Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Legacy/Sony Music 88875150542
Format: CD

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

When I was 12, two friends and I decided to start a rock’n’roll band. I had a cheap Woolworth guitar, my friend Brad played his brother’s set of Rogers drums, and his neighbor Kevin played a powder-blue Sekova hollow-body guitar. We didn’t have a bass player. The first song we learned had three chords. At that moment we joined kids around the world who, in the mid-to-late ’60s, were filling their parents’ basements and garages with the sound of “Gloria.”

In the US, most of us heard “Gloria” when the Shadows of Knight, a Chicago band, had a hit with it in late 1965. The song was Van Morrison’s and he had recorded it the year before with his band, Them. Although Them was thought of in the US as a British Invasion band, it was Irish. Like its British counterparts, the Rolling Stones and the Animals, Them was steeped in American blues and R&B, and was as tough and uncompromising in its dedication to its roots as those bands.

The Complete Them

Morrison recorded 45 tracks with Them, and the three-disc The Complete Them 1964-1967 includes all of them and more. Disc 3 gathers together 24 demos, alternate takes, and live performances. Morrison’s extensive liner notes recount the band’s history, including personnel changes (“The lineup was unstable,” Morrison writes), and help sort out the session players brought in for some tracks.

From the beginning, Morrison had an impressive command of blues and rock’n’roll singing. He found “Don’t Start Crying Now” on a Slim Harpo LP, but delivers it with Howlin’ Wolf’s roughhouse energy. His take on Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City,” Bobby Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light,” and Jimmy Witherspoon’s “Times Getting Tougher Than Tough” showed more maturity and natural blues feeling than similar performances by his contemporaries, including Eric Burdon.

Morrison was already writing great songs in 1964, but even songs his producers wrote were clearly tailored for him. No one else, though, was writing tunes like “One Two Brown Eyes,” the second track Them recorded in 1964. The guitarist for the session, possibly Jimmy Page, used a penknife instead of a bottleneck for slide, and the effect, coupled with Morrison’s snarling vocal, is truly menacing.

“Mystic Eyes” employs a Bo Diddley beat and a strong harp solo from Morrison, but the vocal and lyrics already hint at the direction Morrison would take in his later work. The unusual lyrics show a talent for vivid imagery and subtle poetry. Morrison could also transform and take ownership of songs well established by other singers, such as Simon and Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory” or Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” The latter, which Beck later sampled on “Jack-Ass” from Odelay, is at least as strong as Dylan’s original.

The Complete Them

Completists will be pleased to have the demos and alternate takes on disc 3, but the live tracks from two performances on the BBC’s Saturday Club in 1965 are the real bonus. The band is solid both times, but on their second appearance, in June, they are tough and fierce. “One More Time” is an early example of how Morrison can take a song he has already recorded and pull even more out of it.

The mastering on The Complete Them 1964-1967 is a model for how reissues should be handled. The two-disc The Story of Them featuring Van Morrison (1997) sounds over-compressed and harsh by comparison, and the sound on the new set also improves on the bland American CD release of Them from 1988 and the UK release of Them Again on CD from 1989. The soundstage on the stereo recordings is deeper and the instruments are given more room. The full glory of the recordings, with their spring-loaded reverb and the vibrato of guitar amps cranked to “10,” is easier to hear now.

The Complete Them 1964-1967 is certainly essential for Morrison fans, both for the music and for his liner notes. Anyone interested in the first wave of rock’n’roll in the ’60s from the UK will also want to own it. It contains everything from blues-rock to garage punk, all of it delivered with conviction and talent. Morrison’s genius started with these songs.

. . . Joseph Taylor