Monday, 21 September 2015

The Hollies: Live/Solo/Compilation/Outtakes/Covers/American Releases Part Two: 1976-2014



Allan Clarke "I've Got Time"
(EMI, '1976')
Blinded By The Light/Light A Light/We've Got Time/Stand By Me/The LOng Way//Hallelujah Freedom/If You Think You Know How To Love Me/If You Walked Away/Sunrise/Living In Love/Finale
"Little Pearly came by in a curly wurly and asked me if I needed a ride!"
Clarke wasn't planning to make a fourth solo album so soon - goodness knows the Hollies' mid-1970s schedule was packed enough as it was. However in trying to interest the American market in a deal for 'Allan Clarke' the singer met a key contact in Spencer Proffer, who not only offered a short-term contract with United Artists but told Clarke how he thought his records ought to be made, with just a little bit of tweaking to his sound. Six years Clarke's junior, Proffer was one of the world's youngest record label heads, after a stint working at CBS under Clive Davis, and was a big name in the industry not to be ignored so Clarke largely followed his advice for this album. As a result Clarke suddenly found himself back in the studio for the middle of three records featuring his voice released in 1976, in the centre of a hectic period in between 'Write On' and 'Russian Roulette'. With most of his songs being kept for The Hollies, Clarke was once again being used as an interpreter of other people's songs,  with the biggest change coming from the backing - gone are the pop, rock and soul stylistics and in are glossy big epic productions, most of them featuring keening strings that sound very alien to fans brought up on the more subtle 'Butterfly' and 'Confessions Of A Mind' et al. This record also marked a change in that after a lifetime working in London Clarke was flown out to Los Angeles to make this record, with a whole host of big-name writers and big-name musicians on board: string arranger Jimmie Haskell (best known for his Hollywood film scores), current chart favourites Janis Ian, Chinn and Chapman, Dab Fogelberg - and at Clarke's insistence Bruce Springsteen again. Everyone involved thought this album was going to be huge but, just to be sure, a huge press junket was held in the States, probably with the other Hollies watching on nervously as they felt that this time for sure Clarke was going to be big news...
Yet again, though, the record disappeared. Few people noticed it, less people bought it and as yet another 'failure' this album seriously damaged Clarke's standing in the music business. Proffer stood by his client and will be along for the ride another twice, but even with his backing major record labels just weren't interested. However things could easily have been so different: just as with 'Born To Run' Clarke had been adamant that Springsteen was the way to go and fought the record company tooth and nail that 'Blinded By The Light' should be the release not the album's biggest mistake 'Living In Love' (a song even the 'Hollies Sing Hollies' would have rejected for being 'too silly'!); instead Clarke's fellow 1960s survivors Manfredd Mann (now touring as the Earth Band) heard Clarke's version, fell in love with it and copied it - and had their biggest ever hit with it. Clarke must have been furious.
A lot of his fanbase are fairly cross too; 'I've Got Time' (an ironic title in the circumstances given the last chances slipping away!) appears to be something of a 'marmite' record amongst the singer's following - it's either routinely hailed as his greatest solo record or a big fat waste of talent. Typically I'm in the middle - I can see what everyone was trying to do with this record and Clarke is too good a singer to fail on the material he really resonates with, as once again there are several stunning highlights across the record, mainly the rockers: the fierce 'Hallelujah Freedom!' (the most aggressive sounding 'happy' song in the AAA canon), the rousing 'Stand By Me' (not the Ben E King song but a track by reggae star Rod Taylor, turned into a screaming white soul song about a 'ship lost at sea') and of course 'Blinded By The Light', a song that Clarke clearly adores and is determined to give his all. Even Bruce hadn't delivered this song with so much meaning on his original (released on the 1973 album 'Greetings From Ashbury Park', which despite the title isn't where Hollies cover 'Sandy' comes from surprisingly - that's on the 'other' 1973 Springsteen record 'The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle'). Best of all on the record though is the teary ballad 'Sunrise', written by Proffer himself along with his regular writing partner Jeffrey Marmelzat, deliberately made to bring out the best in Clarke's hands and in other circumstances this could have been another 'Air That I Breathe' - a slow sensitive ballad that grows into an epic by the end as Clarke pleads with time to move slowly ('The world wouldn't mind if you gave us more time together!')
However even this song is mired by a production so slick it's slippery, where every song lacks the character and rough edges that make most previous Clarke recordings so great. Though the singer does a good job as always, he often sounds as if he's singing down a tunnel or is our pone link to 'our' world on an alien planet full of carefully polished note-perfect strings and syrup. The reason the rockers stand out on this album so much isn't necessarily that the material is better but that they're played with a passion and energy - the factors that had made the early Hollies so successful; with the tempo reduced to a minimum and the session musicians largely going through the motions it's hard to care as much about these songs as in the past, with Clarke caring less about these songs too given that all but the Springsteen songs were his new producer's ideas. Some are clearly unsuitable for his voice: Janis Ian's quite lovely 'Light A Light' is in the wrong key and made for a quieter, sadder singer than Clarke is naturally; Dan Fogelburg's 'The Long Way' is the sort of song non-singers like Harry Nilsson made their careers out of exaggerating and over-doing - Clarke is too good a singer to go as over-the-top as needs to. Some of the other songs are just bad anyway, weak material that even Clarke can't salvage: 'If You Walked Away' is a drippier ballad than anything The Hollies ever did (even in the 'Crazy Steal' era!) and while Gavin Sutherland (of the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver) wrote many great songs 'Living In Love' isn't one of them - in fact it's the single most embarrassingly empty-headed cliched chart-hugger Clarke will sing until the similarly misguided 'Hollies 30th anniversary single' The Woman I Love' in 1993. For one awful moment you think the album is going to end there - but Proffer decides to make  one last questionable decision. With Clarke perhaps heading home in an aeroplane to the airport and with a bit of space left on the album he invites the orchestra to play an instrumental medley of all the album songs, perhaps already with one eye on this being a 'show reel' for his arrangement ideas if the album becomes a hit. This just sounds plain wrong as the ending to an album that was meant to be all about launching the singer (his face is in large on the album cover for a reason, folks!) and the melodies and strings are perhaps the two weakest links on this record - showing them off is the equivalent of getting The Spice Girls to talk about the clever thinking behind their records or releasing an a capella piece - truly pointless.  Once again Clarke is hard done by despite all his hard work and the record is perhaps the weakest of all the solo records he made, despite (or perhaps because of) all the advice from big names on high. However even this record deserved to do better, fuelled by the impressive four songs outlined above that in a parallel universe could all have been big hits for The Hollies. Alas now, with a fourth flop in a row, time is running out despite the hope in the title and the prematurely celebratory cigar Clarke is biting between his teeth.

"Clarke Sylvester Hicks Calvert Elliott"
(Epic, December 1976)
Sandy (4th July Ashbury Park)/48 Hour Parole/Thanks For The Memories/My Love/Star//Russian Roulette/Draggin' My Heels/Love Is The Thing/I Won't Move Over/Write On
"You're not the first, you won't be the last, to feel the frustrations of a musical fast, write on!"
Thankfully the run of American albums from 'A Distant Light' onwards returned to normal  - well, when The Hollies' LPs were issued in the States at all that is - and stayed that way right up to 'The Hollies' in 1974. However, with falling sales America gave up issuing the run of albums from here-on in until the 1983 reunion LP, instead choosing to release one last album which was a ragbag collection of songs from three different Hollies records: 'Another Night' 'Write On' and 'Russian Roulette'. From the titular title on down it's clear where this album was being marketed - to curious CSN fans who wanted to know what Graham Nash's old band were up to these days. However the two bands had gone in some very different directions by Christmas 1976 and this strange compilation probably wouldn't have appealed to fans looking for another 'CSN' or even another 'Butterfly'. The names, too, don't have the sort of 'ring' that Crosby, Stills and Nash have (although perhaps that's just due to familiarity; the trio actually took a few months of switching the names around until they got the 'order' they felt worked right - well the order that Crosby thought looked right anyway!) That said, full marks to whoever put this album together because it features pretty much all the essential tracks from these three LPs (although I'd have liked a bit more from 'Another Night' than just 'Sandy'). I doubt the cover would have appealed much to our American cousins either as this record looks more like a tacky 1950s release with slightly dodgy cartoon drawings of the five members. Thankfully the American market will leave alone after this, issuing 'What Goes Around' as it appeared in Europe although that will be the last Hollies record of new material released in that country.

