Main Index Page General Ratings Page Rock Chronology Page Song Search Page New Additions Message Board


"I love Jennifer Eccles, I know that she loves me"

Class C

Main Category: Pop Rock
Also applicable: Psychedelia
Starting Period: The Early Years
Also active in: The Psychedelic Years, The Artsy/Rootsy Years,

The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years,

The Divided Eighties





Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Hollies fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Hollies fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

For reading convenience, please open the reader comments section in a parallel browser window.

I don't really like talking in terms of 'pure rock' or 'pure pop' music. As you might have guessed, I'm a fan of diversity, and 'pureness' doesn't really combine well with diversity. Great bands, starting from the Beatles and ending with... er... Ten Years After, maybe, were all fairly diverse. However, if there is a 'pure pop' band to be found somewhere around, it would certainly be the Hollies. One of Britain's most famous bands ever (they were actually only beaten by the Beatles in terms of hit singles in the Sixties), they seem to be pretty much neglected in the States, which is understandable. Americans don't really need the Hollies that much. Their national pride are the Beach Boys, whom the Hollies could have been said to be pretty much a reflection of... at least, in some ways. Famous for their catchy pop melodies, scarce, but always rational, instrumentation, and, above all, immaculate vocal harmonies, they could have been dubbed as British Invasion bubblegum, along with Herman's Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers and other stuff like that, if not for one reason. The Hollies were hugely professional. Their music probably represented the highest level of Britpop which nobody could help to attain, not even the Beatles. I mean, the Beatles weren't really 'pop' in the 'pure' sense: they were a beat group, their image was 'wild' - not as wild as the Stones, of course, but not quite tame nevertheless, and, moreover, they were hugely unpredictable. Their main 'function' was to innovate, and their 'pure pop' stage, if there ever was one, was just one of the multiple transitions they underwent over the years.

The Hollies, meanwhile, had none of that. They just delivered album after album of perfect, smooth, well-polished, ideally memorable ditties with good, sometimes slightly intelligent, but never snobby or pretentious, lyrics, drenched in great three-part harmonies of Clarke, Hicks and Nash. They might seem a little samey to the unexperienced listener, but not really: the guys did know a lot about music and they took good care not to end up sounding like they were re-writing the same melody again and again. This blistering pop marathon lasted for about three years before time took its toll on the band and they decided to get experimental, too: 1967 even brought them a 'psychedelic' vibe. However, 1967 turned out to be the culmination of their 'evolution': soon afterwards Nash, who was always the 'innovative' one, quit to join forces with Crosby and Stills, and the others led the band back onto its 'pure pop' rails. Guess what? They fell out of the public life totally by 1969. That doesn't mean that their late Sixties - early Seventies output is worthless, though. In fact, some of their later albums still hold up quite well (Distant Light is one of my favourites). The problem is that they did little to change, mostly sticking with the same early Sixties formula, and this eventually led to their transformation into very long-bearded 'dinosaurs'. Then again, same thing happened to the Beach Boys, didn't it? Anyway, if you do enjoy the classic epoch of pre-1967 'silly pop' as much as I do, your collection is not complete without at least half a dozen Hollies albums. Start from either For Certain Because or Butterfly (although the latter isn't so typical), and have fun and fun and fun forever!

I understand that for any typical American classic rock fan my rating the Hollies on the same level with, for instance, Led Zeppelin, might seem absolutely ridiculous, if not to say blasphemous. (I have already received a couple deadhead flames on the subject). But remember: it's not historical importance or terms of influence or the overall hype that I'm after. I'm reviewing music, and the actual music that the Hollies made (aka: guitar melodies, vocal harmonies and aural hooks) is worth standing the test of time, just as well as, say, the Beach Boys'. Stay away from the usual 'anti-pop' bias and you'll see that these dudes were pretty awesome composers, far more advanced, actually, than Jimmy Page could ever hope to be in the middle of all his blues-ripping. I give the Hollies a three - not because they were influential (which they were; just imagine the Moody Blues without their influence), but because they released a string of highly enjoyable albums in the Sixties: not strikingly brilliant, but solid and consistent, with a relatively small percent of filler and a lot of fun and entertaining value.

Lineup: Allan Clarke - vocals; Graham Nash - guitar, vocals; Eric Haydock - bass guitar; Don Rathbone - drums. This earliest version, formed somewhere around 1961, didn't really last long after they'd started the sessions. The 'classic' line-up preserved Clarke and Nash and in 1963 replaced Rathbone by Bobby Elliot, and added Tony Hicks, guitar. The Clarke-Hicks-Nash conglomerate became the center of the band for five crucial years of their existence. Haydock quit in 1966, replaced by Bernie Calvert. In 1969 Nash joined CSN and was replaced by Terry Sylvester (guitar, vocals); thus was inaugurated the second version of the band, the one featured on their last great hit - the 1974 'Air That I Breathe'. They did a lot of records even after that, but I wouldn't know about them, really (they were mostly panned to death by critics). In another world, maybe. If you know anything about post-1974 Hollies records and think they are any good, E-mail me and maybe I'll give it an afterthought. As far as I understand, the Hollies are still around and playing some British clubs and barrooms - somehow, these youthful pop bands of the Sixties seem to be tenacious. Speak o' the Beach Boys, for instance.

The main problem with the Hollies is that, as it happens with nearly every underrated band, most of their original albums are out of print, and not that easy to get. I'm still missing a lot of their key 1964-65 records, absolutely crucial to the understanding of their real value, and this page is by no means a definite survey of their output, rather a short little introduction to the world's greatest 'pure pop' band. If there ever was one.



Year Of Release: 1964
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

Surprisingly, this ain't the worst of the "generic Merseybeat" albums out there; but it sure as hell ain't no "classic Hollies" either.


Track listing: 1) Talkin' 'Bout You; 2) Mr Moonlight; 3) You Better Move On; 4) Lucille; 5) Baby Don't Cry; 6) Memphis; 7) Stay; 8) Rockin' Robin; 9) Whatcha Gonna Do About It; 10) Do You Love Me; 11) It's Only Make Believe; 12) What Kind Of Girl Are You; 13) Little Lover; 14) Candy Man.

Actually, this record is pretty exhilarating if you're a sucker for that fresh, young, "innocently dirty" Please Please Me vibe. The Hollies don't manage to get too many original compositions on here (just one, to be precise), but considering the epoch and the surroundings and the need-for-creative-growth-anyway, it's possible to excuse them for this. It's much harder to excuse them for being amateurish and sloppy, although, to be fair, they don't have a George Martin at their service with pristine sound and first-rate arrangement ideas, nor are they exactly the Fab Four themselves to watch over each take in order to achieve total perfection. So the record sounds thin and almost 'homemade' - which reminds me just how well, how tremendously well was the Beatles' debut produced and arranged for those times' standards. I may be nuts, but Stay With The Hollies is still deeply lodged in the Fifties with all of its thinness, while the early Beatles really heralded the Sixties. 'Course, you don't realize it much when you don't have the two records to compare, but that just goes to show how important it is to take everything in context.

Then again, there is something to be said about rawness, isn't there? And at least they have a good taste in covers and a good understanding of their abilities, so this album isn't an embarrassment, like, say, the Kinks' debut. There's little in the way of classic Hollies harmonies here, and their attempts at rocking out certainly pale next to the early Stones or even the Beatles; yet even so, I never cringe my nose at any of the songs, they're all competent. Like, for instance, you don't really associate a raunchy ballsy rocker like 'Lucille' with the Hollies; and they don't really do it in "rocking mode", they transform it into a fast rollickin' pop number with poppy vocal flourishes instead of the proverbial gutsy scream. Had Clarke or Hicks or Nash or whoever tried the Little Richard yell, the song would immediately become unbearable; instead, they sing it in a much lower register with an almost folksy vibe to the 'you don't do your Daddy's wi-i-i-i-ill!' line, and it comes out all right. It doesn't come out as genius, it's just that I'm trying to point the competence.

In fact, the competence is so high they even manage to make a tasty little treat out of 'Mr Moonlight'. You thought the song sucked on Beatles For Sale? (Never mind if you didn't - I did, and that's what matters for the moment). Well, turns out it just takes a slightly sped-up tempo and slightly more playful vocals, and the song's melodic potential comes out alright. So yeah, they best the Beatles, or rather, the Beatles worst them as the album came out almost a year before the Beatles one. I would not say they best the Stones, though, neither on 'Talkin' 'Bout You' (done well, but missing that inimitable Jagger sleaze) nor on 'You Better Move On' (again, great singing, but the Stones took much more care of the instrumental backing).

The sole original, 'Little Lover', also showcases talent - at the very worst, its melody ain't exactly ripped off of any rockabilly tune that I know, so I surmise the Hollies, even at this earliest of ages, were already trying to make up melodic lines of their own. In fact, upon close listening, it's possible to speak of the song as a wicked cross between generic American rock'n'roll and generic Merseybeat. Look how it steadily begins as a Berry rocker (the bassline, in fact, almost completely mimicks the 'Talkin' 'Bout You' one), and then, as it gets to the chorus, gets poppier and poppier, culminating in the 'come on and discover... my lo-o-o-o-ove fo-o-o-or you!' refrain which is essentially teenybopper stuff. Then again, they carry out this hybridization on covers as well - what are these sissy falsetto harmonies doing in the middle of 'Talkin' 'Bout You', for instance? When did Chuck Berry have that on his records?

However, this "poppification" is well balanced by Clarke's singing - on this record, he is the indisputable star of the show, and a good bet for the strongest vocalist in Britain, or, more exactly, the vocalist who's the least afraid to strain his voice to the limits. The Brian Johnson of 1964. Well, maybe not quite. But he does use his power effectively on stuff like the Roy Orbison hit 'Candy Man', drawing out that "let me be your candy candyyyyy... candyyy man" line in an extremely suggestive way. No Jagger-like sly hidden menace; no Burdon-like unbridled raunch; rather the cocky swagger of a clean-cut kid who feels he has had all the world anyway - a long time ago. On 'Do You Love Me', he even attempts a hilarious growl, and succeeds, because he's THE guy to be singing this comic ditty about a former loser who's trying to get the girl by demonstrating her his newly-found proficiency in dancing. THE guy. Can you imagine the Rolling Stones doing 'Do You Love Me?' The Beatles? The Animals? It's the kind of rock'n'roll that seems to have been tailor-made for them early Hollies.

And then, like I said, the vocal harmonies may not be solid, but they certainly work on 'Stay', with two- and occasional three-part harmonies that, at this point, can already rival the Beatles (with the admission that they do not do that "perfect take" you could hope for on the song). Finally, one shouldn't dismiss Hicks' talents as lead guitarist - for his epoch, he's doing swell, and they have the wisdom to let him solo on almost every song, apart from the harmonica break-ornated "Candy Man". I feel a bit too much worshipping at the altar of the Shadows, but then they were a pop band, for Chrissakes, they wouldn't be worshipping at the altar of Robert Johnson nohow.

