When I was younger, I was really into British R&B. But the older I get the less essential it seems to me: it’s not the genuine article and so much of it sounds the same. 55-60 years later, do we really care about British interpretations of American music? I mean, it made sense at the time, given the state of the radio and the recording industries. But now?
But I decided to keep listening to this record, for a very specific reason: it’s super garagey. Compared to basically every other British Isles band like this I’ve heard, I gotta think Them are the closest to the emerging sound of American garage rock. That’s something to me.
The material is good. There are more originals on here than on most debuts by British R&B bands. And, though Morrison would obviously grow leaps and bounds as a songwriter, he already gets it. (Best embodied by “Gloria” but some of the other songs are decent too.) And the selection of covers is decent and mostly non-obvious.
But the real draw is the sound: raw, ragged, “garagey”. (More garagey than many American bands of the day could manage.) Morrison sounds a little too much like Mick Jagger at times – something I never thought I would say – but that feels like a minor criticism given the energy he brings. (And his energy is quite extraordinary.) And the band brings it too, about as much as you can expect in 1965, especially from a British band who I assume had never seen the genuine article.
It’s little bit like contemporary American garage rock but with better material and a stronger connection to the roots of R&B. It’s a pretty impressive debut album and one of the better examples of the UK’s brief infatuation with this music. (If you limit yourself to British R&B debuts in particular, it really stands out.)