 "Hollies Live Hits"
(EMI, Recorded January 1976 Released March 1977)
I Can't Let Go/Just One Look/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Bus Stop/Another Night/4th Of July (Ashbury Park)/Star/My Island//I'm Down/Stop! Stop! Stop!/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/Carrie Anne/The Air That I Breathe/Too Young To Be Married/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother
"Things are so bad in England that I'm down to my last Rolls Royce and I have to borrow stage clothes off Donny Osmond!"
Amazingly it took fourteen years from their first album for The Hollies to release their first live album - to put that in context at this very same time The Rolling Stones were busy releasing 'Love You Live' and The Beach Boys had already released 'In Concert' - their third live recording each. Though the live Hollies of the 1960s were scrappy but charismatic, the touring Hollies of the 1970s had become highly polished and very reliable, even if the live show always steered a little close to the finished gloss of the records rather than adding anything new. Thanks to the powerhouse of Bernie Calvert and Bobby Elliott driving the band onward, Tony Hick's ability to turn every guitar solo he touches to gold whether its an acoustic electric or banjo part he's playing and those gorgeous harmonies that seemed to come so easily back then, though, The Hollies are never less than good across this LP and often brilliant. Unlike some AAA live albums (I'm looking at you 'Wings Over America!') the band had neither the budget nor the need to spend weeks overdubbing tracks in the studio afterwards - instead everything sounds much as it was performed on the day, testament to just what a tight little ship The Hollies were by 1976 (when this gig was recorded in New Zealand - EMI sat on it in the hope of getting a spin-off hit from first the 'Write On' and then 'Russian Roulette' albums which sadly never came).
This record also offers us the chance to hear 'sixth Hollie' Pete Wingfield high up in the sound. He's everywhere on this record and takes even more solos than Tony does and many of the album's highlights (usually the parts that differ most from the records) are his. This time round Pete doesn't just play the opening synth riff and brief solo on 'Star' he coaxes various whoops and whistles across the whole track out of what must have been a very 'new' sounding synth back when this set was recorded, while his blistering solo lasts for much longer. The lengthy fade on 'Another Night' is also turned into a raucous jam session that goes on and on, Wingfield's synth pulling at the heart strings with every pass of that song's main riff. That's as well as playing some fine piano, aping the parts played by Bernie and Elton John down the years. Usually I tell the Hollies off in the studio for using other players when Bernie Calvert - trained as a pianist not a bassist remember - is just as capable if not more so of doing the job himself. However he can't play both instrument  live and Wingfield instantly 'gets' the 1970s: lots of energy but with finesse, without overstepping the mark that so many other synth players do (The Hollies' old rivals The Moody Blues, for instance, all but become Patrick Moraz's back-up band just after this era). With six musicians giving their all and each given a chance to shine across the gig, with Clarkey a fine lead (with the passion of Roger Daltrey and the stage patter of Mike Love, which is actually a better combination than it sounds),The Hollies are a touring band to be reckoned with.
The one thing preventing 'Hollies Live Hits' from being a monster album instead of merely a good one is the track listing. The long wait between live albums means that the Hollies are keen to include all their hits - in comparison to the Stones again, who by 1977 are reviving all sorts of unlikely songs to put in their set simply because they hadn't appeared on a live album before. However some of these singles are showing their age by now: 'Just One Look' is so 1964 that it just sounds wrong in the era of punk, while old favourites like 'I Can't Let Go' 'Bus Stop' and 'Stop! Stop! Stop!' already sound a little tired after over a decade of being performed all the time on stage (though Hick's banjo solo on the latter is always a live highlight). Newer hits like 'I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top' 'He Ain't Heavy' and 'The Air That I Breathe' sound like poor substitutes for the records without all that golden orchestration. Only the newer album tracks really rock - and sadly there just isn't space for enough of them, with playing-it-safe same-as-the-record renditions of a rather rushed sounding 'I'm Down' 'Sandy' and 'My Island' taking up room where more highlights like 'Another Night' 'Star' and the album's greatest moment and local New Zealand hit 'Too Young To Be Married' (dig that guitar solo!) should be. There are no new songs for collectors to savour, although 'Star' and 'My Island' would both have been new songs when this album was recorded of course (though not by the time it was released). Sadly an intended last track that had never been on album, an capella cover of 'Amazing Grace', had to be cut from the record after a 'phantom whistler' decided to squeal really loud right next to the stage - that's a shame because while this record is some 90% of the way to being great, it needs that one last golden chance to showcase what The Hollies can do that other bands can't come close to live and which fans can't already get from the band's albums. Finally remixed sans whistling and added to the credits of the 'Look Through Any Window' DVD, it's a rather good performance and deserves to be added to the CD next time the album is re-issued. To date 'Hollies Live Hits' has had a patchy history on CD - it was one of the first Hollies records to come out on compact disc back in 1988 but since then has never been re-issued by itself; fans can though hear the whole record as part of the excellent 'Long Road Home' box set of 2003 where it takes up about half of the final 'live' disc. Amazingly there won't be another live Hollies album until 2014 in thirty-seven years' time - and one hell of a lot will have changed in the band's sound by then...

"20 Golden Greats"
(EMI, July 1978)
The Air That I Breathe/Carrie Anne/Bus Stop/Listen To Me/Look Through Any Window/I Can't Let Go/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/Here I Go Again/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/I'm Alive//Yes I Will/Stay/Sorry Suzanne/Gasoline Alley Bred/We're Through/Jennifer Eccles/Stop! Stop! Stop!/On A Carousel/Just One Look/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother
"Listen to me and very soon I think you'll find somebody wants to love you, somebody seems to care"
One of EMI's better ideas for re-issuing old material was their mid-1970s '20 Golden Greats' series which in time took in just about every artists they ever had on their roster on either side of The Atlantic and released primarily in Britain (though available via import elsewhere): The Beatles, Buddy Holly, Nat King Cole, The Shadows, Glenn Campbell, Credence Clearwater Revival, Diana Ross and the Supremes, even The Beach Boys (thanks to the close ties between EMI and Capitol who often 'swapped' artists either side of the pond). To be honest many of these releases are silly: even The Beatles couldn't quite fill a whole album with 20 'hits', while others like Credence Clearwater Revival had no chance, with lots of album 'filler' used instead. However The Hollies had a very different problem: up to 1978 they had twenty-eight charting UK singles, so which do you leave out? EMI decided to save off the beginning ('Just Like Me' and 'Searchin'), the lesser hits from the middle years ('If I Needed Someone' and 'King Midas In Reverse') and four of the more recent hits ('Hey Willy' 'The Baby' 'Curly Billy') even though all of these actually charted higher and sold more copies over here than, say, 'Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress' or (for the most part) 'Gasoline Alley Bred'. Still that leaves twenty excellent tracks - some of them increasingly rare after a ten year gap from the two 'Hollies Greatest' albums - and arguably the best entry in the entire series (though The Beach Boys one comes close). Certainly the album sold well and seemed to strike a nerve with nostalgic collectors who hadn't been buying The Hollies' latest releases - which might explain why EMI kept re-trying the same format with the same track used over and over again on a whole variety of compilations with only a few changes in the track listing. However there are two curious things about this album: one is the jumbled up track selection which sadly EMI will re-use on almost all of their later compilations and the curious cover: if I want to look at a power station I'll go and live in Rugeley or Runcorn, not buy an LP of a 1960s beat combo!(Do they think the band are radio-active or something?) Irony of ironies, a mere year after this compilation was released Graham Nash will be organising MUSE (Musicians United For Safe Energy) and staging anti-nuclear benefit concerts...

"The Other Side Of The Hollies"
(Parlophone, August 1978)
'Cos You Like To Love Me/Everything Is Sunshine/Signs That Will Never Change/Not That Way At All/You Know He Did/Do The Best You Can/So Lonely/I've Got A Way Of My Own/Don't Run And Hide/Come On Back//All The World Is Love/Whole World Over/Row This Boat Together/Mad Professor Blyth/Dandelion Wine/Baby That's All/Nobody/Keep Off That Friend Of Mine/Running Through The Night/Hey What's Wrong With Me?
"Open up your eyes, isn't it surprising what you find?"
A Hollies compilation with a difference, this much-loved set died a death at the time of release, overshadowed by the '20 Golden Greats' set of A-sides, but enjoyed a whole new lease of life when re-issued on CD in 1989 as one of the first Hollies sets to 'cash-in' on the unexpected success of the 1988 re-release of 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' (only the band's second number one). I've always said on Alan's Album Archives that you can tell how good a band really is and how much they care by how consistent their B-sides are (as only fans tend to hear them rather than the wider public) and The Hollies' are some of the finest ever. There's just so much consistent excellence amongst them - even compared to the glorious A side run which wobbled a bit here and there - with all of them pretty much written by the band themselves. What a range too: there's pure rock adrenalin with 'Come On Back', full on blues with the thrilling harmonica-with-harmonies isolation fest 'Nobody', one of the greatest ever Merseybeat classics in 'So Lonely', thoughtful philosophy with 'Sings That Will Never Change', pure flower power beauty with 'All The World Is Love', folk with 'Do The Best You Can', late psychedelia with 'Not That Way At All', comedy with 'Mad Professor Blyth'. Yes there's the odd mistake, usually in the band's early days when they hadn't quite hit their stride yet, but most other bands would kill for a back catalogue that good, never mind one released purely as B-sides. As a welcome chance to collect together songs that never did appear on album (with just two exceptions: 'So Lonely' appeared on 'The Hollies' and 'I've Got A Way Of My Own' appeared on 'Would You Believe?') this is a welcome set, long overdue for another re-issue, even though everything here up to 1968 is of course available on the 'Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years' set nowadays. Only two things prevent this compilation from being perfect: the fact that the set ends in 1971 (with 'Row This Boat Together', B-side of 'Hey Willy') means we don't get to hear even more Hollies flipside classics such as 'I Had A Dream' and 'No More Riders') and the jumbled up running order which starts in 1969 and ends at the very beginning with 'Hey What's Wrong With Me?', flipside to '(Ain't That) Just Like Me' way back in May 1963. That said, though, this is a fine set, one of the best with The Hollies name attached to it and looking at this great list of songs that barely anyone knows is heartbreaking. I have to ask myself again - why the hell aren't The Hollies better known and respected than they are?