I can lodge a few concrete complaints: 'Rockin' Robin' is the kind of juvenile unfunny-pretendin'-to-be-funny rocker that doesn't have the exuberance of a 'Surfin' Bird' (in my mind's eye, any song that begins with the lines 'twiddly-dee, twiddly-diddly-dee' can only belong on a Mother Goose compilation), so that not even the Hollies can bring it to life; the doo-woppy ballad 'It's Only Make Believe' is the kind of stuff that the Beatles never saw themselves fit to record, and for good reason; and I've heard way too many cover versions of 'Memphis Tennessee' to need yet another one from the Hollies. But when you got fourteen songs on an album (ah, bless those Brits in the early Sixties), three songs to bitch about aren't exactly a lot.

The important thing, of course, is that this was just the humble beginning, and the Hollies would already be light years away with the next record. I dig it just fine, but I'm hesitant to give it that high a rating just because it doesn't look exceptional. Hey, come on, I'm no rock historian; I have no idea if another twenty thousand Merseybeat bands in late 1963 sounded exactly the same way. For all I know, they probably did, but the Hollies survived them all because they managed to outgrow this stage whereas others did not. So therefore, take this Stay With The Hollies record as the "generic Merseybeat" document of the times, along with the Searchers' debut. Besides, the unspoken truth here is - if this can be considered the generic pop-schlock of its time, I still have enough reasons for lamenting about the demise of that God-blessed epoch.



Year Of Release: 1964
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

A typical first-class Merseybeat album: when it's not over-saccharine, it's good pop fun.


Track listing: 1) Nitty Gritty/Something's Got A Hold On Me; 2) Don't You Know; 3) To You My Love; 4) It's In Her Kiss; 5) Time For Love; 6) What Kind Of Boy; 7) Too Much Monkey Business; 8) I Thought Of You Last Night; 9) Please Don't Feel Too Bad; 10) Come On Home; 11) You'll Be Mine; 12) Set Me Free.

"Maturity". Don't you just love the word? Nothing more sweet for a reviewer than to be able to dip his trusty virtual pen into his trusty virtual ink-pot and write this orgasmic sentence - "finally, the group reaches maturity". In other words, the group has finally caught up with the reviewer's intellectual level. Yeah, what's up with all the hypocritical modesty these days?

Unfortunately, "maturatity" is a very relative thing. When did the Beatles achieve maturity? With Sgt Pepper? Or with 'Love Me Do'? The question stands. But in the case of the Hollies, it's a little easier: the Hollies, as far as I see, achieved maturity when they (a) became relatively self-sustained in the songwriting department and (b) decided, once and for all, that their preferred brand of work would be what today is called "power pop" - not too soon, because from the very beginning it was obvious that the Hollies couldn't have stood the R'n'B competition with such major players as - even - the Beatles, let alone the Stones. Anyway, both changes happened on their second album, and no matter what other directions their career might take later on, it always came back to this axiom in the end: self-penned material and good old guitar-based pop hooks.

The progress was rapid and in a certain way, amazing: seven out of twelve songs on here are credited to 'Ransford', the band's collective pseudonym at the time. Seven, as opposed to, what, two or three insecure attempts on the debut? And it's immediately evident that, generally speaking, the originals are more impressive than the covers. Prime example: the almost obligatory rendition of Chuck Berry's 'Too Much Monkey Business', a song that, out of all the British bands of the epoch, prob'ly only the Beatles and the Stones had the bright taste not to include on their regular studio albums (not to imply that it's a bad song or anything - it's just that it was so abused and overplayed to oversickening by just about every second-hand Merseybeat outfit). Their tepid interpretation is even weaker than the Kinks' version, and the Davies gang weren't that hot with their R'n'B either. The guitar solo is kinda cute, but weirdly "muffled", with little of the expected garage-style passion we could expect from late '64; and the voices singing the main melody (Clarke and Nash taking turns, if I'm not mistaken) shake and quiver, as if they were afraid they'd lose the verses while rapping them in the Berry tradition. Besides, the main criminy is that all the lyrics are understandable - what a perverse thing for a fast R'n'B number!

Another example: the ultra-sugary, sweet sweet sweet ballad 'I Thought Of You Last Night', all cooing falsettos and whipped-cream acoustic guitars. On a Searchers album, I would have probably left it without much commentary - that's their specialty, after all. But on a Hollies album, it feels very much out of place, and it's very telling that not even a single of the band's originals ever tries to recreate this kind of atmosphere. In fact, it's almost as if they just weren't capable of writing a ballad like that (nice lads!), but decided they'd just have to have something for sentimental twelve-year schoolgirls out there anyway (bad boys!).

Fortunately, the other three covers are enjoyable: 'It's In Her Kiss', coincidentally also done by the Searchers that same year; Big Dee Irwin's special contribution; 'What Kind Of Boy', with an unforgettable falsetto hookline in the chorus; and particularly the medley that opens the record, with a magnificent Alan Clarke lead vocal for the 'Nitty Gritty' part and equally unforgettable group harmonies on the 'Something's Got A Hold On Me' part. Which reminds me to remind you that this, chronologically, is the first place where you're gonna encounter those magnificent multi-part audacious harmonies, the only thing on which the Hollies could really beat the Beatles (as well as everybody else this side of the Atlantic). Also, the Haydock/Elliot rhythm section is finally picking up steam, with the bassist laying on thick fluent lines (a possible influence of Bill Wyman's, unless that's just my Stones bias speaking?) and the drummer copying Ringo's heavy cymbal-thrashing style (or is that my Beatles bias?); it's not that I'm calling the team an ultra-professional one, not even for their time, but they definitely spent more time on rehashing their playing techniques than, say, the Kinks or even the Animals (this only concerns the rhythm section, you understand).

Now, what about these originals? Mmm, don't you just love the word "original"? Nothing more sweet for a reviewer than... ah, forget it. The Hollies haven't reached their songwriting peak yet, and parts and pieces of their self-penned numbers are still a little naive. 'To You My Love', for instance, has a gorgeous melody with an almost proto-funk (sic!) "scrapy" rhythm guitar part with a fascinating resolution of the main vocal part, but the middle-eight contrasts with it very roughly, sounding like a crude rip-off of some teenybopper stuff, you know, 'Honeymoon Song' and the like. In terms of lyrics they're not that hot either: lines like 'don't you know it's time for love' ('Time For Love'), let's face it, are really blunt even for the pre-Peter Hammill period of pop music.

However, the jury does not consider the evidence as having enough convincing force to bring out a POOP verdict. Nah, these songs rule. Little pop marvels, each of which reveals a shiny silver coin inside the dough when you bite on it hard. 'Come On Home' has that tricky little contrast before group harmonies and Clarke's (Nash's?) solo line ('now I found out... he left me on your own'). 'You'll Be Mine' has a bold, gamy introductory vocal onslaught; oh sure, both the vocal modulation and the rhythm guitar lines are directly influenced by John Lennon, but so was every n+1 song written by John Lennon himself, and we don't hold it to him that severely. 'Don't You Know' has some of the most complicated harmonies on the album. And 'Set Me Free' is the band's best try at penning something rhythm-and-bluesish without losing the pop hook inclination.

In the end, as usual, it's impossible to actually describe the songs, unless you expect me to hang out the sheetnotes or lay down the MP3s (which I would gladly do in a more perfect world free from all the bloodsucking commercialization, but shh, shh, don't let this out of the Underground). It also has something to do with the simplicity of the arrangements: the big era of Experimentation had not yet arrived, and it's all strictly guitar-drums, plus some harmonica, not to mention the band's major dependence upon the Beatles, which would slowly start dissipating from around the following year, but for now was practically inescapable. In other words, it's still a long hard road to albums like For Certain Because, and I can only give this particular record an overall rating of 10, because, good as it is, it was 1964 for Chrissake. Plus, although it's hard to blame the band for that, Ron Richards' original liner notes, still preserved for the CD release of this record, really annoy me: I realize it's just a standard promotional text, but his constant appraisal of the band's playing skills is ridiculous. Why don't he stick to praising the harmonies? And the... and the harmonies again...? For some reason, he just keeps making remarks about how good they all are as soloists. Yeah, whatever. And the Beatles were at their best when they split, too.



Year Of Release: 1965
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

I do have fun listening to it - I just can't remember any of the goshdarn songs.

Best song: PUT YOURSELF IN MY PLACE... [and then you'll see how bad it gets].

Track listing: 1) Very Last Day; 2) You Must Believe Me; 3) Put Yourself In My Place; 4) Down The Line; 5) That's My Desire; 6) Too Many People; 7) Lawdy Miss Clawdy; 8) When I Come Home To You; 9) Fortune Teller; 10) So Lonely; 11) I've Been Wrong; 12) Mickey's Monkey.

It will probably be somewhat of an understatement to say that Hollies, a Hollies album by the Hollies, is not only not the greatest album ever recorded, but isn't even the best Hollies album by the Hollies ever recorded by the Hollies. This time around, they are trying to self-pen a bit more songs than before (five), but they are also trying to expand their horizons; and in mid-65, for bands like the Hollies, "expanding horizons" meant steering away from pristine rock energy and wasting their fire on "moodier" or "subtler" styles that could as easily delve into charming innocent folk rock as it could into sugary pablum. So if, to your surprise, Hollies turn out to be plain dragging in spots - hey, told ya so!

The covers this time around are generally a little more obscure than before, although, if you're at least as close to a Sixties connoisseur as Fidel Castro is to world domination, you will easily recognize the perennial 'Fortune Teller', a tune that practically every pop rock, blues rock, and shit rock outfit was performing around that time. Their version is the "regular" one (not the slow-as-a-mule-then-speed-up marathon of the Who, more like the Stones did it on Got Live), but the beat is simply ridiculous. I have not the least idea why the silly Drum Commander should decide to bash his entire kit to bits on the kiddie junk of 'Mickey's Monkey', yet stuck to a faint echo of a drum sound where it really could matter. And the guitars? They're so wimpy (inaudible, in fact - the fuckin' bass is louder than the six string aggregate) you'd never even begin to guess how furious the song could be in somebody else's hands. Likewise, the other rock'n'roll standard, 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy', is also well below par, only slightly uplifted by Clarke's trademark vocals - completely wasted on the tune, though.

On the positive side, the record blasts off with quite a surprise: the band's obviously passionate and serious interpretation of the gospel-folk tune, 'Very Last Day' credited to "Stoker/Yarrow" but probably learnt by them from Peter, Paul & Mary, if I'm not mixing up my Greenwich Village references here. Original lyrics intact, replete with scary apocalypse threats and namedropping Kings David and Saul for the sake of all those who have a problem with their Gideon's. Yes, you can tell these guys had been sucking in influences - although the Byrds hadn't released 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' yet, the folk-rock revolution was nevertheless on the way, and for the Hollies to start the record with a "reworked folk-rocker" rather than trudging in the old traditional direction with a straightforward rock'n'roller was a certain sign of change as well. And they do it powerfully, with enough force and conviction; if you're following trends, you might as well make yourself look as if you were setting them yourself. Did Clarke and company really care about all the Judgement Day gibberish? Probably not - but they make you believe they did.

Briefly glancing through the rest of the covers, we find stuff like 'You Must Believe Me' - rather inane, of course, in comparison with the Mayfield original, but then again I'm sort of used to treating British Invasion covers of Motown and related material as wholly separate entities - and wholly separate entities they are, with the simple but steady Brit-beat, bright sparkling guitars and Hollieharmonies giving practically no hints at the nature of the original. The problem is that, as a Merseybeat composition, the song comes across as quite feeble to me - lacking a strong hook, putting all its strength in the loudly chanted title, and you know there's always trouble round the corner when you do that.

