minus Cole) to exhume their original hits in acid-rock renditions for one last, ghoulish dance on Them In Reality. (Their bewildering album titles may be the lone consistent feature over their career.)

Original LP Version
A1. I Keep Singing (Jerry Cole) (4:25)
A2. Lonely Weekends (Charlie Rich) (2:33)
A3. Take A Little Time (Ron Joelson) (2:14)
A4. You Got Me Good (Shawn Rudd) (2:30)
A5. Jo Ann (Buddy Knox/Vance Smith) (2:55)
B1. Memphis Lady (Jerry Cole) (3:00)
B2. In The Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett/Steve Cropper) (2:46)
B3. Nobody Cares (Bob Duncan/Chad Garrett) (2:46)
B4. I Am Waiting (Mick Jagger) (3:24)
B5. Just A Little (Ron Elliott) (1:54)

The Players
Jerry Cole (lead vocals, guitar), Alan Henderson (bass) with uncredited studio musicians. Produced by Ray Ruff.

The Pictures
Photography by Rusty Miller, Peter Whorf. Album design by See/Heart.

The Plastic
Released on elpee in 1969 in the US (Happy Tiger, HT-1004).

  1. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2013 in the UK (Relics, RELCD3024).

2 thoughts on “Them (1969)

  1. Hi Dave, I’m new to your work so I figured I’d say hello as a preface to any remarks.

    I happened upon your site through looking up this very album. In a way, I’m a refugee from George Starostin’s dormant pages, having followed him for well over a decade. From my initial browse here, I appreciate your detailed, even-keeled approach, clean formatting, and – peculiar to my fancies – your use of a Highway Gothic inspired font. (However I can’t quite decipher the Kronomyth.)
    Them – Them (1969)
    Listening on original vinyl: HT 1004.

    Anachronistic acid-garage rock. Fuzzed out but lacking sonic definition or any common thread of purpose linking the tracks. I Keep Singing (A1) opens with a mood of good-time, shaggy-grooved bliss that is entirely undeserved and unconvincing; indeed a non-sequitur that I recoil from immediately. The B-side offers some initial relief as Memphis Lady (B1) stands out merely for containing the usual rhythmic slop within a structured pocket.

    Them’s under-arranged, thin production doesn’t help disguise what I perceive as a dishonest, inconsistent pathos. Anything Cole & co. attempt here can be found elsewhere, often years earlier and with more refined commitment. Blue Cheer for stone heavies; Flamin’ Groovies for retro camp; The Chambers Brothers for propulsive acid-soul or Steve Marriott’s Small Faces for limey freakbeat. Consider Cole’s obviously put-on ruralisms in Nobody Cares (B3) against what CCR was doing contemporaneously with such motifs. His affect is simply offensive.

    Them mistakes dilettantism for diversity and deserves a hard pass.

    1. Hi, Zach. Thanks for sharing your take on Them. I really enjoyed George’s recent, longer-form reviews and was sad to see he had taken a hiatus, but I totally understand that time is a liquid commodity and the affairs of life a thirsty infant. My interests actually lie more in the discographical detail; the reviews are hardly authoritative (in fact, it’s only a glitch with one of the plug-ins that keeps my name on them). As for the Kronomyth, yeah, I have no idea what that one is about either. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, the old Mark Prindle site is a lot of fun (and the way I found George’s site).

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