Allan Clarke "I Wasn't Born Yesterday"
(Polydor, '1978')
I Wasn't Born Yesterday/Hope/New Blood/I'm Betting My Life On You/The Man Who Manufactures Daydreams//No Prisoner Taken (Light Brigade)/(I Will Be Your) Shadow In The Street/Light Of My Smiles/Whose Goin' Out The Back Door?/Off The Record
"I've had this cross to bear for much too long, the load that breaks my back that once was strong doesn't belong to me no more"
After four years as a Hollie, Allan Clarke got itchy feet again. Despite the failure of 'I've Got Time', Spencer Proffer was convinced that with the right backing Allan could be as big an American star as his hero Bruce Springsteen and urged him to give his solo career another shot - with no distractions from the band this time. Despite knowing the problems now of leaving his band in the lurch Clarke did just that once more, quitting The Hollies at the start of sessions for '5317704' and on the eve of a German tour, too late in the day to cancel. The Hollies saw the tour out as a quartet, with Terry singing lead (and doing a good job by all accounts - less than ten people asked for their money back across the whole month-long tour) and the band reluctantly decided to call on the services of another out-of-work sixties rocker without a band, Procul Harum's Gary Brooker (though they only got as far as recording 'Harlequin' together before Clarke sheepishly came back again). So why did Clarke think this fifth solo album would work where the others had failed?
Well, 'I Wasn't Born Yesterday' sounds more like a hit album somehow - the production values are of their time in a way that his last two records weren't, with a nicely sparkly production and a band who sound like they know what they're doing for once. After an uneasy hybrid on 'I've Got Time' between what Clarke wanted and what Proffer wanted, Clarke sounds more willing to give his producer whatever he needed - and you can at least hear why the results should have worked even if some of the songs are rather undercooked. This is less like a Bruce Springsteen album (though his albums were still selling well) and more like a 'new wave' record - you could imagine bands like Blondie or The Police making this record without too much of a stretch - although neither of them anywhere near as well, obviously (To this day Debbie Harry seems to think she started the run of strong females in rock, but she's a mere house-cat compared to lioness Janis Joplin, leopard Grace Slick and tigress Lulu). The other major plus in this album's favour is that for once Clarke had lots of songs ready to go - part of the disagreement over The Hollies' arrangement was that Terry and Tony had all but stopped writing, preferring to see out the band's album contract with EMI as a covers band and trying to head into a new direction. But Clarke still had plenty to say and no means to say it. Not that Clarke was able to write a full album more or less on his own as he had with 'Headroom' - as well as Proffer he finds a new writing partner for this album in Gary Bensen, which is perhaps the greatest find of the whole album - the pair only started writing together here but they already sound as if they know exactly what the other needs, with the best songs from this album sounding like 'magnified' versions of what Clarke was trying to say on his first, third and fourth records: a pop album magnified, his usual style writ large (for example, the pair will go on to write 'Satellite Three' and 'Sanctuary' together - both neater fits for Clarke's style than some of what he's been singing with The Hollies recently). Bensen had been something of a one-hit wonder with the release of 1975 single 'Don't Throw It All Away' (an uneasy mix of anger and cosiness; think Roger Daltrey's orchestral solo albums) and had written a song for The Shadows at Eurovision that year too (where Britons voted it in fourth - the band sang 'Let Me Be The One' instead that year and came second, back in the days when that was a disappointment not a cause for national celebration). In many ways this is Clarke's 'Eurovision' album (and I say that as a fan, strangely enough, of Eurovision - if half the world can't unite through politics then at least it deserves to have a chance to in song!) - a record of in-your-face performances that veers from extremes, from the slowest of ballads to the loudest of rockers to the most epic of epics, all delivered with a smile or tears depending what the occasion needs. 
At times the nicely defiant 'I Wasn't Born Yesterday' (a very punkish put-down of young punks) works really rather well: the title track roars with an energy of the best of the Hollies rockers; 'Hope' is an epic ballad that's a twist on the misery of 'Write On' ; 'No Prisoner Taken' is a superior pop song with a lot more thought than on the last two albums and best of all 'The Manufacturer Of Daydreams' unleashes the inner prog rock that's been trying to peek out of The Hollies sound ever since 'Confessions Of The Mind' and 'A Distant Light'. Alas the rest of the record is plain awful: twee pop songs that even Clarke can't salvage, with singalong choruses that are either off-putting or ill-fitting ('Light Of My Smiles, an unwanted sequel to Clarke's poorest solo track 'Bring On Your Smiles', is unbelievably even worse!) While Clarke is never bad and at times his vocal control is jaw-dropping ('Hope' and 'Daydreams' give him a whole new sound to play with and he grabs the opportunity with both hands - or at least all his vocal chords), this is probably his weakest album vocally; too alien a landscape for him to work his magic on and trying to deliver a higher, less natural tone in the need to sound younger. The result then is another mixed solo record, one where you can see where this record didn't quite click with a new audience - and yet one still made with a lot of love and care and effort, which deserved stronger sales than the vast majority of what was in the top forty.
The title track of 'I Wasn't Born Yesterday' is a good place to start, with the best roaring lead vocal from Clarke since '48 Hour Parole' and a nicely in-your-face production that throws the works at this song: synthesised choirs, a whole sea of percussion and what sounds like a firecracker on a tin tray being thrown down a set of stairs. There's a strong song underneath all the gimmicks though: Clarke's been fooled too many times by his women but no more - he's making a stand and changing his character, a neat call to arms for a new solo career. There's even a middle eight - rare for this period - although the chorus sounds slightly unfinished. In this album's pot pourri of Eurovision sounds it's Lordi, the big Finnish rockers!
'Hope' takes the over track, calling on Clarke's older years as he sighs about being worn down by life and repeats the refrain of the subtler 'Don't Let Me Down', pleading that he's got 'so much to give and a love I can live' if only his girlfriend understands and takes him back. The song is hopelessly slow and is the 'Dana International' of this album's Eurovision styles - a big torch ballad - but the band throw just enough variation i  this song to keep it upright and Clarke is born for big passionate ballads like this one.
'New Blood' even sounds like 'Rock Bottom' the Eurovision duet between Mike Moran and Lynsey De Paul. It's a pretty forgettable declaration of getting rid of the old and in with the new, 'slightly ahead of its time' - but if the new blood is as dull as this then I'd rather not know. Clarke's talk of wanting to sound like the 21st century is sadly spot on - this is as dull and faceless as anything in the charts today.
'I'm Betting My Live On You' has a touch of Norway's 'Fairytale' about it - the sound is ethereal and elfin, as Clarke declares his love after believing he would never find it again. 'In desperation I cross the nation to the Californian skies' he cries in the most single Eurovision song on the album and there's a massive build-up to the chorus. This is one of those songs where the journey there is great but the destination is ghastly, with another unfinished sounding chorus.
'He Manufactures Daydreams' sounds like it belongs on an entirely different album - so it's apt that it's this song that was given the push when 'See For Miles' re-issues this and 'The Only Ones' on a single CD and dropped this track from the running order. Sadly it's by far the most interesting thing here, sounding not so much like Eurovision as Marillion: prog rock updated for the digital generation. The lyrics are fascinating as Clarke gets lost in a fantasy dream-world, where 'underneath the deepest sea is someone else's heaven beyond the stars infinity - don't wait for Armageddon!' The many effects used throughout the album make most sense on this track too, sounding not so much like a dream as a nightmare. Clarke, so unused to this sort of thing, sounds right at home as if he's been doing this sort of thing all his life. The best song on the album by a mile.
Meanwhile on side two 'No Prisoner Taken' is 'Love, Shine A Light' in our Eurovision comparisons with a similar bright and breezy melody. The lyrics however are strangely dark: love has become a battleground, the narrator finds himself 'left undefended', decides 'the best form of defence was to attack' and finds himself the big loser in the war. 'Oh woe is me!' Clarke wails before a Tony Hicks-style guitar sails off to goodness knows where and an orchestra swirl in from nowhere. Catchy but not that deep.
The closest Clarke ever came to getting a hit single in all his many solo tries was the soft-loud lesson in contrasts 'I Will Be Your Shadow In The Street' - not that the single set the charts alight exactly but did at least create a spark down the bottom end. Not co-incidentally it's the most Hollies-style track on the album with the same sort of 'information' as 'I'm Alive' and oodles of harmonies - though in case from girl singers. It's pretty but comes with mistakes: 'I don't know when I'm beat' is the rather clunky rhyme for the title for instance - and Clarke is oddly OTT in his vocal. The middle eight rescues the song somewhat though, complete with unexpected key change at the end which raises the stakes that bit higher. In terms of Eurovision hits this one is 'Congratulations' - it does the job, but why on Earth would you play it once the contest is over?
I don't know if you remember that weird French Eurovision entry of about twenty years ago when some dotty French singer tries to tell us all that she was a cat, no honest really, and started to meeow? Well  'Light Of My Smiles' is that song all over again - it starts off normal but switches so many gears throughout that it gets weirder and weirder. An overly poppy chorus comes in from nowhere and tries to pretend the rest of the song hasn't happened, but wrong: this song isn't smiling, it's doing my head in. Next!
'You're wearing that sweater too tight and your make up's all gone wrong' snarls Clarke. Charming - I thought it was a lovely shade personally! It's unusual to hear Clarke play the misogynist (given some of the lyrics down the years that sounds more like Hick's role in The Hollies!) and that and the grumpiness is a rare style that doesn't suit him with the 'evilest' 'na na nas' in rock history (at last, we've found one!) This Eurovision equivalent is Guido from Germany who basically yelled into the camera for thirty minutes and started climbing over the set in his certainty that everyone would love him. They didn't and he came seventh.
My final 'nul points' goes to album closer 'Off The Record', which features the same uncomfortably grumpy lyrics and sarcasm - another style that doesn't suit Clarke. At lewast this song is quieter though and more piano based so the verses at least are strong - it's just the chorus that let's this track down, a sea of anonymous backing vocals intoning 'off the recc-eeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrd!' behind him as if this is a pantomime. In Eurovision terms this isn't bad but it is forgettable - think 'Save Your Kisses For Me' by Brotherhood Of Man.
So ends a mixed record that seemed to be going very well on side one but simply made too mistakes, ending up somewhere about the middle of the points table. For the record my favourite UK Eurovision song was always 'Lonely Symphony' by Francis Rufelle - which before they mucked around with it post-vote sounded very much like a mid-70s Hollies song! Perhaps the problem then was not with the formula but with the difficulties of marketing a singer in his late-thirties who hadn't had a hit in four years and plain old bad luck. At least 'Yesterday' had some quality material though and on balance was probably worth leaving The Hollies for - it's only one last push away from excellence after all and at least on a par with 'A Crazy Steal', the very last Hollies album of originals. However the next sixth try from Clarke will build nicely on what this album got right and scores far more points from the Alan's Archives jury...
Note: an exclusive B-side 'Passenger' (flipside to 'Shadows In The Street') is still missing on CD which is a shame because it's among the better half of this mixed album's quality, if a tad slow. 