Roy Orbison's 'Down The Line' should have, by all means, borne the subtitle "And You Thought We Couldn't Do Rockabilly". Well, not on the Beatles level they can't - no 'Everybody's Tryin' To Be My Baby"-level success for these guys. Either they chose to stick way too close to the original (which I have not heard), or they're going for an even more barebones approach, in any case, the result is somewhere in the middle between minimalism and maximalism and that doesn't satisfy neither the minimalist nor the maximalist in me. And no, this is not a classic "golden middle" case.

Finally, I declare the other two covers abominations. The lengthy waltzin' Matilda of a ballad, 'That's My Desire', simply dripping with unhealthy amounts of sugar and spice and all things nice, may have been good for the Everley Brothers, but I've never liked the Everley Brothers that much in the first place, and Hollies covers of the schlockier examples of the Everleys' workmanship are even lower on the list. To add insult to injury, the song just gotta have the sleaziest, most roll-your-eyes-to-heaven pronunciation of the word 'rendez-vous'. As for 'Mickey's Monkey', I don't care if it's credited to Holland / Dozier / Holland or Eddie Murphy. This is an album targeted towards fifteen-year-olds, okay, twelve at the least, not infants. There must have been a reason why neither the Beatles nor the Stones never ever put anything even remotely closed to that wretched "rock'n'roll for babies" genre on their albums. At least with somebody like Manfred Mann you're actually expecting this kind of shit to happen; with the Hollies, it feels like goddamn treason every time I fall upon something like this.

With the good covers thus mostly in the "okay" bin and the bad covers mostly missing the bin in the first place, there's little hope that the originals will take us high places - and they don't, but at the very least they're reassuring. 'Put Yourself In My Place' is the closest to a Hollies classic on here, perhaps a little bit too confused in the vocal department and a little bit too dependent on conventional Merseybeat vocal tricks ("people talking, round town, TELLING ME THAT YOU been puttin' it round" - ain't that beatling you baby?), but fairly confident, fairly catchy and fairly inventive in the solo passage department (they're taking cute chances with the keyboards, don't you think?). You can certainly see some progress compared to the past - you just don't actually feel that these guys themselves felt a need for that progress, if you know what I mean. It sort of just came out naturally, which is the best way to progress, if you ask me.

'Too Many People' is nowhere near as good as the Paul McCartney song of the same name, but, just as 'Very Last Day' reflects their (subconscious?) longing to one-up the Byrds, so 'Too Many People' reflects their obviously intentional longing to inject a little bit of social statement into the pot. May seem slight at first, but think about it more closely: just how many British pop songwriters were ready to write a song about life and death and religion and overpopulation in 1965? Certainly the Hollies were the one band you'd never expect such a move from, but presto change-o, here it is. Now here's a great chance for all you misunderstood Hollie loners to assert Alan Clarke's supremacy over John Lennon as a political visionary.

In sharp contrast with the melodical astuteness and lyrical innovation of the former, 'I've Been Wrong' is about as clumsy and primitive a song as Ray Davies' fifty five hundredth rewrite of 'You Really Got Me'; 'When I Come Home To You' is somewhat better, another quasi-Beatles tune distinguished by pretty little "rippling" guitar lines periodically sent out by Hicks; and only 'So Lonely' qualifies as a "major minor success" - a solemn-sounding, almost "doomy" kind of art-pop ballad, again, quite different from the early stuff.

The swell thing about all of it is that, for the first time, I actually don't have any problems with, you know, talking about this material. They're alternating the old formula with radically new efforts, and one thing the album never suffers from is monotonousness. True, the old formula starts wearing way too thin, and few of the new things work all that well, but where there's strife, there's life, meaning I can use one half of the record for enjoyment and the other half of it for making tricky structural historical conclusions. Although, in the end, I suppose I'd rate this higher had they replaced some of the weaker tracks with concurrent contemporary singles - some of which, like 'I'm Alive', for instance, rank among their greatest achievements.



Year Of Release: 1966
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

No, I wouldn't, but I'd certainly be close to.

Best song: I CAN'T LET GO

Track listing: 1) I Take What I Want; 2) Hard Hard Year; 3) That's How Strong My Love Is; 4) Sweet Little Sixteen; 5) Oriental Sadness; 6) I Am A Rock; 7) Take Your Time; 8) Don't You Even Care; 9) Fifi The Flea; 10) Stewball; 11) I've Got A Way Of My Own; 12) I Can't Let Go.

One thing's for certain: the Hollies were chewing on nineteen sixty-six with sharper teeth than the Dave Clark Five. But that still wasn't sharp enough. They had plenty of stamina to last themselves through the Great Singles War, but their finest adversaries such as The Liverpudlians ended up duping them by shifting from singles to entire albums - and large, sprawling, filler-filtered albums were one thing the Hollies definitely would not believe in. Or maybe they would, but their souls and spirits wouldn't let them.

The band's fourth album is ample proof. On one hand, they are putting songs on it that are clearly and openly displaying some sort of message. The clearest thing about the message is the I Wanna Be Free attitude, which, for all the formula and dependence on producers and corporate songwriters, they manage to convey with just enough sincerity - no doubt, due to Clarke's typically outstanding powerhouse vocals and Nash's individual personality. Songs like 'I Take What I Want' and 'I've Got A Way Of My Own', no matter whether penned by the Hollies or outside songwriters, cannot be classified as filler no matter how much you might dislike them (and if I were you, I'd save myself the displeasure of disliking them). They are also displaying a new-found readiness to experiment - toying with country, European pop art, and the word 'oriental' is all indicative of that.

On the other hand, they're covering 'Sweet Little Sixteen'. Now you may be a young, unexperienced kid who thinks that the White Stripes invented rock'n'roll, but a long, long time ago, ages before Graham became king of Daventry and Elton John married Camilla Parker Bowles, there was this black guy called Chuck Berry and he invented a song called 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and every young lad in the United Kingdom of Great Britain with enough fingers left to pluck a guitar began playing it in his local pub, succeedingly making it the most overplayed, over-aired, and over-recorded song in history. The fact that it was a great song only made matters worse. By 1965, however, the epidemics began to decrease, and by early 1966 seemed completely overcome - that is, until the Hollies made this archetypically lame attempt to spread it once again.

Okay, the Hollies can rock. They're still rocking like they're a bunch o' mama's boys, of course, but give the mamas a chance, too. That's not the main problem. The main problem is they're still lacking enough original songs to fill an entire album. And by 'original' I don't mean the ones signed Ransford (there's four of them); I mean the ones that actually sound fit for 1966. For instance, the Rolling Stones did 'That's How Strong My Love Is' one year ago, when straightforward covers of black soul material still mattered (a little). The Hollies - technically, at least - come out with a better version than the Stones' one; but it's so inappropriate for the times it's kinda hard to appreciate it even within the context of its own album, let alone work by other contemporary artists. The exact same thing goes for Buddy Holly's 'Take Your Time'; I like the song, I like the ringing guitar sound, but nothing beats Buddy Holly as played by Buddy Holly, unless it be 'Words Of Love' on Beatles For Sale, and even that one only due to the sweetest, most seducing guitar tone ever the Fabs managed to capture on that record.

But now, hurrying back to the lads' defense, it should not be forgotten that they also do Simon & Garfunkel's 'I Am A Rock' - and that's reassuring. They're evidently keeping an eye open on what goes around, unlike the aforementioned Dave Clark Five, and they are quick to understand that the nascent "electro-folk" movement in the States and elsewhere is right up their alley and the choice of 'I Am A Rock' hits the bullseye like nothing else: the song was fine enough in the original version, but now it all but seems it was tailor-made for both the sneering, misanthropic vocals of Clarke and the high-pitched ringing guitar patterns of Hicks. In a way, what they do with Simon & Garfunkel on here is the equivalent of what the Byrds did with Dylan: taking away some of the material's roughness and vitality and replacing it with perfectionist gloss. Which sounds bad, I'll admit it, but when you do have both versions side by side, they end up complementing rather than throttling each other.

Then there are the lesser known covers or songs written by outside people specially for the Hollies, such as the gritty album opener 'I Take What I Want' and the hit single 'I Can't Let Go'. The former, in my little red book, ranks as one of the three or four best Hollies' rockers ever put to tape. It's got this rare distinction of possessing a real memorable riff - and a pretty rough one at that - and featuring Clarke at his meanest and snottiest. And cocksurest, if you know what I mean. Hey, do you think that if KISS could have gotten that guy to sing lead vocals for them instead of Paul Stanley, the band's suck factor would immediately go down a few notches? Just imagine that - Allan Clarke in makeup, singing 'Strutter'! Okay, maybe we'd rather not.

As for 'I Can't Let Go', well, that just happens to be one of the timeless classics. I do believe that no-one in Britain at the time could reproduce those vocal harmonies - heck, no-one could probably begin to understand how on earth they were constructed in the first place. Has Graham Nash ever given out a more mind-blowing vocalic tone than at the end of the song's chorus? Certainly hanging around the tone-deaf - at least, in comparison to all those singing guys in the Hollies - Crosby and Stills didn't exactly encourage him to try it again! However, behind all the hooplah around the vocal harmonies what is forgotten is that the song's biggest charm just might be the way the ringing folksy lead parts weave their way along the distorted, fuzzy rhythm track - producing a sound that, I believe, nobody but the Hollies had at the time, unless I'm forgetting some obscure Beatles number, but I probably ain't because the "ringing" tone wasn't one of their favourites anyway.

As for the "Ransford" team, it mostly keeps specializing in slow, steady, 'Baby's In Black'-rhythm-type semi-ballads that are all clever and melodic but perhaps a little samey. 'Hard Hard Year' is my favourite of these, mainly for the creaky, almost psychedelic guitar solo in the middle. 'Oriental Sadness', despite the title, doesn't really sound all that Oriental - in fact, it doesn't sound Oriental at all, unless you count those opening chords. It's quite typical Brit-pop, memorable, but not outstanding, and I dislike the harmonies on the bridge, too. The one major step away from the formula also happens to be the record's biggest mis-step: 'Fifi The Flea', also credited to 'Ransford' but reported to have mostly been a Nash solo venture. It's a quiet acoustic pop song about an unhappy love between circus performers - maybe something Graham thought up during a moment of 'inspiration' after watching one too many bad Italian movie. I dislike the topic, dislike the genre, dislike Graham's handling of it, and in addition the song just plain sucks. But maybe you have to be a big supporter of the Sad Clown mentality to dig it. Evidently the Everly Brothers were, since they thought enough of the song to cover it.

In any case, I would actively disagree with the existing point of view that treats WYB as sort of a "gap" between the far superior self-titled album and the ensuing For Certain Because - as if it were the Hollies' equivalent of Beatles For Sale. The band's progression, despite being seriously slower than you-know-who's, was by all means, er, well, progressive, and every new album brought forth new ideas and experiments. It's just that painfully weak material like 'Fifi' and painfully obsolete covers like 'Sweet Little Sixteen' tend to overshadow the generally solid songwriting of 'Hard Hard Year', 'Don't You Even Care' and so on. But it's also true that you're not missing anything grand by not buying it - the Hollies wouldn't really make the transition to "album-oriented" until later in the year.



Year Of Release: 1966
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 12

One of the most perfect examples of pop songwriting. Buy this as an 'ethalon'.


