Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Dear Eloise/King Midas in Reverse - The Hollies
Epic BN 26344
This is my favorite Hollies album. Well actually "Butterfly" the British version of this album is my favorite Hollies album but I only have that on CD. The butchers at Epic removed three songs from "Butterfly" and changed the running order on this album. Those three songs, the lovely "Pegasus" and the psychedelic "Try It" and "Elevated Observations," were among the best songs on "Butterfly." They were replaced with the single "King Midas In Reverse" and "Leave Me" which had been on the British version of the Hollies' previous album "Evolution" which Epic had also chopped up. The songwriting on the entire album is credited to Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks and Graham Nash. The record is an enchanting mix of chamber pop and sunny British psych that makes me feel good whenever I play it. It opens with "Dear Eloise" which features Nash and Clarke sharing the lead vocal. It is a poppy tune in the Hollies tradition with some psychedelic touches. The band's trademark harmonies are evident throughout. It is kind of a creepy song in which a guy sends a letter to a woman who has lost her lover feigning condolence while smugly saying I told you so and gleefully anticipating having the woman for himself. "Wishyouawish" is a jaunty song that features a pied piper type character describing an idyllic walk through the countryside. It sounds a bit like Simon and Garfunkel and is bolstered by some tasteful brass accompaniment. "Charlie & Fred" is about an impoverished rag man and his horse. Despite the humble subject of the song, it is a majestic tune with a soaring vocal from Clarke and robust support from the horns. The chamber pop "Butterfly" is another idealized portrait of the countryside that reminds me of Donovan. The song is a quiet ballad gently crooned by Nash backed by an orchestra. It was the closing track on the British version of this album which seems like the ideal spot for it. "Leave Me" is a good song but it doesn't fit in with the rest of the album. The harsh lyrics encourage a lover to leave the singer. It is a riff driven rocker with prominent bass and organ. Its vindictive attitude and rough sound are the opposite of the good vibes, refined tone and colorful visions that permeate the rest of the album. Side one ends with the propulsive "Postcard" which is one of my favorite tracks. It is an invitation to join the singer and experience the joys of living by the sea. It is an extremely catchy and atmospheric song. Side two opens with "King Midas in Reverse" which is about a guy who destroys everything he touches and the lyrics alternate between first and third person. Although not part of the original album, it fits in quite well with its rich harmonies and orchestration. I think it is one of the best songs Nash ever wrote and I can see why its commercial failure as a single upset him so much. "Would You Believe" is about a guy in love with a girl who is out of his league. It is another heavily orchestrated ballad with a powerful vocal from Clarke. "Away Away Away" is a description of a pair of lovers escaping their problems with a blissful vacation by the sea. It is an upbeat chamber pop track given a twee feel by the woodwinds and horns. "Maker" is a trippy account of escaping reality through what sounds like a religious retreat but it could also be a drug trip given the vague but colorful descriptions that are used throughout the song. The song features a sitar and exotic percussion making it the most overtly psychedelic track on the album. I'm surprised that Epic didn't remove it and keep the more pop oriented "Pegasus" instead. The record ends with "Step Inside" which is an invitation to a former lover to come and enjoy the singer's hospitality. It is a joyous song with an engaging melody and wonderful vocal harmonies. This album represents the pinnacle of the Hollies' artistic development. They would never again even come close to making a record this good. The album's lack of sales convinced the band to assume a more commercial direction. They would follow this up with the disastrous "Words and Music by Bob Dylan" album and drive Graham Nash out of the band pushing them out on the steep downward slope to irrelevance. Of course Nash himself would never make a record this good either and that includes the ditties he composed for Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young.) This record is so enjoyable and appealing, it makes me regret that the band couldn't continue in this vein a little longer. Although not as far out as Pink Floyd, Tomorrow or Tinturn Abbey, the album is definitely in the spirit of its time. It embodies British psychedelia in the lushness of its sound, its colorful imagery, its whimsy and its preoccupation with escape from reality. Recommended to fans of Kaleidoscope and the psych-era Small Faces.