Allan Clarke "Legendary Heroes" aka "The Only One"
(Elektra, '1980')
Slipstream/The Only Ones/Walls/Brandenburg Plaza/The Survivor//Driving The Doomsday Cars/Baby Blues/Sanctuary/Imagination's Child/Legendary Heroes
Note: The first pressing in 1980 was called 'Legendary Heroes' and the second in 1981 'The Only One'. The album was released with different packaging but no change to the track listing.
"I am the survivor! You'll see me through infinity. I! Am! The survivorrrrrrrrrrr - still alive!"
In the words of another Hollies song, 'Here I Go Again' - with 'I Wasn't Born Yesterday' doing ever so slightly better than the previous five albums without quite setting the world on fire, Clarke and Proffer tried again with one last great attempt to make an album that that would make Allan a superstar. Of all the seven attempts over the years, this one arguably came closest to success - it managed to combine another nicely contemporary new wave sheen but without neglecting the Hollies sound that made him famous. Somehow managing to straddle the two halves of Clarke's career (the depth of confessions of 'Headroom' and the poppier sound of 'Yesterday'), with nine excellent co-writes between Clarke and Gary Benson, Clarke even threw in one of his better cover choices from his solo years: 'Baby Blue', one of the very best songs by similarly forgotten band Badfinger, who should have been superstars but got lost in the midst of the Apple business fall-out.  Given that the song is at least partly about a professional relationship going wrong, it seemed like Clarke was making a point.
Admittedly not everything quite comes off across this album. The strutting 'Brandenburg Plaza' falls into the same 'wrong singer, wrong genre' trap of much of 'Yesterday', while some tracks are just downright odd - 'Driving The Doomsday Cars' is so far afield from Clarke's traditional sound it's often had to believe it's him. However this is still easily the most consistent Clarke solo LP after 'Headroom' full of some of the singer's greatest moments with and without The Hollies, particularly the stunning ballad 'Sanctuary' (recorded by The Hollies for '5317704' but abandoned until 1989's 'Rarities') which sounds far sadder and guiltier here without the production sheen and the prog rock pairing of 'The Survivor' and 'Legendary Heroes' which, picking up from 'Daydreams' on the album before, opened up a whole new door for Clarke and again sounded like peak period Marillion (ie 70s prog with 80s instruments). For once Clarke didn't leave The Hollies to do it either but recorded it more or less straight after the '5317704' album which couldn't have sounded less like this one ('The Only Ones' is largely upbeat with only three ballads to seven rockers - the calculator album is famously all ballads! Equally that song contains just the one original song, the Clarke-Bensen co-write 'Satellite Three' which has far more in common with this solo record than the band one - it's a good test actually, as if you like that song you'll almost certainly enjoy the similarly dramatic 'Survivor' at least). After a few false starts and a fabulous but unmarketable second album in 'Headroom', Clarke seemed to have finally scored a sure-fire hit - but alas, yet again, it wasn't to be. The trouble though lies not with Clarke, who ticks all the boxes here after a series of albums of being oh so close, but with the record business: if you can't score a hit with an album this good and this marketable then something has gone seriously wrong. Sadly, yet again, Clarke paid the price for it.
'The Only Ones' is a straightforward pop song that's not unlike the first run of Mick Jagger albums - it has a similar sixties-yet-updated sound and in another world could easily have been a 'band' song. Despite being upbeat and commercial, it's about a very down subject and possibly the only Hollies-related song to speak out against the cold war (despite years harranguing America for Vietnam): the narrator and his girlfriend are the only ones alive after an unspecified disaster 'looking down on all civilisation'  - but the joy is that they realise they can start again without the hang-ups that made such a mess of all the world. Leland Sklar, who'd spent the mid-70s working with Clarke's old partner Graham on a pair of Crosby-Nash albums, turns in a nicely funky bass part which even a saxophone part can't ruin.
'Slipstream' is the most convincing of the new wave songs Clarke recorded, sounding not unlike circa 1980s Kinks with its fat heavy guitar sound and shout-along choruses. It's also the 'Bruce Springsteen' style song of the album, with Clarke speak-singing a tale of modern suburbia caught in the 'slipstream' of someone he thought he loved before moving on again. A catchy chorus and a fine lead vocal makes up for the over-slick production.
'Walls' is a lovely ballad, more like the old Hollies musically with a lovely Hicks-like guitar part  although the lyrics are much more CSN (Stills' work especially). Clarke sighs over being trapped inside 'walls' hat are closing in on him, all alone, wondering what's happening on the other side. The verses are a little clunky but the long held notes of the chorus and the haunting synthesiser refrain are very good indeed.
'Baby Blue' is one of the best songs the poor doomed Pete Ham ever wrote for Badfinger and a key song from their one truly great album 'Straight Up' (1972). Pete writes an apology to both his girlfriend Dixie for making her 'wait' for his time to come while also apologising to a professional partnership for not quite living up to expectations (Ham was surely writing for Apple - his sequel 'Apple Of My Eye' is an equally gorgeous farewell to the label with lots of Beatle 'in-jokes').  Clarke's version is more straightforward, turning the piece into a far more direct lament for making a lost love wait for a proposal - a sort of kinder 'Give Me Time' from 'Another Night' if you will. The backing band are at their best on this song and turn in easily the best performance of the album, while Clarke's re-arranged multi-tracked backing vocals show how great The Hollies would have sounded singing this.
I really don't understand 'Brandenburg Plaza' though, which again sounds like early 80s 'arena' Kinks although Clarke's barking vocal is more 1950s. The song appears to be another in a line of songs about aggressive females (a sort of Long Cool Woman's coldness twinned with 'Crocodile Woman's eagerness), this one with 'devil eyes',, set in a German avenue for no apparent good reason, told in flashback from when the narrator was 25 and comparatively 'green' (interestingly The Hollies were doing a lot of touring in Germany in 1967 when Clarke was that age...) There's something slightly odd about this song, though, which ducks Clarke low in the mix and never really gives us a 'so what?' to the story, leaving the narrator as 'tongue tied, petrified' as when it began. Now, Reagan did make his famous cold war-inflaming words at the Brandenburg Plaza in June 1979 ('Tear down this wall, Mr Gorbachov!') which would tie in neatly with the apocalyptic theme of 'The Only Ones' and future song 'Doomsday Cars' is set there too; but there's nothing really to tie this lover with the haunting eyes to the theme.
My favourite song on the album has to be 'The Survivor', which shows off the two extremes of Clarke's talent in one go. For 3:40 it's a truly haunting ballad about the narrator being cursed with immortality, living throughout Earth's history alone as he watches events unravel. After visiting the Battle of Waterloo, Ulysses and Camelot he even hints us to that he is 'Merlin' from the Arthurian legends ('did you know that he was really me?' The rather good TV show 'Merlin' should have used this as the theme tune instead of the monstrosity they wrote for it). Clarke sounds old before his time, filling us in on how the history books and our idea of mankind's progression have got it 'wrong' - that Waterloo was chaos, not a triumph with Nelson outsmarting Napoleon and that genius Leonardo Da Vinci was really unhappy. Merlin comes close to laughing at us mere mortals who have no idea and are merely 'children' and has one last great 'magic trick' to show off to us. Suddenly without warning the song fades in again as an epic rocker as Clarke talks of saving Ancient China, defeating Medusa and knowing that King Henry's 'head would roll') while singing at his no-nonsense grittiest and turning a sad mournful song into a triumphant rocker about surviving despite all the odds. The moment when you realise that the song is here to stay and that this really is two songs one is one of the most exciting in this entire book.
'Driving The Doomsday Cars' is a return to Germany, with a recycling of the riff from 'No Prisoner Taken' and appears to be an unlikely song about the glories of capitalism. 'Brandenburg Society' dismisses the narrator for being a 'problem child' and the people there 'don't understand me at all' but he feels he's safe from persecution even whole 'riding the doomsday cars'. Is Clarke 'being' President Reagan in this song, perhaps inspired by the differences The Hollies saw touring both sides of Germany, still cut-in-two until 1989 with American and Soviet-ruled sectors living side by side without any real interaction. Rock music in particular would have been seen as 'alien' to East Germans back then, banned outright by Russia (though records were often smuggled in - most famously 'hidden' in fake X-Rays) and as the most loved band of the 1960s in Germany still touring (The Beatles never went back after 1966) Clarke would have been in a near unique position to see the divide for himself. All that said, though, this is a curious song that never quite gels and is perhaps one of the weaker tracks on the album,. fascinating as it is.
No such qualms about 'Sanctuary', written solely by Clarke's co-writer Gary Bensen, which is a classic song in any arrangement. The Hollies' recording (as heard on 'Rarities' and some subsequent compilations) pre-dates this one by a matter of months and is perhaps more immediately loveable - it's quicker, features some gorgeous harmonies and a sublime Tony Hicks guitar solo, being generally much more upbeat. This solo version is less about what the love of the narrator's life now represents and more about the loneliness she's cast away: Clarke starts the song very much alone, his voice close to breaking as he 'shows resistance' to 'everything that threatened my existence'. Slower and much more thoughtful, with the backing band sounding more comforting than celebratory and with only a sudden rush of adrenalin in the middle eight to break up the song, this version may be even better - certainly closer to the 'truth' of the song, as Clarke is stunning as the hard-done-by narrator falling in love for the first time. Still, whichever version you hear 'Sanctuary' is a stunning song - simple and yet profound in its simplicity as the narrator 'reaches out in despair - to find out that you are always there'.
'Imagination's Child' is the first of a two-part concept suite at the album's end. An uptempo glossy pop song about the beauty of imagination, it starts with the narrator 'a poet with my eyes closed...drifting down the highway of my dreams' as Clarke (Or is it Benson? Or both?) remembers their childhood when their own mind was all they needed to 'open up the doors to life on a first-class ticket'. While the lyrics are clever, the melody is perhaps a little too 'of the time' - this is another song you can imagine Blondie singing without too much 'imagination' and that's not necessarily a good thing.
However the closing ballad 'Imaginary Heroes' is beautiful as Clarke again remembers his childhood games of copes and robbers, Peter Pan and buried treasure. His comic heroes keep him safe from the ugly world outside as he sneakily 'turns the light back on to read' after he should have been asleep and is scared only of the cold lino when he gets up to get his books. This long awaited sequel to Clarke's excellent 1969 B-side 'Not That Way At All' is well worth the wait and sung with similar misgivings - the whole song sounds like a eulogy for happier times, slow and in mourning for happier times although even then Clarke's young narrator worries about school the next day with 'teachers laying down the rule'. That's not the real 'dragon' in this song that has to be slayed though - the 'real' dragon in the adult world is that escapism doesn't work as well anymore and that imagination never shines as bright again and Clarke sounds deeply saddened that even Batman and Robin and Captain Marvel can't save him from his problems. He tries to rally for one last rousing cry of victory ('Legendary heroes never die!) but this song taken straight out of Marillions' greatest album 'Misplaced Childhood' is too sad for that and we leave Clarke wrapped up in his very adult worries mourning for a time now lost. A very brave statement to make on an album that tries so hard to sound young and fresh and contemporary - and yet it's for touches like these that 'The Only Ones' sounds both deeper and more impressive than most other solo albums in the Clarke back catalogue.
'The Only Ones' would have been a huge success with anyone else's name on the sleeve - but having signed to smaller label Elektra there wasn't even the half-hearted push that EMI had given the old recordings and yet again a rather good album simply disappeared. Proffer for one was certain that this album would be 'the one' - never mind 'the only one' - and pushed hard enough for a re-issue where the record was titled 'Legendary Heroes' after one of the better tracks and a front cover that appealed more to an older Hollies audience - but that too died an uncomfortable death. At the age of 38, Clarke put his solo ambitions on hold and went back to being a Hollie - but alas The Hollies aren't exactly in rude health anymore either. An awful shame - this record deserved to do so much better.
Clarke didn't release another album until 1990. However he did release another non-album single in 2982: 'Castles In The Wind' and 'Someone Else Will', which like all his other releases failed to chart (they both sound like dry runs of the poppier more 80s 'What Goes Around' LP than his other solo work and lack the depth of 'Only Ones'!)






