Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beat Group! - The Hollies

Beat Group!
The Hollies
Imperial  LP 9312

This was the Hollies third album in the U. S. and eight of its eleven songs were drawn from the Hollies fourth British album "Would You Believe?" which contained 12 songs.  As is the case with most British Invasion groups, there are considerable differences between the British Hollies albums and their American equivalents with the latter having fewer songs and stupider titles.  The British albums are easy to find on CD but finding original vinyl copies in the U.S is pretty tough so I've settled for the Imperial albums.  This is a pretty good one with a mixture of quality original compositions and a wide array of covers.  The most memorable song is "I Can't Let Go" by Chip Taylor and Al Gorgoni which was deservedly a big hit in England but failed to crack the top 40 over here for some reason.  I think it is a terrific song with wonderful vocal harmonies and appealing jangly guitar riffs.  It is one of my favorite early Hollies songs.  Most of the other songs that I like were written by the Hollies under their collective pseudonym L. Ransford.  The country-flavored "Running Through The Night" did not appear on "Would You Believe?" and was the B-side of the British single of "I Can't Let Go."  It has a nice jangly guitar line and I'm pleased that Imperial stuck it on the album.  "Oriental Sadness" shows the group's growth as songwriters.  It has a memorable melody, a nice Asian style guitar lick and the vocals are typically outstanding.  Aside from the Beatles, I don't think any British group from that era can even come close to the Hollies' skill in that regard.  "Hard Hard Year" is reminiscent of the Beatles' folk influenced songs like "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" aside from an almost metallic guitar solo.  "Fifi the Flea" is just Graham Nash and an acoustic guitar.  I find it sappy and dull, but I respect the band's effort to break free of the limitations of being a beat group.  The originals give this album a little depth, the covers are mostly lightweight.  They include a pair of soul numbers.  "That's How Strong My Love Is" is pleasant enough but it can't really compete with the more soulful versions by O. V. Wright and especially Otis Redding.  "I Take What I Want" had been a single for Sam and Dave the previous year.  I don't find the Hollies version very convincing.  There are also a couple of covers that weren't on "Would You Believe?" and which were also recorded by the Beatles.  The group tackles "A Taste of Honey" at a slightly faster pace than the Beatles did although the arrangements are otherwise fairly similar.  The Beatles version is more romantic but I like the propulsive quality of the Hollies' version.  "Mr. Moonlight" was taken from the Hollies first English album "Stay With the Hollies."  It is also has a quicker tempo than the Beatles' version but I prefer John Lennon's more robust vocal to the vocal by Graham Nash which sounds whiny to me.  Both songs seem old fashioned compared to the progressive direction the band was moving in and I suspect they represent Imperial trying to make the record more commercial.  The remaining covers are "Don't You Even Care" by Clint Ballard Jr. (who wrote the band's earlier hit "I'm Alive") and "Take Your Time" by the band's namesake, Buddy Holly.  The former is enjoyable but routine commercial pop but the Holly cover is delightful, one of my favorite songs on the album.  This sparkling tune shows what adept pop craftsmen the Hollies were.  This was a transitional album for the Hollies that finds them moving towards the more progressive psych-pop direction they would take on their future records while not abandoning the commercial pop beat group direction of their earlier albums.  The group's songwriting was improving and they were exploring new sounds.  I think they were still a second tier band among the British Invasion groups, well below the Beatles, Stones, Zombies or Kinks, but they had developed a distinctive sound and style featuring jangly guitar and multi-part harmonies.  They had the technique, all they needed were better songs and they would come soon enough.  Recommended for people who think "On a Carousel" is a better song than "Our House."

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