Track listing: 1) What's Wrong With The Way I Live; 2) Pay You Back With Interest; 3) Tell Me To My Face; 4) Clown; 5) Suspicious Look In Your Eyes; 6) It's You; 7) High Classed; 8) Peculiar Situation; 9) What Went Wrong; 10) Crusader; 11) Don't Even Think About Changing; 12) Stop Stop Stop.

Their fourth album was a major breakthrough - the songs were mostly written by the Clark/Hicks/Nash conglomerate, and there wasn't even a single cover among them (not that the Hollies couldn't do covers, mind you). These songs aren't spectacular, of course. What strikes me most about them is just the care, the quality with which they were written. The melodies are all original; the verses are all carefully structured; the harmonies, as usual, are immaculate and, moreover, twisted to the point of virtuosity... just a breathtakingly well-written album.

Let's see: the biggest hit here was 'Stop! Stop! Stop!', a fast, swirling whoopla with a highly distinguishable twinkling banjo riff that gets you really going round and round and round. Groovy! But that's only the beginning (actually, the end, 'cause it's the last track on the album). The first track is just as enjoyable and, funny enough, it's also built on a groovy banjo line - the instrument seems to have been pretty much favoured by the band around the time. Other than that, 'What's Wrong With The Way I Live' is also the genuine independency anthem on the album, with one of the greatest refrains of all time - 'What's wrong with the way I live/The way I use my time/People should live their lives/Leaving me to mine'. It gets you tapping your foot and whistling along from the very first second, which is quite a nice way to start an album and, seeing that the last track does exactly the same thing, one can certainly assume that this is a hella energetic record... nah, not quite.

It's actually much more diverse than that, with songs alternating between really fast numbers and slow, moody 'spookers'. Sometimes they're even quite weird in tempo, like the supposedly generic (but not quite) love song 'Pay You Back With Interest' which starts slow as an old farmer's ode to his meadows and then speeds the refrain up as if the band suddenly remembers what they're actually there for.

Yeah, nothing totally phenomenal about this album; but they guys were so clever that they inserted little hookey-hooks into every single ditty on here, which contributes quite a lot to their memorability. Thus, 'Tell Me To My Face' has a totally charming stingy guitar line and a slightly 'Eastern dancing' style, that is, it reminds me a little of Indian music, but without the 'metaphysical stuff', like those with no knowledge about philosophy would say. 'Clown' is a sad lament about, well, a clown, also betraying certain Eastern influences, even if it's introduced by little circus keyboard ('vibes') noises. You could easily call the song the band's first venture into psychedelia - the lyrics are rather straightforward, but the echoey guitars and vocals and the somber bass line are clearly the kind of stuff that would become oh so familiar next year. Spooky.

On the 'positive' side, we have 'Suspicious Look In Your Eyes', highlighted by the ear-piercing 'bap bap's and Clarke's almost sardonic vocals - 'you got that suspicious look in yoooour eeeeeeee-iiiiiii-eeeees...'. 'It's You' is distinguishable by the wild harmonica which is a perfect reflection for the choruses. 'High Classed' is a hilarious piece of social commentary, punctuated by silly brass passages, although the line that said 'you eat caviar while I eat toast' always sounded kinda fake and banal to me - the Hollies eating toast? they probably just didn't like caviar!; 'Peculiar Situation' has the second best refrain on record ('Ain't that a peculiar situation/We're lovers but we don't make love'); and 'What Went Wrong' is just a fascinating piece of singing, although the brass intro is awfully generic and somewhat lacking in good taste. 'Crusader' is the only tune that seriously lets the record down, a lengthy, boring, somewhat pointlessly nostalgic musing with little genuine emotion or anything (in fact, were it not for this song, I'd have easily given the record a 10); even so, the vocal harmonies can't be blamed. Luckily, 'Don't Even Think About Changing' patches things up: starting as a typical Stones song (the guitar licks are, in fact, copped from 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love'), it quickly shifts directions and turns into another typical Hollies raving with shrill harmonica in the choruses and a general feel of pop perfection. Finally, we get to 'Stop Stop Stop', and you're off there complaining that the record ended a bit too soon for your tastes...

If you ever see this record, be sure to get it. Everybody needs to know what a British pop band could look like in its prime. Not a lot of bands could get eleven short and catchy songs on the album at that time, none of which would really suck. Not even the Kinks, dang it. Hell, not even the Who!! Okay, they learned how to make albums later on in their career, but... this is just so self-assured, so tight, so professional, that it makes me go wow... Drop all the pretenses, bring your feet on the ground, and face reality: who cares if 1966, the year of a musical revolution, saw the Hollies firmly defend their position as an unambitious, simplistic pop ensemble? It's the melody, oh dear friends, the melody that matters above all the experimentation, and there's enough melodies on For Certain Because to keep a typical Nineties band alive for years.



Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Pop songwriting: good. Psychedelia: bad, bad, bad. At least, for this album.

Best song: LEAVE ME

Track listing: 1) Then The Heartaches Begin; 2) Stop Right There; 3) Water On The Brain; 4) Lullaby To Tim; 5) Have You Ever Loved Somebody; 6) You Need Love; 7) Rain On The Window; 8) Heading For A Fall; 9) Ye Olde Toffee Shop; 10) When Your Light's Turned On; 11) Leave Me; 12) The Games We Play.

Another year, another album... ah well, this particular one has "The Hollies" written on it in some kinda strange large wobbly pink letters, and there's obviously something wrong with that photo, maybe the shot was blurry or something or... OHMYGOD YOU DON'T MEAN THE HOLLIES HAVE ALL GONE PSYCHEDELIC ON OUR ASSES? MAYHEM!

Today, when a guy like Mick Jagger wants to "go modern", he brings in a corporate no-talent like Lenny Kravitz, ushers in drum machines, sets up a couple techno beats, and makes everything sound like a dance-crazy computer. That's called "keeping with the times". In 1967, the Hollies were "keeping with the times" by dressing in flower-power garb, bringing in fuzzy distorted guitars, crazyass vocal effects, and the obligatory bit of Indian instrumentation. In a certain way, the two things weren't that much different, especially since you can't find a band any less suitable for psychedelia than the Hollies.

At least, not for this very first try. Nash, always the more experimental guy of the band, was probably responsible for the psychedelic trimmings more than the others, but even Nash was approaching psychedelia the way a caveman would approach a laptop computer had it suddenly landed from the sky in front of him. Fortunately for the band, they never dared to engage in psychedelic jamming or anything; at the heart of each and every one of these tunes still lies a traditional wimpy pop melody, so that in a certain way you could call it a "psychedelized version" of For Certain Because. Unfortunately for the band, none of these psychedelic trimmings really work, and in most cases, they either significantly detract from the song or just plain fuckin' ruin it.

The most obvious example, where, I guess, nobody would want to argue with me, is the miserable 'Lullaby To Tim'. The song wasn't a big shot in the first place, but it could at least function according to its name - it's a sweet sacchariney little lullaby with endless references to dragons and castles and 'knights in armor that shine' which would have been ridiculous generic cliches had they been in a real "D&D" kind of song, but as a lullaby to a kid, it works. But then they have to go and put this atrocious "underwater effect" on the vocals all through the song. The end result? I sure wouldn't want my dad to sing me any lullabies if he had a monstruous electronic gadget wedged in his throat while singing. I know I would get nightmares, and so would most of the people who'd have the strength to actually sit through this entire piece. (Of course, you could always make the point that this daring experiment predates Neil Young's Trans by more than a decade and a half. You could make it, but then you'd have to eat it).

Nowhere else are the results so disastrous, but the seams are showing all over the place anyway. 'Then The Heartaches Begin' is an excellent pop tune, but what's that fuzzy acid guitar doing out there? It has no place in the song, really. No place at all. Maybe if they'd at least sing "then the visions begin"... but it's merely a love song, nothing else. The wimpy 'Stop Right There' does all right until the song goes into the artsy violin solo; geez people, are you confusing your psychedelia with gypsy music or something? 'Water On The Brain' is another excellent, upbeat, catchy pop tune, but what's up with the tablas? Do I go inserting tablas into every song I've written just because it's trippy to have tablas? Okay, so I don't write songs - the problem still stands. The good touch in that song is the trumpet part - that stuff fits in excellently and emphasizes the melody a lot.

Don't get me wrong: all these touches don't make the songs unlistenable (except for 'Lullaby For Tim', of course). They're mostly good songs. They just look totally ridiculous, totally out of place. What, did these guys think people would really scoop up any record that had fuzzy guitars and tablas, regardless of where it actually had 'em? Whatever. Anyway, the best stuff comes near the end, where they apparently got tired of hauling everything from sitars to fifteen century lutes and electronic Jew's harps into the studio and just concentrated on the songs. 'Rain On The Window' is a good, mostly unspoilt song, although the melody is strongly derivative of 'Bus Stop'. 'Leave Me' is my favourite - one of the band's best pop-rockers, hardly any worse than the Beatles around '64, with Clarke pulling off the misogynistic flair perfectly, once again proving that the Hollies weren't merely a bunch of sugary wimps. On the other hand, the closing acoustic popster 'The Games We Play' certainly is wimpy (and lyrically cooky - 'well if your mother only knew the games we play', eh?), but it's absolutely irresistable anyway.

So, when all odds are taken, the record is certainly better than the overall impression I guess you'd be taking out of this here review. Most of the songs are good, and quite conforming to the Hollies' regular standards; but there is something to be said about the general stupidity of this faux-psychedelic approach, which renders at least half of them painfully dated. Still, I gotta admire Nash and Co.'s tenacity - after the record flopped, they had the gall to go into the studio again, and second time around, correct most of the problems.



Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 13

More perfect popwriting, with that groovy 1967 vibe making the material seem more serious than it is.


Track listing: 1) Dear Eloise; 2) Away Away Away; 3) Maker; 4) Pegasus; 5) Would You Believe; 6) Wish You A Wish; 7) Postcard; 8) Charlie And Fred; 9) Try It; 10) Elevated Observations; 11) Step Inside; 12) Butterfly.

Their best. What happens when you take twelve first-rate pop cuts, the likes of which you've already heard before, of course, but then you add some ridiculous over-instrumentation that actually fits the songs' mood, dip it into some carefully balanced sound effects, and write some no-nonsense lyrics that don't necessarily fall into the 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' scheme? You get the Hollies' most diverse, entertaining and carefully produced LP.

Once again, Butterfly is a typical child of the Summer of Love, of course. And as we've already established, the Hollies were anything but a really hip band. They were always extremely slow on the move when it came to experimentation and following new trends, so the album can't be called revolutionary at any cost - in fact, I think they were one of the last bands to tread psychedelia long after the Beatles, Hendrix, Pink Floyd and the Airplane established its rules. Even so, upon their second try they are extremely careful and wary with it: quite a lot of the tracks here are written according to the earlier, 'safe and sound' formula. But in retrospect, I think that's alright: by doing so, they avoided falling into the Evolution trap - going wild with technophilia and acid and forsaking music as such. In that respect, Butterfly can be called one of the most musically satisfying creations of the year: whenever you get tired of your 'Within You Without You', or your 'Interstellar Overdrive', or 'Third Stone From The Sun', put on this here record. You won't regret it.