                                                      
"Buddy Holly"
(Polydor, October 1980)
Peggy Sue/Wishing/Love's Made A Fool Of You/Heartbeat/Tell Me How/Think It Over/Maybe Baby//Midnight Shift/I'm Gonna Love You Too/Peggy Sue Got Married/What To Do/That'll Be The Day/It Doesn't Matter Anymore/Everyday/Reprise
"Could I sway your love my way? I say - Tell Me How!"
Running low on their own material and with 'A Crazy Steal' having disappeared, The Hollies tried to re-group in 1980 with producer/writer/arranger Mike Batt, then at a career high after success with such different projects as Art Garfunkel's 'Bright Eyes' and 'The Wombles' (who, incidentally, also have bright eyes). The project was doomed from the start: Batt started talking about 'replacing' members and did indeed use session musicians where he could (starting with Bernie Calvert) and caused an already fractious group to split (Terry siding with Bernie and quitting in protest). By the time the smoke had cleared The Hollies were left with a single rather than an album and were down to a trio. That's a shame because if Batt had been more willing to compromise and respect an institution with a 17-year-history The Hollies might potentially have made some of their best work with him (to be fair on his part, Batt wasn't used to telling other people what to do - just wombles - and may simply have been 'showing off', unaware what repercussions his actions would have. It speaks volumes, though, that only Allan, Tony and Bobby really feature on the best known songs from the sessions, with a tiny bit of harmony from Terry and the bass dispensed with altogether). Certainly  [298] 'Soldier's Song', the A side from these sessions is first class: a moody orchestral ballad perfect for Clarke's acting credentials. Set during a war (presumably the English Civil War as those from both sides freely mix), Clarke's 17-year-old soldier narrator falls in love with a girl from the 'other side' on a village they're meant to be looting. The narrator flees after a night of love, only to later find his comrades burning down her house, with his lover dying in his arms. Batt's descriptive imagery ('On that day I aged ten years and died a thousand deathgs, I learnt the feel of frozen steel and fear within my breast') works well in Hollie hands, with Clarke a natural storyteller and while not condemning war off-hand 'Soldier's Song' fits neatly with earlier Hollie classics about draft-dodging, attcking the recklessness and randomness of the violence ('When the dice of war was thrown and victory was won'). Throughout a dramatic but subtle orchestral part weaves its own tapestry throughout the song, while Tony's emotionally-charged guitar and Bobby's pounding drums make a good job at capturing the horror of the scene unfolding. However, strong as this performance is, the studio recording is no match for the thrilling live arrangement that slows the song down a to a crawl and sets up even more of a sudden charge into the thrilling middle eight. This version is too fast and at times Clarke only just gets his words out. Still the result, while a flop as a single, was a stunning return to form for a band who'd been coasting the past three years: a whole album of songs like this one would have put The Hollies right back at the top where they belonged.
The other song released from the sessions was the cold war-fearing [299] 'If The Lights Go Out', a song revived and re-recorded by The Hollies for their Nash reunion album 'What Goes Around' in 1983 (perhaps because this seems very much like a 'CSN' song or because it fitted so well with that album's loose them of Armageddon). Batt's song tries to ignore the impending catastrophe with a triumphant 'I think they're wrong!' and the promise that, whatever happens, 'I'll be here with you', but a sense of paranoia pervades the song especially in this original version which uses some creepy heavily delayed echo near the end. The last song to feature Terry and Bernie doesn't use either very much - Tony plays a bigger part on the harmonies (the one later taken by Graham) and Bernie is virtually inaudible. The result is a song and performance that's good but really ought to be better: the song runs out of ideas long before the end and even if you didn't know it you probably guess at the tension in the studio: compared to usual there just isn't the usual Hollies swing about this performance.
Though 'Hollies Sing Dylan' hadn't been universally admired in 1969, it had sold well and it must have struck EMI that if The Hollies could appeal to a 'secondary' fan base as well as their own the band might yet double their sales - or at least improve on them. As The Hollies' own material dried up and they began looking to outside writers, they decided to give the 'covers' idea another shot. There was however only one natural choice for the record: The Hollies had surprisingly only ever covered one song by the writer they were named for ('Take Your Time' on 'The Hollies' in 1965, which the band re-cut for this album in slower and lesser form) but all shared a passion for his material and Buddy Holly had been big news in 1979, the 40th anniversary of his untimely death in a plane crash. In another Beatles-Hollies twist, Paul McCartney had only just bought up the singer's back catalogue in 1977 and launched a 'tribute' Buddy Holly week in September 1979 that must surely have been in the back of The Hollies' minds when they discussed what to do for this LP (irony of ironies, most of the writing fees for this album went into McCartney's pockets in fact, The Hollies thus helping out one of their main competitors).
The resulting record is clearly far more suitable for The Hollies than the Dylan covers, with some highly inventive re-arrangements of some old material and even the most contemporary Hollies sound since 1967 doesn't jar as much as it does occasionally on their own material such as 'A Crazy Steal' : ever adaptable to changing fashions, you get the sense that had Holly lived he'd have been making a record in exactly this way, in complete contrast to the sneery dismissal of Bob Dylan to most covers of his songs. The chance to play music that the whole band loved in their youth calms down the growing split between the band members since Clarkey's last walk-out in 1978 and having finally turned his back on his solo career Allan is very much at the heart of the band again. There are several great moments across this album: the Human League style synth opening to 'Peggy Sue',  the gentle brass accompaniment and Hicks flamenco guitar that turns 'Love's Made A Fool Of You' from a sighing love song into an anthem, the pure 'Crocodile Woman' style rock of 'Think It Over' and 'Midnight Shift' - probably the closest we'll ever come to hearing the very early 'skiffle' era Hollies line ups across Manchester, the brass-with-reggae jaunt through 'Peggy Sue Got Married' which ought to be sacrilige but is actually rather good and best of the slow weary synth-driven sigh of 'What To Do' with shimmering Hollies harmonies. The Buddy Holly collection hasn't sounded this good in a very long time.
However, there's no getting away from the fact that this is clearly a last roll of the dice for The Hollies and if they couldn't score hits with their own strong material, a return to the pop market or by covering contemporary songwriters then they certainly weren't going to top the charts with this, a record that sounds like one of those cheap K-Tel 'party' albums with a rockabilly feel musicians do for a cheap buck (Lindisfarne did the same). While a good half of the album is made with care and works surprisingly well, inevitably when you experiment there are going to be failures as well as successes. Some of this record is just horrid: the sterile plod through 'Everyday' which turns a mischievous and cheeky pop song into a laborious slog, the curious drum solo on 'Think It Over' which is at about a thousandth the speed of the one on 'Survival Of The Fittest' from only a decade before, the artificial missing-the-point ness of 'Wishing' (which is a middle aged band's memories of teenagerdom despite the worthy harmonies) and the curious 'Wurlitzer waltz' that seems to playing an entirely different song through 'Tell Me How'. Often The Hollies sound desperate, delivering Holly's cheesiest pop songs in their cheesiest voices and while the harmonies are thankfully up front and central, promoting Pete Wingfield at his most excessive to second-in-line is asking for trouble. We said on our review for 'Sing Dylan' that The Hollies should have recorded it when they were confident of their own style and less likely to lose it to Dylan's stronger voice; whilst Holly is far more natural as a songwriting buddy, the heavy presence of the keyboards simply sucks all the 'Hollies' out of this work. Worst of all is the clumsy last track, titled 'Reprise', which literally reprises sections (and not the most interesting ones) of every single track on the record to pointless effect Clarke's 'I've Got Time' solo record had tried a similar trick, but at least that had the good taste of re-arranging all the melodies for an orchestra). Had the band even stuck it at the start of the record as a preview of the record it might have made more sense, but featuring snatches of songs we've just heard in full at the end of the record is perhaps the biggest head-scratching Hollies moment of them all.
As a result 'Buddy Holly' (surely it should have been called 'Hollies Sing Holly'?!) is a rather mixed LP. I can see on the one hand why it sold so well - for that read 'better than the last few original alums without actually charting anywhere except New Zealand, oddly - but also why it spelled the end for The Hollies as a regular 'albums' band. This is the sort of album you can only really try once in a career without killing it off, whether its successful or a failure (if it had worked then where next? More 1950s covers albums with lesser returns and less suitability?> Or a Bruce Springsteen covers set?) - The Hollies were luckily to survive the Dylan debacle largely unscathed and couldn't have survived another. However heard in part 'Buddy Holy' is still a good LP. The band have some interesting ideas about what to do with the material and are less afraid of changing it than most Buddy Holly covers albums (which are generally speaking a rum selection, copying the originals down to the letter without any real purpose). This record doesn't fall as low as some covers sets out there - 'Sing Dylan' included - because the band understand the source material so well. However I'd still rather hear The Hollies doing something only they can do (ie singing The Hollies) than hear them reduced to being a covers band, even a very good covers band. This album is the end of the road and though the band often threatened doing an album like this, the moment when they finally succumbed and turned their back on their own songs was inevitably the day that they died. The Hollies will never be quite the same band for the rest of the book.

