Monday, June 16, 2014

Words and Music by Bob Dylan - The Hollies

Words and Music by Bob Dylan
The Hollies
Epic BN 26447

This was the album that helped drive Graham Nash out of the Hollies and into the welcoming arms of Stephen Stills and David Crosby.  I can see why Nash was pissed, after the adventurous psych-pop of the previous two Hollies albums "Evolution" and "Dear Eloise/King Midas in Reverse" this album was a huge step backwards.  It has a terrible reputation which is not undeserved I suppose, but I still like it.  I do think it is the worst Hollies album of the 1960s though and Dylan is poorly served by it as well.  The songs get a poppy treatment and Allan Clarke frivolously sings the lyrics like he is still singing about Carrie Anne or bus stop romances.  The group's ludicrous lounge-style performance of "Blowin' In The Wind" is the most egregious example of this, although considering the myriad covers of this song back in the 1960s I give the Hollies points for trying something different.  This album would be better and more useful if the Hollies had attempted some more obscure Dylan songs.  All the songs are very well-known aside from "Quit Your Lowdown Ways" and there is not a single song on here that has not been done better by Dylan himself or others who have covered him.  The Byrds trounce them on "My Back Pages" and "All I Really Want To Do" (the Hollies' version features a steel drum solo!)  Peter, Paul and Mary had better versions of "Quit Your Lowdown Ways," "When The Ship Comes In," and "Blowin' In The Wind" - at least you know they cared about the words.  Dylan and Linda Ronstadt had better (and sexier) versions of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight."  Even Julie Driscoll had a better cover of "This Wheel's On Fire" as did the Band and Ian and Sylvia.  Manfred Mann had the definitive version of "The Mighty Quinn," as did the Band with "I Shall Be Released."  Dylan's own versions of "I Want You," "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Just Like a Woman" are infinitely preferable to the Hollies' covers.  Numerous 1960s folk-pop acts from the Silkie to the Seekers to Jackie DeShannon, did Dylan better than the Hollies.  So why do I like this album?  I like it because it sounds like a Hollies album.  As a Dylan record it is a travesty, but it is nonetheless full of the pop bliss the Hollies brought to the lightweight ditties they normally performed.  The elaborate arrangements and enchanting vocal harmonies that were their trademark are prevalent throughout the album.  For all their faults, the Hollies were masters at creating catchy pop music that sounded wonderful.  I don't blame Graham Nash for leaving them, their commercial attitude stifled his artistic growth, but I'm not convinced that his subsequent career was any better than his work with the Hollies.  "Crosby, Stills & Nash" is a far superior record from an artistic standpoint, but this album gives me more pleasure.  Recommended to people who find Bob Dylan hard to listen to. 

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