From a pure musical point of view, there ain't a lot of progression here: the melodies aren't very different from their earlier albums. Thus, the pretty, chugging-along happy ditty 'Away Away Away' could have been written at least three years ago; the harmony-wise wonderful 'Wishyouawish' and 'Postcard' are more of the same - typical hooky Hollies material (swell, of course). And, so as not to let everybody forget that they are still the same Hollies, they turn in yet another in their series of social comments - the stratificatory 'Charlie And Fred', albeit not the best tune on here. However, most of the songs have at least a little something about them that slightly elevates them over the usual happy pop level. The album opener, 'Dear Eloise', features a Mellotron in the introduction, and the line 'could be the best thing that's happened to me' has a weird tremolo effect on the word 'happe-ne-ne-ne-ned'. Dunno why, but sounds good. The main 'bulk' of the song has little to do with psychedelia, of course - it's a straight, unbelievably jovial and well-crafted pop melody, but the intro and outro are thus drenched in some of the more contemporary trends. 'Maker' is built on the obligatory sitar line, and its lyrics are a far cry from the usualy Hollies' subjects. This is psychedelia! By the way, the sitar is put to good use, maybe even better than in 'Within You Without You'; sure, it's kinda hard to imagine Graham Nash and Allan Clark as the Gurus for the new generation, and the lyrics about 'days of yellow saffron' and 'jack-o-lanterns glimmering' are pretty goofy, but the song works anyway, even if it's a rather ridiculous throwaway. Then there's 'Would You Believe', of course, probably an outtake from their earlier Would You Believe album; but I don't know how it could have sounded in 1966, whereas on here, with its pompous, stomping orchestral arrangement and terrific group harmonies, it sounds just fine. Sounds a lot like early Moody Blues, in fact, which is no surprise: the Moodies certainly got a lot of their inspiration by listening to the Hollies. Darn, I just can't help singing along to the mighty refrain when it comes along... 'would you believe I'm in love with you, would you believe I'm in love, and I can't help myself...' ...sorry.

The only place where they go a little over the top is the silly pot anthem 'Try It' (who'd ever have thought the Hollies, the 'good boys', would ever be singing a line like 'won't you try it now?' Go figure!) It features ridiculous 'astral' noises which not only sound dated now, they already sounded dated then, after Piper showed everybody what the 'real' astral noises were. The song itself is immaculate, though, although the way they sing the word 'rainbow' brings images of the Beatles' 'Rain' to me. Well, all the world is one big company. And, anyway, even the silly astral mistake is corrected by the next psycho anthem, 'Step Inside', as well as the closing gentle, almost acoustic title track. For many, 'Butterfly' is one of the best numbers one the record - I can't really see how that could be so, as it's one of the least catchy numbers here, but then again, maybe I'm just too keen on catchiness. The pompous orchestration is a bit too much for me to take on here, too, but the vocal melody is impeccable. Anyway, if you're a Moody Blues fan, you're sure to appreciate it dearly.

Any serious missteps? One. The stupid, sugary 'Pegasus' sounds like a soundtrack to a bad film on Greek mythology. As usual, it has a hook and a melody, but it's obvious that it was just another in their series of half-baked, insecure and derivative psycho efforts; the endlessly repeated refrain 'I'm Pegasus The Flying Hoss' ends up getting on my nerves. So we got it already - why keep on defining the damn creature? However, one fly in the soup don't spoil the cake.

Of course, American audiences know this album as Dear Eloise/King Midas In Reverse (the latter is the title of the band's most complex and experimentative single). Geez, some more musical industry misguidance. Try to find the original, or you'll be left without 'Try It' and 'Elevated Observations?', a nice little acoustic ditty dealing with 'high matters'. Hey, but how come they put that question mark at the end? Were they trying to put down their own pretentiousness? Good lads!



Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

A fun take on the master! Just ignore some of the real downers, and Allan Clarke takes you for a fun ride!


Track listing: 1) When The Ship Comes In; 2) I'll Be Your Baby Tonight; 3) I Want You; 4) This Wheel's On Fire; 5) I Shall Be Released; 6) Blowin' In The Wind; 7) Quit Your Low Down Ways; 8) Just Like A Woman; 9) The Times They Are A-Changin'; 10) All I Really Want To Do; 11) My Back Pages; 12) Mighty Quinn.

One of the most controversial albums of the Sixties - despite the fact that few people know, or care, about its existence. Apparently, the Hollies were aware of the "roots rock" revolution that started to take place in 1968, with the Beatles and the Stones and the Byrds coming out of the druggy haze, and seeing as how acid rock and psychedelia inevitably led to either a "return to rootsiness" or a further "artsification" into the depths of prog, it's easy to guess which of the two routes these guys would choose. The problem was with what exactly to do with this newly-found "rootsiness". Somebody, possibly Clarke himself, suggested a Dylan covers album - the basic idea of covering Dylan was not that new, as the Hollies had been doing some Dylan numbers in their live shows prior to that, but, of course, the idea of a "tribute" album like that was pretty radical. It's said to have been one of the reasons of Nash quitting the band for good, although I do think that was merely a pretext; Nash had been drifting away from the band's collective spirit for a long time now. Besides, he wanted to be better friends with Crosby and all.

So anyway, the Hollies did this album without Nash. And, of course, it was severely panned. It's one thing for a jangly lightweight Britpop band to do an occasional Dylan cover, it's a whole different world to release an entire album of Dylan tunes transformed into jangly lightweight Britpop. Hey, what a better subject for all the critical world to grapple onto and unleash all their complexes. Stupid, unimaginative, fluffy, etc., etc. These money-grubbing pop-schlock hacks. Sacrificed the band's most creative member to hang onto a ridiculous gimmicky idea. Bunch of putzes. Who needs 'em? Bubblegum is on its way out anyway.

The fact is, it would be too simple to decide, once and for all, that Hollies Sing Dylan was born exclusively out of commercial purposes or out of a general lack of ideas. I mean, let's start from the beginning - the idea of a "tribute" album to a rock musician was pretty new in 1969; at least, I know of no earlier examples. Still thinking further, is it really any worse to have an album consisting exclusively of covers of one artist than an album consisting exclusively of covers of several artists - like the Hollies debut? Or, for that matter, the brilliant Stones' debut? At least with Dylan, you have the guarantee that most, or even all, of the songs would be good, and you won't fall into the trap of covering second-rate derivative doo-wop or R'n'B. The important thing is, will your covers add anything to the originals, or will they be just bland uncreative renditions?

Approaching Hollies Sing Dylan from this perspective, you can see it's not a bad album at all. The Hollies really make all of these songs their own, for better or worse, much like the Byrds "appropriated" 'Mr Tambourine Man' or the Band "appropriated" 'I Shall Be Released'. The arrangements are almost always different from the original - the Hollies make them predictably janglier, more upbeat, and often even dare change the basic melodies. And above it all towers Clarke's vocal delivery, as strong and attention-attracting as usual. If anything, these guys were really into this project.

There's definitely a couple of misfires. The idea of changing the vocal melody in the chorus of 'Blowing In The Wind' was brilliant, but for some reason they decided the song would work good in a pseudo-Vegas arrangement, pompous brass and all, and it doesn't. It sounds pretty stupid, if you ask me, maybe even corny. I can almost see the bikini-clad girls with canes and hats prancing around the stage as the glitter-clad Allan Clarke howls out 'the answer my friend is blow wow wow wow wowing in the wind'. Also, stuff like 'I Want You' doesn't go off too well either - Dylan's most enigmatic lyrical creations sound rather sterile when presented in these upbeat arrangements. Kinda uncomfortable.

On the other hand, who can resist the charms of 'When The Ship Comes In' if you have it presented to you sped up, with a fast chuggin' banjo rhythm and a sharp edged electric piano cutting across the stereo? Definitely not me, I'll always be ready to sing along. The banjo then appears again on a couple of tracks, notably on 'Mighty Quinn' (classy!). Clarke's vocals sound passionate and moving on 'I Shall Be Released', even if The Band's version of the song still rests as the definitive one. 'All I Really Want To Do' is tighter and more kick-ass than Sonny and Cher's version, even if it's based on that one, more or less. The tension and desperation of 'This Wheel's On Fire' are preserved perfectly despite the general "joyful" character of the album. And the Hollies also prove they can master Bob's country stylistics by successfully reproducing (and extending) 'I'll Be Your Baby Tonight'.

I mean, hey, it's nothing to write home about with shaking hands and glowing eyes, but it ain't bad. As far as tribute albums go, it's good. And it symbolizes a change of direction rather than a lack of ideas. In fact, as far as I know, it even has a minor cult following among Hollies fans. Ironically, Bob himself would undergo the critics' gunfire a year later with Selfportrait, and for a very similar reason (hiding himself behind alien material), and you know what? it's also a good album. Proof #1 that Violent Album Panning is rarely related to actual musical factors - in fact, the more violent it is, the less it has to do with music.



Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

It's not like they're really singing Hollies better than they're singing Dylan - it's just that I can't imagine a record called "Dylan Sings Hollies".

Best song: PLEASE LET ME PLEASE; WINGS if you count the bonuses

Track listing: 1) Why Didn't You Believe; 2) Don't Give Up Easily; 3) Look At Life; 4) Please Sign Your Letters; 5) My Life Is Over With You; 6) Please Let Me Please; 7) Do You Believe In Love; 8) Soldiers Dilemma; 9) Marigold/Gloria Swansong; 10) You Love 'Cos You Like It; 11) Reflections Of A Time Long Past; 12) Goodbye Tomorrow; [BONUS TRACKS:] 13) Wings; 14) Sorry Suzanne; 15) Not That Way At All; 16) He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother; 17) 'Cos You Like To Love Me; 18) Louisiana Man; 19) She Looked My Way; 20) Eleanor's Castle.

Much different, and much more to the point. No Nash, though. The first 'serious' Hollies product without Nash, How good is it? Well, it doth lack the spark. There is no arguing whatsoever that out of all the band members, Nash alone was gifted with a third eye, although, to give them their due, Clarke did honestly try to at least paint one in front of the mirror during this short late Sixties bit; how else can one explain the pomposity and seriousness of some of these numbers, as well as the band's getting all artsy and pseudo-complex on 'Marigold'?

However, let us not blow this out of reasonable proportion: Nash, after all, was - still is, judging by his latest solo album - little more than an idealistic young boy, and his gift consisted of little more than making an enjoyable mix out of the Britpop form and the Flower Power spirit. Thus, without his contribution Sing Hollies suffers in both the form and the spirit department, but it's not like things should have been vastly different had he remained in the band. For one thing, the Hollies, as almost everybody else, had to yield to the rootsy backlash against psychedelic excesses (as did Nash himself, who teamed up with Dave Crosby the Psychedelic Guru only to eventually discover himself doing straightforward 70s folk-rock with the rest of 'em).

In the Hollies' case, "rootsy backlash" means bringing in - or back - elements of country, blue-eyed soul, and even gospel, alternating them with stuff that's alternatively simplistic and bubblegummy or long winded and pretentious. They might have been taking their clues from the Beatles, in fact: Sing Hollies, despite a few of the songs almost sharing the exact same melody, is surprisingly diverse stylistically, so that there is no way you could like or hate all of it. Most important of all, I find it impossible to say they're "stagnating", which seems to be a fairly frequent point of view on the album - fuelled, no doubt, by Nash's departure as well as the corny album cover (even if the band does sorta look more natural in those lacey shirts than they did in the flower garb on the cover of Evolution). They aren't moving mountains, that is for sure, but neither were the Beatles or the Stones in 1969, and yet they managed to come out with some of their best work. I mean, if you really wanted to be King of the Hill in 1969, you had to be King Crimson, pardon the pun.