Terry Sylvester in "Griffin and Sylvester"
(Polydor, '1982')
You Go Your Way/Rozanne/Please Come Into My Life/Till Midight/Wolf River//The Light That Shone/Never Alone/If You Give Your Love To Me/Girl Be Here Tonight/Did You Hear The News Today?
"So as I continued along the road that lead me there, I came across confusion, sadness and despair"
After leaving the Hollies in May 1981, in disgust at their lack of original material and their poor treatment of Bernie Calvert, Sylvester bounced back the following year with what he hoped was going to be phase three of his career. However unlike the old days when Terry released solo albums because there wasn't always enough room in the band this was to be the start of a 'proper' career trajectory and he realised quickly that a solo album by a harmony singer from a band who hadn't had a hit in eight years wasn't necessarily the way to go. Perhaps inspired by his predecessor Nash's post-Hollies success with CSN, Terry looked around for another experienced kindred soul to throw his lot in with - and got lucky with Bread guitarist James Griffin. Though not as well known and centre stage as his partner David Gates, Griffin had contributed greatly to that band's sound who, while far from being as consistently excellent as The Hollies, made their share of decent records in the 1970s. Griffin had been floundering since 1972 when 'Bread' were 'Toast' (boom! boom!), releasing a string of solo albums that were well received but poor selling and the general consensus was that although the songs were as fine as ever he lacked the mass harmonies that made Bread's work so popular. Terry, of course, missed the other Hollies - Allan Clarke's gritty vocals and Tony's guitarwork in particular, recognising in Griffin someone who could provide both in the same package. The pair had been distant friends since 1973 when American Griffin had drifted to London to re-kick his solo career. It seemed like the perfect deal: Terry needed James as much as Griffin needed Sylvester. They were both on the same label. It seemed like a dream union.
The result is a record that ever so nearly works. The harmonies, while more straightforward than The Hollies' as you'd expect from a duet of singers as opposed to a trio, are excellent throughout and Terry gets lots more opportunities to shine than he ever did with his old band, singing various verses and middle eights (though oddly he never gets a whole vocal to himself). Much of the album's strong folky flavour, so unlike Bread, comes from him too and recalls the under-rated glory days of 'Romany' and making the 'CSN' comparisons ever more obvious. Some of the songs too are exquisite: lead single 'Please Come Into My Life' should really have been a hit, the pair of writers exploiting the strange circumstances behind their union in the form of two lonely lovers longing to meet up (the harmonies on the tagline 'When you're not in the room with your smile' are easily the best example of a Hollies sound on a solo album).'If You Give Your Love TO Me' is a pretty little country song that uses both singers well - sounding like a cross between the abandoned 'Hollies Sing Country' LP of 1969 and early period Bread.  'The Light That Shone' too is as good a pop record as any made in the early 1980s, while 'Did You Hear The News Today?' is a worthy return to the sort of protest material The Hollies did so well circa 1969-71.
However across a whole album the two singers simply run of tricks a little too early. There's not much variation to the sound, with the two guitarists rather similar to each other and when the changes do come (as per the Griffin-led reggae number 'Wolf Hall' or the soul funk 'Rozanne') the results are a tad embarrassing with members of two of the 'whitest' bands on the planet attempting to sound Carribean. While there's arguably no more filler material here than there had been on most Hollies albums since the mid-1970s, a new act always comes under so much more scrutiny and can't get by just on their band name. While far from a total disaster - had 'Please Come Into My Life' been released under The Hollies name it might well have been the hit they'd been searching for for so long - ultimately the results are a little underwhelming. There's an awful lot of talent on display across this album and Griffin and Sylvester together sound majestic - but when the pair try too hard to go their separate ways the album comes crashing down: Terry sounds far from comfortable on 'Wolf Hall' for instance; ditto Griffin on 'Did You Hear The News Today?' Without the strong sales Polydor had hoped for, the pair were quietly let go. However their collaboration lasted almost as long as Terry's stint in The Hollies, with the pair reuniting for occasional touring gigs and even more occasional recordings (the single 'Aruba Town' for instance, an attempt to get a hit by going all modern and trendy, which like Allan Clarke's solo albums simply sounded so desperate to be loved it put older fans off and sold even less copies than before - it can be found as a bonus track on the CD re-issue of 1999 alongside 'I'll Be There' and 'Don't You Know It's Time?). The pair even spent a while as part of the 'Soft Rock Cafe' ensemble in the 1990s and remained close pals up until Griffin's untimely death in 2005 at the age of 61. So close, but no guitar you might say - or indeed any of that extra something to make this record sparkle, although all the basics for a good record are all neatly ticked off and Terry himself has rarely been in better voice.

 "Archive Alive"
(Connoisseur Collection, Recorded September 1983, Released September 1997)
I Can't Let Go/Just One Look/Bus Stop/On A Carousel/Look Through Any Window/King Midas In Reverse/Wasted On The Way/Teach Your Children/Soldier's Song/Stop! Stop! Stop!/The Air That I Breathe/Carrie Anne/Stop! In The Name Of Love/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress
"There's so much time to make up, everywhere you turn, time we have wasted on the way, so much water moving underneath the bridge, let the water come and carry us away"
...Or 'Hello Graham Nash' as hundreds of eager fans who had this radio broadcast concert on bootleg knew it as. A welcome souvenir of the brief time of Graham back in the band to promote the 'What Goes Around...' album, it reveals a band that are at once more polished and yet more ragged than on 'Hollies Live Hits', somehow sloppier and yet playing more on auto-pilot. The return of Graham is a delight even though he oddly doesn't get much to do - as good as Terry was at 'filling in' for him on stage across the 1970s the Hollies' sixties hits sound more 'right' somehow with the original harmoniser back in the band. The Hollies also get to sing 'King Midas In Reverse' on stage for the first time in fifteen years - a song that would have been pointless to cover without Graham in the band so thankfully they didn't try (although a folky acoustic re-arrangement from the 1990s - with flutes! - was pretty good I have to say). It's by far the album highlight, along with the lone song from the 'What Goes Around' LP, the current single 'Stop! In The Name Of Love' (this live version knocks spots off the rather stilted original). Best of all, though, this is the only official place where fans can hear what a 'parallel world' Hollies might have sounded like, with Graham singing on the hits The Hollies had after he left the band ('He Ain't Heavy' and 'The Air That I Breathe' that sound much the same; an extended ten-minute 'Long Cool Woman' that nicks bits from rockabilly guitar hit 'Raunchy' that must have reminded Graham of the Stills-Young guitar jams from his own band; and finally the brilliant 'Soldier's Song', a track that was one of The Hollies' best live songs, with a much slower tempo and extra drama than on the single; there are bootlegs of this song from later concerts that are way better than this one, but as to date the only official live release this too is very welcome). In return, Nash coaxes faithful readings of his CSN songs 'Teach Your Children' (with Allan and Tony sounding great together on the backing vocals) and an especially poignant 'Wasted On The Way' (a song about missed opportunities and broken friendships) out of the band, hinting at what they might have sounded like had they stayed together through the 1970s and 1980s (pretty good on this evidence!) It's a shame the band didn't do more Nash songs actually: a Hollie version of 'I Used To Be A King', the sequel to 'King Midas' partly about regretting leaving the band in the first place, would have been highly apt while The Hollies would have done a nice version of bit hit 'Just A Song Before I Go' too.
Even without Graham and the loss of Terry and Bernie there's clearly been a big shift here though: the central part is no longer the guitar the drums or even the vocal but the keyboards, with young whizz-kid Paul Bliss working overtime even compared to Pete Wingfield, starting a trend that will be followed by replacement Denis Haines; his successor Ian Parker is a lot more subtle). This means this period of The Hollies now sounds horribly dated to modern ears (if not quite as dated as the 'Innocent Eyes' LP Nash and Bliss will make together when this tour is over) and are having something of a sloppy night by their standards - unlike 'Live Hits' you can tell this show is 'live', with a few fluffs, missed cues and the odd flat note (shockingly Nash even forgets the words to the last verse of 'Teach Your Children', even though his partners - who'd never sung it before this tour - get it right!) Listening to it is an uneven experience which leaves you sympathising both with Clarke, who thought that the collaboration was far too good and enjoyable to have ended so soon - and with Nash who 'suddenly remembered why I'd left in the first place!' (though he sounds happy enough telling the audience 'what fun' they've been having). Still, this is nevertheless a welcome release that captured a moment in time Hollies fans assumed was an impossibility for all those years.

 "The Hollies"
(Music For Pleasure, September 1985)
Here I Go Again/Bus Stop/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Rockin' Robin/Poison Ivy/I'm Alive/Jennifer Eccles/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother//I Can't Let Go/Fortune Teller/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah/Little Bitty Pretty One/On A Carousel/Too Much Monkey Business/Stop! Stop! Stop!/We're Through
"Well it's the truth now! It's factual! Everything's gonna be satisfactual..."
There had of course been dozens of Hollies compilations by this point in time, most of which we've skipped over because the only thing that changed tended to be the running order and the front cover - even the names tended to be just 'The Hollies' for the vast majority. However this humble-looking unheralded compilation is not like the others for hidden amongst the usual curious assembly of hit singles and oddly chosen album tracks ('Rockin' Robin'? Seriously?) are three previously unreleased tracks, all from the band's earliest days. 'Poison Ivy' - an alternate take to the one later released on 'At Abbey Road Volume One' - is a cracking cover of the Leiber-Stoller song that manages  to rock whilst being funny (most covers of the song do neither). Though The Hollies are clearly struggling to hit the song's tricky chord structures at such high speed, they're also clearly having fun, attacking the song with gusto and energy even compared to their usual early style. This track was recorded at only the sixth Hollies recording session, the same day the band recorded 'Stay'. 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah', the song featured in better-than-average-considering-its-got-humans-in Disney film 'Song Of The South', is also given a revved up arrangement that sounds a lot better than it probably ought to despite being one of the most re-arranged Hollies covers in their back catalogue. It was recorded at only the band's second ever session, alongside 'Now's The Time' and 'Little Lover'. Finally, 'Little Bitty Pretty One' was perhaps too dated for 1965 (it was taped during sessions for 'The Hollies', the same day as 'Look Through Any Window') but is nevertheless a lot of fun, one last chance for Clarke to belt out the lyrics at full force. The rest of the compilation is no great shakes (the track selection is dizzying - I can't tell you how wrong 'I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top' sounds in amongst songs otherwise chosen from the beginning of the band's career) and all three tracks can now be found safe and sound on 'The Clarke Hicks Nash Years' set anyway, but for a time this record was much sought after and a dear one to the hearts of many a Hollies collector. The album still has some rarity value even today: an otherwise unseen cover shot of a very young band (Bobby doesn't just have hair he has lots of it!) that seems to be the earliest photograph taken of the Elliott-era band.

 "Not The Hits Again"
(See For Miles, February 1986)
Wings/It's In her Kiss/You'll Be Mine/Take Your Time (1966 Version)/I Am A Rock/Honey And Wine/Very Last Day/It's Only Make Believe/That's My Desire/So Lonely/Now's The Time//Hard Hard Year/Put Yourself In My Place/Please Don't Feel Too Bad/Nitty Gritty-Something's Got A Hold On Me/You Better Move On/I Take What I want/Talkin' Bout You/Candy Man/Set Me Free/Lawdy Miss Clawdy/Sweet Little Sixteen
"Let's (let's!) Get (Get!) Right (Right!) On down (Down!) To the real (Real!) Nitty Gritty (Nitty Gritty!)"
The first 'interesting' compilation as opposed to ones that just recycled the hits over and over again, 'Not The Hits Again' was inspired by exactly that - the title being not far off my own comment when yet another Hollies compilation arrived on the market with the same old dozen or so songs. There's not a single 'hit' amongst this double-vinyl set which despite re-using the cover from 1966's 'For Certain Because' LP is very much all about The Hollies' early years when they were mainly a wild and energetic covers act. There's very little of the band's later polish and finesse here ('That's My Desire' 'It's Only Make Believe' and the curious opening track 'Wings' - a good three years older than everything else here but a welcome one in the pre-Rarities days when this track was only available on an obscure various artists set - are the only ballads) but if the rockier side of The Hollies' canon and the thought of them covering rock and roll classics and obscurities appeals then this is the set for you! Highlights include the full throttle 'Talkin' Bout You', the 'Nitty Gritty > Something's Got A Hold On Me' medley and the fierce 'I Take What I Want' are all three excellent songs to play anyone who doesn't believe that the Hollies ever 'rocked' , while the comparatively slower 'So Lonely' 'Head Hard Year' and 'Honey and Wine' are all excellent under-rated tracks that are a most melodic way to catch your breathe back. Yes there's a few odd decisions (weak-kneed covers of 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy' and 'Sweet Little Sixteen' make for a disappointing finale) and a good handful more songs from the 1964-65 period conspicuous by their absence ('To You My Love' 'Set Me Free' and 'Oriental Sadness' to name just three). But this set does exactly what it aimed for: showed the world how fabulous the early Hollies were and how mega-consistent they were even at the beginning without having to resort to what every other Hollies compilation out there does and lure unsuspecting fans in with the same old tired tunes. Excellent stuff.

 "All The Hits And More"
(EMI, September 1988)
CD One: (Ain't That) Just Like Me?/Searchin'/Stay/Just One Look/Here I Go Again/We're Through/Yes I Will/I'm Alive/Look Through Any Window/If I Needed Someone/I Can't Let Go/Bus Stop/Stop! Stop! Stop!/Pay You Back With Interest/On A Carousel/Carrie Anne/King Midas In Reverse/Dear Eloise/Jennifer Eccles/Listen To Me/Sorry Suzanne/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother
CD Two: I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Gasoline Alley Bred/Hey Willy/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/The Baby/The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee/The Air That I Breathe/Sandy/I'm Down/Daddy Don't Mind/Too Young To Be Married/Soldier's Song/If The Lights Go Out/Take My Love And Run (Single Version)
"Half forgotten in the passing of time - the real crime"
A highly successful compilation, timed to cash-in on the surprise success of 'He Ain't Heavy', 'All The Hits and More' is a double album that sought to release all of The Hollies' hits from all eras in one place for the first time. While a little stingy on running time (it's clearly made for the dying days of vinyl rather than the early days of CDs) it contains all the songs you'd expect to be there at least (even 'Just Like Me' 'Searchin' and  'The Baby' which are so often skipped by compilation sets, though no 'Magic Woman Touch' alas) and in (very nearly almost) the right chronological order. There are of course a few questionable choices towards the end (The Hollies didn't really have a hit post-'The Air That I Breathe' so the last seven tracks are all presumably the 'more' - some are good additions such as 'Too Young To Be Married'  'Daddy Don't Mind' and 'Soldier's Song', but the first one of these is way out of chronological order!) but to date no compilation has ever quite worked out what to do with this 'extra' running time and this set gets things better than most. After all The Hollies have a near-unique problem in that they scored so many hit singles that you just can't fit them all on a single album - leaving compilers to take the hard decision whether to leave some of the smaller hits off or put them all onto a double album with 'filler' material - both tricks will be used heavily over the years but not get the balance quite as right as this set does. Even the cover shot - an unseen photo of the late Nash era looking smart in blue - is superior to most re-packagings. Old as it is, and low on tracks as it is compared to 'The Hollies At Fifty', this is still arguably the best Hollies compilation of the digital age.