What does bug me about the album is the unhappy amount of Vegasy schlock. The album opens on a very unhappy note, with one of the very worst white gospel anthems I've ever heard in my life. The fire and vehemence in Clarke's delivery on the reprehensive 'Why Didn't You Believe' is probably supposed to make the song convincing and captivating, but for me, all it does is throwing the shadow of Christian fundamentalism on the band - I know it's probably ridiculous, but Allan truly overdoes it! In comparison, early Hollies' work like 'Very Last Day' was, well, no less energetic, but ever so slightly detached so that you got the feeling they were really acting it out, churning out waves of feeling without getting carried too far away by the character they were impersonating. Here, it's like they really mean it - hey, they wrote the song themselves! - and it's unsettling. Besides, the melody ain't too hot either, and the arrangement is towering, but generic.

Likewise, they're putting too much bathos into the ballad department. Does Clarke do a great job on 'My Life Is Over With You'? He does. Does the song sound like Humperdinck? Couldn't really tell given that the last time I heard Humperdinck was also the first, but the comparison is at least justified, and what horrifies me even more is the realization that Clarke's voice is so perfectly suited to the Vegas circuit. There's simply no denying it. Forget Neil Diamond, forget the Carpenters, Allan Clarke's got it, and I wish he didn't. It's fortunate that it took him half a decade to realize he did, and even then he had enough good taste not to exploit it to the fullest. But he couldn't resist the temptation occasionally, and this song is just one of the first examples.

There's quite a few problems on the other flanks, too. Some of the genre experimentations don't seem to work. With 'You Love 'Cos You Like It', for instance, the band dabbles in ska, and their approach is the 'Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da' one: they don't seem to take the style seriously enough and treat it in "trifle-mode", with a kiddie ditty. But they just aren't kiddie enough: there's nothing really in the absurdist 'Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face' key within the song, and it ends up being simplistic and obnoxious instead of hilarious (the basic melody is kinda catchy, though). 'Do You Believe In Love?' is another failed attempt at rousing the crowds - with the band sounding like a collective Peter Pan in search of a cure for Tinkerbell, but not at all convincing. And the lengthy 'Marigold / Gloria Swansong' suite, ambitious as it is, is completely expendable in the light of, oh I dunno, bands like the Strawbs for instance, who did the "prog-folk" thing with far more competence. At least they didn't rip off 'Baby's In Black' to account for the most climactic moments in the song!

Thus when you have scraped all the rubble off the surface, what you're left with, essentially, is just a bunch of lightweight, catchy, pleasant, unambitious pop ditties - hey, isn't that what the Hollies were all about from the beginning? And there's nothing wrong with that. 'Please Let Me Please', with its colourful power-pop guitars and a joyful, dancing riff that one could die for could have been done by Big Star and I wouldn't see anybody complaining (okay, so maybe it's just a tad too happy even for Big Star's debut). Tony Hicks' 'Don't Give Up Easily' boasts a subtle, echoey production and is graced by beautiful post-psychedelic trills from - supposedly - a Theremin. The country-styled 'Please Sign Your Letters', replete with authentic banjo, is memorable not only because of the chorus, but the great bass lead line as well. The other songs, too, they're decent.

But I really must be honest about it: my current rating only applies to the heavily bonus-tracked French edition of the album. Normally I disregard 'em bonuses, but this time I'm making an exception because there are a whole eight extra tracks on here, and - get this - the worst of these eight is still better than the best of the original twelve. That's not to say they're all heavenly creatures, but some of them are, and overall, it looks like once again the Hollies were ready to prove they were still a singles band. Maybe the wide wide quality gap between their singles and albums had become a little narower ever since the release of For Certain Because, but by early 1969 they'd stretched it out again, and I'd like you to hear these bonuses and prove me otherwise.

First and foremost, for all of my (heavily insufficient) money, the Hollies never ever never recorded anything more beautiful than 'Wings'. An obscure rarity only normally found on a compilation album recorded for the National Wildlife Foundation, no less, it's art-pop perfection. Silly people stand around, they worry me and always ask me how the heck could I rate the Hollies the same as the Beach Boys - well, this is my answer to all the silly people. 'Wings' is an effortless, flawless, cathartic masterpiece that seems to achieve all of its goals by doing nothing - the chords are minimal, the vocal harmonies are straightforward, the instrumental passage is just a laconic piano solo, and the chorus consists of one line. But what a line - "why do they want us to walk when we can fly"? Not surprisingly, it was one of the last collaborations between Clarke and Nash; I don't see the Nashless Hollies being able to pull off this beauty.

I do, however, see the Nashless Hollies pull off 'Sorry Suzanne', which you probably all know and which might just be the greatest pre-1965 Beatles song that the Beatles never recorded. You know what's really terrific about that song? How, after a minute and a half of piano- and vocal-dominated music, when you're already pretty sure you've had all the hooks you can take, this magnificent guitar solo emerges out of plain nowhere and Hicks gives his best "we all miss the beardless George Harrison" passage. And once upon a time I used to mostly remember the song for its 'I can't make it if you leave me, I'm sorry Suzanne believe me' opening lines, considering them the epitome of pop idiocy. How did that awesome guitar escape me?

The third mammoth amidst the bonuses is the band's well-known - much too well-known - pathetic anthem 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother', with Elton John on piano and someone anonymous on moody autoharp. I like it a lot. To me, it doesn't sound one iota like simply more of that Vegas crap. It's an epic shot at an epic tale, and it's got stateliness and majesty written all over it. Hard to say why. Maybe because it's said to have been written by a guy who was dying of cancer. Maybe because of that harmonica. Maybe because they sing it so well, like a lengthy, even-paced ballad where it's hard to distinguish between verse and chorus. Maybe because... okay, not because Elton John is playing on it.

The respective B-sides to 'Suzanne' and 'Brother' are two more excellent pop songs: 'Not That Way At All' sounds like an unjustly forgotten outtake from For Certain Because (with a bunch of random psycho noises replacing the obligatory solo, but otherwise it's all tops), and 'Cos You Like To Love Me' is heads and tails above 'You Love 'Cos You Like It' despite the odd compatibility of the titles. Written by Tony, by the way. Good old Tony. (Actually, good always young Tony). Finally, I'm not sure about the origins of the last three songs, but they all qualify: 'Louisiana Man' is one of their more authentic-sounding country romps, 'She Looked My Way' is solid anthemic pop and 'Eleanor's Castle' is just solid pop. Why was stuff like that rusting in the vaults? More importantly, how come stuff like that was rusting in the vaults and 'My Life Is Over With You' was making the grade? Bottomline: the French edition is the one to own.



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Average mechanical pop music - listenable, but the jovial excitement is long gone. Give credit to the professionalism, though.


Track listing: 1) Survival Of The Fittest; 2) Man Without A Heart; 3) Little Girl; 4) Isn't It Nice; 5) Perfect Lady Housewife; 6) Confessions Of A Mind; 7) Lady Please; 8) Frightened Lady; 9) Too Young To Be Married; 10) Separated; 11) We Wanna Shout.

So, After a yearlong break in LP recording, loss of a key member (Nash, who went on to join CSN), a panned album of Dylan covers and a slightly more successful album of self-penned material (as you might guess, I still haven't found the second one, the only copies I see are cruelly expensive Japanese imports), the Hollies replaced Nash with ex-Swinging Blue Jeans Terry Sylvester and decided to carry on. However, either their time was long gone or they just lost the spark, but Confessions Of The Mind isn't anywhere as pretty as their classic mid-Sixties releases. It's a good thing, though, that the Hollies were always a 'pure', only very slightly experimental traditional pop band. Their style didn't change much over the years, but at least that guaranteed their absolute mastery of it. This results in the fact that the album in question is certainly not a load of crap (counterexample: the Byrds, who preferred wild experimentation to a steady, but unremarkable career and utterly lost the war). It's just not very interesting. On the positive side, the melodies are still existent, the vocal harmonies are immaculate as usual, the playing and production are top-notch, and the songs aren't overlong (except the title track) or seriously tampered with. On the negative side, they just don't seem to have any real life in them. Now I know that's not an objective remark, but I really can't express it otherwise.

The only concrete objection I can put forward is that the lyrics are for the most part incredibly dumb, usually lame social or psychological comments. 'Highlights' include contemplations on the fate of a little girl whose parents are about to get divorced ('Little Girl'), on the fate of another little girl who's under her mother's thumb ('Too Young To Be Married') and a faint lyrical copy of the Stones' 'Mother's Little Helper' ('Perfect Lady Housewife'). These lyrics are plain horrible. But anyway, who listens to a Hollies album for the lyrics? Their penchant for social commentary was there as early as 1966, and it wasn't always pretty intelligent.

As it is, I don't even have any favourites or see any particular stinkers on here. Okay, so I thought the title track, with its five minutes and thirty seconds, was gonna be a stinker cuz it started like an over-orchestrated, rhythmless operatic piece of schlock; but soon enough it turned itself into a pleasant pop rocker, which partially redeemed it for me. It's actually quite complex for the Hollies, which makes it sound in parts uncannily like a Moody Blues song (well, I've always made a point that the Moody Blues were nothing but an over-complicated, over-puffed-up version of the Hollies). Anyway, 'Confessions Of The Mind' go through several different parts, from 'atmospheric slow with bad orchestra' to 'bouncy fast with good orchestra', and incorporates a really fun guitar solo, too. I do find, however, that the 'she gives me everything...' lines are lifted from the Yardbirds' 'For Your Love'. Anybody else notice the resemblance? Whatever, as the most ambitious and mildly successful 'experimental' track on here, this gets my vote for best song.

Other 'surprises' include Clarke and Sylvester's 'Man Without A Heart', a proto-Europop stomper that yet again presages some of the Moody Blues' work, namely, 'I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock'n'Roll Band)'. Dang it, most of the Moodies' songs can be traced back to the Hollies. Pathetic, isn't it? No, I'm not saying the Moodies lifted the melody - but they lifted the same thump-thump-thumping rhythm and the same vocal harmonies style. In fact, this is about the earliest representative of Europop that I can actually recognize - shouldn't the Hollies be treated as musical revolutionaries, eh? The same nice pair also pumps out a couple more screamers, like the joyful album closer 'I Wanna Shout' (marred by underproduction - the song BEGS for a wall-of-sound production) and the dumb, but hummable 'Perfect Lady Housewife'. And the echoey guitar introduction to 'Isn't It Nice' is one of the most gorgeous moments on the whole record - the song itself, catchy and pleasant as it is, hardly lives up to that minimalistic splash of beauty, but I already don't care.

But the album's main songwriter turns out to be Hicks, with at least five full writing credits and one collaboration with the 'nice pair'. His is the pseudo-epic title track, and he also contributes a couple nice ballads ('Lady Please'), as well as an unbelievingly stupid anti-war song ('Frightened Lady') and an excellent retro sendup bringing us back to the classic Sixties' phase ('Little Girl' - couldn't that ditty come off from For Certain Because? Easily.) 'Survival Of The Fittest', with the magnificent 'descending resolution' of the vocal melody in the chorus, is also a beautiful retro surprise, and a good way to start off the record.

Anyway, why am I discussing these songs, really? You won't understand anything about them from my scattered comments. Just one more sentence and I'm shutting up. These songs are not at all distinctive - a pretty sloppy mess of second-rate pop writing with a few underrated gems mixed in. To hell with it. But any bad songs? Not a single one. Yeah, the hooks are thin and take some time to be discovered, but they're there all right. I understand why many fans and critics prefer to piss on this record, but it's just as it goes with a brilliant piano player - even when he's tired and feeling off his head, you can still feel the hidden genius on the tips of his fingers. At least the style is immaculate as ever.

So if you see Confessions for a decent price ('decent' meaning 'not exceeding one dollar'), you might just as well grab it. Because it isn't a bad record. No Hollies album I ever heard is a bad record - just make sure it's not your first buy. And if you're a diehard fan, it shouldn't at all disappoint you if you just manage to lower your expectations a little bit.



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Improved, improved very much - the songs aren't as uniform and the hooks are less formulaic.


Track listing: 1) What A Life I've Led; 2) Look What We've Got; 3) Hold On; 4) Pull Down The Blind; 5) To Do With Love; 6) Promised Land; 7) Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress; 8) You Know The Score; 9) Cable Car; 10) A Little Thing Like Love; 11) Long Dark Road.

Sometimes a massive artistic failure leads to an unexpected peak - I don't know the exact reason, but it might have something to do with a kind of 'repentance', or maybe a shock and the resulting painful search of new ways and new creative ideas. This is exactly what happened. The Hollies were so used to being smash hit producers in Britain that the flop of their last couple of records seemed to have a sobering effect on them. This particular piece of vinyl is a huge improvement over the nasty Confessions Of The Mind. Even though it features essentially the same bunch of songwriters, the same band members and the same production values, it's still loads better. Technically this is in a large part due to a serious shift in sound: where Confessions was just your average bop-pop record, Distant Light is a much bolder effort, incorporating elements of gospel, rhythm and blues and even hard rock (yup, a couple of tracks do feature loud distorted guitars). The sound is much more mean in general, yet some of the songs are still good time pop, and this makes for a diverse and ear-feeding listen. Strange enough, it seems to be a long-time fan "disfavourite", but I'd have to ascribe that just to the very same reason: the Hollies expand beyond their formula and so end up losing some of their hardcore fans. Yet it was a relative commercial success for them, which means that the expansion did also work the other way round.

Thus, this is the record that features the first (and best) of their series of Creedence Clearwater Revival rip-offs: on 'Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)' Sylvester sings uncannily close to John Fogerty like the latter did on echoey songs like 'Green River'. The number itself isn't anything special, of course, but still, these Fogerty-style vocals, the goofy lyrical subject and the bouncy rhythm guitar make me happy and giddy. It was a number two hit in the States, too: apparently, the public must have thought it was CCR masking as the Hollies, and did the band a favour - as far as I know, none of their earlier material ever charted as high in America. What a dirty little trick. :)

Other 'heavy' tracks include the bizarre 'You Know The Score' (with a boring and dragging organ/chorus mid-section, unfortunately - multi-part songs weren't really that band's true specialization), and yet another Fogerty-inspired, paranoid song called 'Hold On', with particularly murky lyrics, but we're really not discussing lyrics if we're into the Hollies. 'Pull Down The Blind' is a strange kind of song, too, with echoey double-tracked vocals and relatively hard guitars, a style which they had never tried previously. All these songs are attractive if only for the fact that they sound nothing like classic Hollies; but in accordance with the Hollies tradition, they're all fantastically catchy and well-produced.

The group harmonies are also on the rise, as witnessed by the album opener, 'What A Life I've Led': a potential dumb newborn anthem that could have fit on Dylan's Saved, it's elevated by Sylvester's tongue-in-cheek singing (literally) and these wonderful harmonies that suddenly sound fresh and exciting again. Perhaps it would be better to leave out the female backup voices - no need to gospelize the song even further - and, of course, it's not that rare kind of gospel anthem, like the Stones' 'Shine A Light', that's able to really bring tears to your eyes, but it's shimmering gospel pop that's engaging and hilarious nevertheless. 'Long Dark Road' and 'A Little Thing Like Love' are just as exciting, with huge, memorable choruses. And none of these banal social comments! The little crying girls and perfect ladies housewives make way for the standard love songs, on one hand, and ridiculous FBI story parodies, on the other. I mean, I prefer my Hollies dumb and simplistic; leave social comments to Jethro Tull and Dylan, because normally I don't expect to follow the lyrics on a Hollies record, and Confessions Of The Mind virtually forced me to.

In all, the album has maybe one bad song in all, the lengthy gospelish 'Promised Land' (at least, it's lyrically gospelish). Sounds somewhat pedestrian, I'd say, and doesn't fit in with these other 'whoppers'. Plus, at times the band tends to water down its sound, like on the piano-based 'Look What We've Got', a song that has a perfectly acceptable melody, but ends up sounding like a mediocre Elton John ballad since the piano never tends to be all that distinctive.

A strange thing, really, how they could have made such a good record in 1971. Of course, Britain was much more busy with praising symph rock at the time. Sheez. I respect symph rock, but give Power Pop a chance, will ya? They didn't and the album didn't chart. Nowadays it's probably impossible to find except on Japanese imports. How come the Japs have everything and the Americanos don't? I didn't get that as a Jap import, though. I got it as a cheap 'licensed' Russian CD copy! Grand and groovy! Anyway, if you see a Jap throw this out of the window, make sure you're standing under it, 'cause you'll love it. If you ain't an ELP freak, of course; in that case, better pick up Tarkus from same year (hey, I love that one, too).



Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 4
Overall rating = 7

A totally pathetic way of imitating second-hand bad Blood, Sweat & Tears rather than anything vaguely Hollies-related.

Best song: MAGIC WOMAN TOUCH, but it's hardly that good.

Track listing: 1) Won't We Feel Good This Morning; 2) Touch; 3) Words Don't Come Easy; 4) Magic Woman Touch; 5) Lizzy And The Rainman; 6) Down River; 7) Slow Down; 8) Delaware Taggett And The Outlaw Boys; 9) Jesus Was A Crossmaker; 10) Romany; 11) Blue In The Morning; 12) Courage Of Your Convictions.

This is just one of those unhappy cases of stupid bandmembers thinking they can go on when they cannot. Soon after the release of Distant Light, Clarke left the band for a solo career - and the guys decided to carry on, even if, after the departure of Nash, Clarke pretty much was the band; the primary songwriter and the guy whose vocals actually made the Hollies stand out from all those other bands. In Clarke's place, they recruited a guy named Mikael Rickfors, sort of a wannabe crooner along the lines of Chris "Mick Jagger Found Me In The Pub" Farlowe and David Clayton-Bullshit, only about three times less convincing than either of them, and started relying on Hicks and corporate songwriters to provide them with "fresh" material. Result? This pitiful pile of pigsweed.

Now granted, had I never known this stuff comes from the Hollies, one of the most exciting vocal-based groups of its time, I might have not experienced this nasty feeling. As a "non Hollies" record, it's just uniformly boring, generic, uninventive, and, at times, overbearing. But as a "Hollies" record, it's an abomination, and it's no surprise they made the album cover look like it's Distant Light's twin brother: they had to have at least some sort of connection. Some have called Romany a further step in building their image along the lines of 'Long Cool Woman', but nothing could be further from the truth - 'Long Cool Woman' was very much of an Allan Clarke brainchild, which he proved later by remaking it as 'The Day That Curly Bill Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee'. Romany is just a collection of hookless ballads and energy-devoid "pop-rockers" with rootsy influences. There's BS&T influence here for sure, also late-period Free influence, and, uh, well maybe they were taking the country-rock movement way too seriously.

There's exactly one song on the entire album that made any sort of (positive) impression on me, and that's 'Magic Woman Touch', their first non-hit single (I'm not surprised), and that's because the chorus is (sort of) catchy and there's a (sort of) novel use of sitars on it. But really and truly, it sounds more like a very very very lame imitation of Crosby, Stills, & Nash collective sound with all the "message" taken out and replaced with slick commercialism. The other song that made any sort of (negative) impression on me is 'Down River', a very very very very shitty ballad with the Rickfors guy overemoting to such an extent that under each line of the lyrics you can read: 'What do you want from me anyway? I'm just getting a good pay over here. Don't blame me in particular, blame these dipshits willing to spoil their reputation for nothing.' Too bad, because with a different singer the ballad might have been a success - with a different band, actually, because one thing the Hollies never had going for them was sincerity, and that was always perfectly understood. Why they decided to go for "sincerity" in this way, God only knows.

On a couple tracks, they are trying to "rock out" indeed - 'Slow Down' (not the Larry Williams Beatles-covered song) has a heavy distorted riff carrying it, although not in a disturbing Sabbathy way, rather in the "lumbering" style of the Move ('Brontosaurus', I mean). But where the Move could make the song really crush down on you, let you feel its massive weight on your chest, by making the drums, the bass, and the guitar sound like one three-headed monster, the Hollies simply distort the guitar and that's that. It passes and goes away and leaves no impression, once again proving the rule that non-rocking wimps had better stick to non-rock tunes.

The title track is a total disgrace as well. Its "graceful" acoustic section is - stylistically - a total rip-off of CSN's style, borrowing both guitar moves and vocal arrangements from 'Suite Judy Blue Eyes', but failing to present us with one memorable motive. Sure it has some overal prettiness to it, but CSN can give me prettiness and memorability - and by "memorability" I mean "ability to resonate in one's emotional centers so strongly that this resonance is fully registered in the brain", if you want a pseudo-formal definition or something. 'Romany', the song, fails to be registered anywhere in any way, except in the lost and found bureau maybe.

To cut a possibly long and nasty story short, the only other thing I can remember about the album after four listens is the chorus to 'Jesus Was A Crossmaker' because it happens to more or less coincide with the song title. The rest of the songs, whether ballad or rocker, are a total zero. And the public sensed it too: Romany didn't sell at all and, in fact, reflected their absolute commercial nadir - understandable, because you can't push stuff on even the least demanding kind of public without at least giving them some mighty hooks to go along with it (unless you happen to be the Eagles, but the Eagles at least had attitude; this record doesn't). Ah well, at least they had the good sense to realise that the band's future held nothing in store for them unless they managed to get Mr Clarke safely back on their side and let go this ridiculous crooner.



Year Of Release: 1975
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

Cheesy to the core, but entertaining in spaces - just like cheesy Seventies rock is supposed to be.


Track listing: 1) Another Night; 2) 4th Of July Asbury Park; 3) Lonely Hobo Lullabye; 4) Second Hand Hangups; 5) Time Machine Jive; 6) I'm Down; 7) Look Out Johnny; 8) Give Me Time; 9) You Gave Me Life; 10) Lucy.

Put it this friggin' way: some folks are busy making millions in rich oil corporations, some are maybe putting final touches on a Harry Potter sequel, some are deciding the fates of millions in the ongoing war, and what is my contribution to these global processes? Like a complete asshole, I'm sitting here and wrecking my brain thinking up important thoughts about a 1975 Hollies album that nobody in the world really cares about - and nobody, really, should have ONE really good reason to care about. Ha! What a waste of talent! For all I know, I could be writing my own version of War And Peace right now, or trying to get myself elected and save the world from global warming! Climb up Mount Everest! Find the cure for cancer! At the very least - play in a kickass rock'n'roll band!

But then again, even supposing I am fit for all these things - which I don't know, as I've never tried any of them - there'll always be someone to do that stuff for me. War And Peace has been written, Mount Everest has been climbed, kickass rock'n'roll bands have been played in, and as for global warming, it's all a bunch of pseudo-scientific blabbering anyway (which is the official position of quite a few non-apocalyptically minded scientists), and if it is not, well, no superhero is going to save us from it anyway. BUT! ON THE OTHER HAND! WHERE ELSE IN THE WHOLE WIDE UNIVERSE ARE YOU GOING TO FIND A DETAILED, INSIGHTFUL, UNBIASED REVIEW OF THE HOLLIES' 1975 ALBUM ANOTHER NIGHT? NOT EVEN THE ALL-MUSIC GUIDE HAS ONE! Hear this, ladies and gentlemen - with "Classic Rock And Pop Album Reviews", you don't need to seek out a Hollies mailing list to ask questions about how badly these guys sucked back in the mid-Seventies! We bring it right on home to you! Without leaving the comfort of your chair, your merrily crackling wood in the hearth, and your faithful dog Sookie, you have a fully-fledged, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear a lot of opinionated judgements on an album you're most likely to never, ever, EVER hear in your life, first, because it's out of print (and if it isn't, it probably should be), and second, because even if it is, you won't be in a great rush to go and get it after you've read what I'm just about to write.

Aaaah, Another Night. What a healthy, sexy, luscious title. What a splendiferous, colourful, neon-drenched album cover. What a nauseatingly typically Seventies band photo - just add a couple gold medallions, a couple hairy chests, and maybe an unseen whiff of cocaine, and you get yourself some prime stuff here, worth rubbing the Bee Gees' noses in. Not that there is a single trace of disco on here; in 1975, it was still more or less underground, not to mention that, unlike the Bee Gees, the Hollies weren't too keen on, you know, exploring American clubland. It's just standard middle-of-the-road commercial Seventies pop-rock or MOR as they call it; heavy on sentimentalism, rich on synthesizers, and rather poor on ideas. But not entirely devoid of them, either, because you can always count on good old Mr Clarke to contribute something to the pot of shit.

The title track opens the proceedings just the way you'd expect it should: a piece of pretentious romanticism, punctuated by "novel" use of synths and Clarke's holier-than-thou vocal delivery. Few, if any, traces of the Hollies' original vocal harmonies, but a "cathartic" guitar solo instead so tears can come flowing down your sullen cheeks. But hold your battering ram - as far as formula goes, 'Another Night' works as much for the Hollies in the Seventies as lots of good songs worked for them in the Sixties. They made the final transition with the self titled album two years ago and they're still going the same way; if the album didn't sell nearly as much as they expected to, it's mostly because people were too busy buying stuff that was much, much worse - KISS and suchlike.

In fact, way too often the Hollies on here sound like that other half-forgotten Seventies' pop-rock relict, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, and it's hardly pure coincidence that they're also covering Springsteen. Now you probably know what are my feelings towards the Boss: any cover of his song is better than the original as long as it's at least generally in the 'acceptable' ballpark. However, not even the Hollies are able to turn '4th Of July Asbury Park' into something vaguely resembling an interesting song; it's just not that kind of material. Thank you Mr Clarke for sucking Bruce's Messiah complex out of the song, but how come you didn't put in anything better? I mean, it's hardly surprising that we get to hear the Hollies render Bruce in an insincere way, but it is surprising they can't comb the song into something memorable, considering some of the really good results they'd achieved while doing Dylan.

Not that I'm complaining, there's nothing terrible going on. They're just quietly ripping off the melody of 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door' ('Lonely Hobo Lullabye'), or drowning the songs in Bee Gees-style orchestration ('Second Hand Hangups'), or delivering corny boogie with so much ridiculous cockishness that one of those tunes is actually my favourite - the pompous slowed-down rockabilly of 'Time Machine Jive'. And, not to name too many names, there's another 'Long Cool Woman' sendup, this time with the harsh guitar chords suffering from extensive phasing, called 'You Gave Me Life'. Being thoroughly mediocre, it's also not half bad, and it really amuses me the way they build these ascending riffs as if to communicate something really ominous... boo!

All in all, it could have been worse. I'm sure you can find much better pop albums from the year 1975 - then again, wasn't this sort of a "dark hole" in between the demise of the underappreciated Big Star/Badfinger power pop scene and the emergence of New Wave? - but if, for instance, you have an Allan Clarke fetish, grab it by all means if you do find it. Besides, now that I think of it, that album cover looks just as much Nineties (or, what's-t-is we gotta be saying now? "Zeros"? "Two thousand-s?") as it does Seventies.



Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Crickety, this is good, as in "really unexpectedly good". What's up with a really good 1976 album from the Hollies?


Track listing: 1) Star; 2) Write On; 3) Sweet Country Calling; 4) Love Is The Thing; 5) I Won't Move Over; 6) Narida; 7) Stranger; 8) Crocodile Woman (She Bites); 9) My Island; 10) There's Always Goodbye.

Ah, now here comes the pay-off, see! You dig in the garbage for what seems like ages, get all dirty and smelly, and then, finally, pluck out some sort of a cutesy thing - which may not be the most cutesy thing in the world for sure, but fact is, it's yours and nobody else's. So let me proudly present Write On, a really solid, really enjoyable record that the Hollies somehow managed to churn out after nearly going proto-polyester with Another Night. Whoda thunk that? The two records sound similar, and yet... they're different. The differences are subtle and may not be seen, or appreciated, by anybody but me, but that doesn't mean they aren't there, because of rule #1: if I feel a difference coming on, it is there, whether you slimey bastards want it or not. Try telling me otherwise, and I'll bash the Tony Hicks out of you.

Now that you're intimidated/intrigued enough, let's just discuss the stuff. The album cover is just plain white and neutral and modest. The title is Write On which may be self-referential and even self-mocking, as in "write on, you talentless hacks, nobody's gonna listen to you anyway". And the songs are entertaining! Some of them - many, in fact - are still cheesy, and the ballads are still sappy, but most of them at least attract you with something. Overall, I'd say Clarke is in better form for this album, trying to recapture some of the fiery energy of his youth; but the most impressive thing is how Hicks radically changes his guitar style, daring to play louder, more aggressively, and with less subtlety than earlier, and actually manages to get a lot of good sounds from his cracky old guitar, too! His solos on here, whether it be the power ballads or the rockers, really get me going, with imaginative combinations of tones and chords that actually make me think I used to underrate the old weepy guy.

There is some stylistic experimentation on the record: the single 'Star', for instance, is bubblegum-flavoured ska punctuated by goofy synthesizer buzzing - a novelty number if there ever was one, but a fun one, especially when the Hollies start weaving their classic harmonizing around the synthesizer buzzing. Too bad they didn't let Hicks solo on this one, choosing a stupid mess of pseudo-recorder phrases instead. 'Love Is The Thing' is a rhythm-section-less ballad, only driven forward by watery keyboards, and is probably the dinkiest, sappiest, and least sincere song on the record, but I can't deny that the main melody is actually memorable, even if they probably just got it by sampling some major classical work which doesn't come to mind right now. And 'Narida' is... well... I mean, there probably hasn't been a dumber dance-pop number recorded in the entire decade, what with these SILLY basslines, these SILLY drumbeats, these RIDICULOUS faux-funk rhythms, these HILARIOUS chantings of "Na-na-na-na-na-na-reeee-da!" It almost sounds more like crappy Italian estrada, but what's annoyingly bad for Italy is just amusingly corny for ol' Mother England. Especially when Mr Hicks adds in a deliciously decadent wah-wah-spiced solo!

I mean, everybody knows that there's a fine line, if any, between the good and the bad - these songs are so deliciously bad in atmosphere and so amazingly good in composition that they're actually something to be reckoned with. But then there's also the prime good stuff which does not by any means fall under the category of "guilty pleasures". 'Crocodile Woman (She Bites)', for instance, is a tremendous piece of Seventies-style rockabilly that the guys pull off with total conviction, adding excellent rollickin' piano and more rockin' guitar parts from Mr Hicks. Maybe someone in the camp had been listening to a lot of T Rex lately or something. And listen to Bobby Elliott just getting it on with that rhythm! The kind of smartass pop-rock, not too cocky or macho or anything, that the Hollies certainly could do well, and it's a good thing they started doing something like that instead of getting Clarke to write yet another clone of 'Long Cool Woman'.

There's also a couple of really good ballads, including the "epic" title track - sort of a "one-man gospel" performance interweaved with a more rocking section (if you're freshly arrived from Alpha Centauri and do not know the difference between 'gospel' and 'rock', the first section is where the chorus goes 'WRITE ON!' and the second one is where the chorus goes 'ROCK ON!'). And the closing 'There's Always Goodbye' is another of those pompous chants the Hollies seem to have made their trademark since 'He Ain't Heavy' and 'The Air That I Breathe'; if you tolerate these ones, you'll dig 'There's Always Goodbye', too. Personally, I don't see why one should protest against a near-perfect display of vocal talent.

There are also lesser tracks - the best of these is probably 'Sweet Country Calling', sort of "Elton John meets the Eagles and bangs them on the head with a pair of glasses" - but I'm not here to, well, you know... Let's just end it like this: the Hollies, for a brief spell at least, seem to have recaptured a big part of their muse, and without biases and pretense, you can get quite a bit of this product, if you ever find it, that is. Oh! But if you find it, they say that the re-mastered version has bonus tracks to it, chief among them the Hollies' version of - get it - 'Born To Run'! Now why does something tell me I'd probably like it more than the original?



Year Of Release: 19??

There are certainly tons of Hollies' greatest hits packages around, and if you can't find the original albums, you're welcome to just about anything provided it reflects the Hollies' classic period - from 1964 to 1967. This here package of mine certainly does, collecting twenty-five tracks that mirror the band's career from their first hits to their last ones (ending with 'The Air That I Breathe' off the last gap of brilliance, the 1974 self-titled LP - although, granted, the collection perversely starts with this number). Actually, you're obliged to get a "Hollies' Greatest" even if you do acquire the original albums: lots of their songs are unavailable on LPs, according to the classic British principle of separating LPs from singles.

In any case, most of these songs are great - maybe two or three of the latter-day bunch of singles are seedy (for instance, I never understood why it was so necessary for the band to desperately cash in on the success of 'Long Cool Woman' and rewrite it as 'The Day That Curly Bill Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee', not to mention the blatant country-western title), but you can't go wrong with the rest. Just look at the titles: 'Bus Stop', 'Just One Look', 'Look Through Any Window', 'I Can't Let Go', 'I'm Alive', 'Here I Go Again', 'Stop Stop Stop', 'Carrie Anne'... and, of course, the 'experimental' stuff like 'King Midas In Reverse' and the famous "anti-experimental", almost confusedly commercial, but totally irresistable 'Jennifer Eccles'. And the few 'rocking' tracks of them that they were able to pull off real well - like 'Hey Willy'. In brief, a collection like this is a must in every household.


Return to the main index page