"As and Bs Singles 1970-79"
(Music For Pleasure, '1988')
I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Mad Professor Blyth/ Gasoline Alley Bred/Dandelion Wine/Hey Willy/Row The Boat Together/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/Cable Car/The Baby/Oh Granny!/The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee/Born A Man/The Air That I Breathe/No More Riders/Star/Love Is The Thing/Hello To Romance/48 Hour Parole/Something To Live For/Song Of The Sun
"Keep pushing tomorrow - you might just find that elusive something!"
Now, I write this review full in the knowledge that this compilation - another released in the wake of the surprise success of the 'He Ain't Heavy re-issue' - is currently harder to find than probably a full collection of The Hollies' original vinyl singles and is unlikely to be re-released any time soon, so good luck trying to find it is all I can say. However buy it if you do because this is a superb compilation, the only one out there that concentrates on perhaps The Hollies' most fascinating decade rather than the same old 1960s hits and until very recently the only place to find some of the band's better flipsides that never came out on album. This set admittedly loses marks for the bland brown cover (this set has clearly been thrown together in a hurry) and the fact that EMI simply skips over the Mikael Rickfors years (this set would have been even closer to perfect with 'The Baby' 'Magic Woman Touch' 'Jesus Was A Crossmaker' 'I Had A Dream' and 'Indian Girl' here). However all the Allan Clarke-vocal A and B sides from the 1970s are here, including a nice mixture of hits, near-misses, overlooked career highlights ('Love Is The Thing' '48 Hour Pasrole') and forgotten obscurities (for years this was the only place to hear the band's only non-album 1970-80 A-side 'Son Of A Rotten Gambler' and it's B-side 'Layin' To The Music' and whilst neither are long lost gems exactly both deserve to be better known; today both can be found on 'At Abbey Road Volume Two').  In all, a rather good compilation that covers more than just the usual over-studied ground and yet still comes up trumps.

 "Rarities"
(EMI, November 1988)
Carrie/Mexico Gold/If It Wasn't For The Reason That I Love You/Louisiana Man/She Looked My Way/Eleanor's Castle/Here In My Dreams/Sanctuary//Relax/Tomorrow When It Comes/Open Up Your Eyes/The Times They Are A Changin' (Live)/Regardez Par Des Fenetres/After The Fox/Non Prego Per Me/Like Everytime Before/Wings
"Show the many ways that we can go where wishes grow, let's chase the shadows, child"
Sadly 'Rarities' is something of a rarity itself today, but at the time was the best thing that had happened to The Hollies in a decade. Released to cash-in on the unexpected success of the 'He Ain't Heavy' re-issue, it was a reminder of just how nonchalantly brilliant The Hollies always were, with arguably the 1960s' most consistently excellent band equally consistently excellent in terms of outtakes. There's no filler on this extraordinary set, which was compiled with care by then-Record Collector editor Peter Doggett (who always had a soft spot for The Hollies judging by his articles in what was back then easily the world's greatest music magazine) with help from band archivist Bobby Elliott and Abbey Road man Mike Heatley. Good ol' EMI kept absolutely everything and paperwork in triplicate (Record Collector had even printed a remarkably full 'Hollies sessionography' earlier in the year based on the session notes and inspired by Mark Lewisohn's work on The Beatles) so this set was easier to compile than most (although there's still at least another two volumes that could be released one day based on the 'unknown' songs in the listings).
All eras of Hollies are here - and all sound equally fabulous.  Splitting the 'Nash' and 'Sylvester' years in between the two sides of vinyl, unusually 'Rarities' starts with the later years. 'Carrie' is a classic pop song, recorded in the band's first sessions post-Sylvester and Calvert in 1981, but curiously abandoned; 'Mexico Gold' was the first song the band recorded with Clarke on his return in 1974 and could have taken the band down a whole new path, before they recorded 'Curly Billy' an hour later and went down that one instead; the only Mikael Rickfors track on the set 'If It Wasn't For The Reason' is ironically the easiest to find of all his era songs today despite being abandoned in 1972 and shares the same laidback brilliance as much of that era; 'Louisiana Man' was as far as The Hollies ever got with their intention of recording a 'Hollies Sing Country' record, the arrangement 'borrowed' from a guest spot the band made with writer Bobbie Gentry on her American TV show where the band looked mightily uncomfortable; 'She Looked My Way' is a classy gorgeous ballad that fully deserved to be on 'Hollies Sing Hollies' even if it was the only cover song tries at the sessions and as such the 'odd one out'; 'Eleanor's Castle' is a silly original intended for 'Confessions Of The Mind' which wouldn't have fitted there but still sounds great; 'Here In My Dreams' was the 'Russian Roulette' era's attempt to record another 'Air That I Breathe' and got closer than most with some haunting piano work and some great great vocals; finally, the full Hollies of 'Sanctuary' is one of the best things they ever did, improving even on the excellent Clarke solo re-recording, tidying up the emotion into one tidy singalong package that still resonates deeply.
As for the Nash years, most of this dates from 1968 and the aborted album that never got finished. The mellow varispeeded  'Relax' and the hard-hitting freak-beat 'Tomorrow When It Comes' were always intended to start an album and sound great as a one-two punch at the start of side two here, the latter especially with its psychedelic wah-wah pedal, fierce Keith Moon style drumming and philosophical lyrics, one of the best of all Hollies rockers in fact; 'Open Up Your Eyes' isn't strictly speaking unreleased having appeared as the B-side of 'Jennifer Eccles' - however this set's called 'Rarities' rather than 'Unreleased' and it's a great overlooked song combining world peace and pigtails so I'll let that pass!; the Lewisham Odean performance of 'The Times They Are A Changin' is the sensible track to include from that aborted live album, so different and more powerful than the later Sylvester version on 'Sing Dylan'; 'Look Through Any Window' sounds rather good in French - and while it sounds slightly out of place I'm rather glad it's here (it will surprise no one to learn that my French GCSE aural was spent discussing my record collection, 'Crosby Stills avec un Nash parfois Young et un Lunmatique Bleu', with 'Regardes Par Des Fenetres' coming in rather handy when asked to quote a favourite lyric!); the flop single from flop film 'After The Fox' is hilarious, with the listener never quite sure whether The Hollies or Peter Sellers are doing more of the sending up; 'Non Prego Per Me' was the Hollies entry to the San Remo Song Festival where it came near the bottom - unfairly as it's a great song and a terrific performance in a foreign language, although the band themselves admit some of the pronunciations were a bit hit and miss!; the unfinished 'Like Everytime Before' was very nearly a single in 1968, was briefly a B-side in Sweden and featured a new rocking Hicks guitar part ocerdubbed for the solo - the original version without it has also since come to light; finally we get 'Wings', one of the loveliest Hollies songs of them all, given away to the same World Wildlife Fund charity project as The Beatles' 'Across The Universe' where this gorgeous tale of escapism beat the fab four hands down.
Of course you don't really need to spend a fortune on this album as all of it has been re-issued since in some way: to date all the Nash era songs are available on the 'Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years' box set, with 'Mexico Gold' 'Sanctuary' and 'Carrie' popping up on 'The Long Road Home' and pretty much all the 1970s recordings turning up on the French label Magic's re-issue of all the 1970s Hollies albums ('Hollies Sing Hollies' includes lots out of order for some reason: 'Wings' 'Eleanor's Castle' 'She Looked My Way' and 'Louisiana Man'; 'If It Wasn't' appears on 'Romany'; 'If It Wasn't' and 'Mexico Gold' additionally appear on 'Out On The Road'; 'Mexico Gold' is also on 'The Hollies'; 'Here In MY Dreams' on 'Russian Roulette' and 'Carrie' on 'What Goes Around...'). However 'Hollies Rarities' remains the way to hear it if you can - an outtakes record that's one of the best in the business, being both genuinely full of rare things and remarkably consistent and made with a lot of care, with a classic blue-tinged picture of the 1966 Hollies looking cool and copious informative sleevenotes. A treasure.

 "The Air That I Breathe: The Very Best Of The Hollies"
(EMI, March 1993)
The Air That I Breathe/Bus Stop/Just One Look/Yes I Will/Look Through Any Window/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/I Can't Let Go/ We're Through/Searchin'/Stay/I'm Alive/If I Needed Someone/Here I Go Again//Stop! Stop! Stop!/On A Carousel/ Carrie Anne/King Midas In Reverse/Jennifer Eccles/Listen To Me/Sorry Suzanne/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Gasoline Alley Bred/Hey Willy/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee/The Woman I Love
"Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe - and a decent Hollies compilation. Is it really too much to ask?!"
While German Hollies fans - always the country most supportive of the band - got the superlative '30th Anniversary Collection' with three discs that were organised chronologically, chosen with a lot of care and even included half a dozen rarities not released in the rest of the world until the 'Long Road Home Box' ten years later, most Hollies fans got this hodepodge release that anniversary year. The track listing is basic, the running time short, the chronology jumbled and the whole thing is tackily packaged (the front cover is a bright green shot of a tree because, yes, The Hollies were always singing about trees weren't they? Or is this some random way of trying to illustrate the album title because 'air' that people 'breathe' can't really be pictured by itself so we'd best have a picture of where it comes from. Another theory is that EMI thought they'd release something as strikingly different from the cover of '20 Golden Greats' as they could get and went with a tree as opposed to a nuclear power station. What's wrong with a photo of the band, who managed to be one of the most photogenic out there despite occasionally wearing lace shirts? The mind boggles). At full price when it came out this compilation was a joke, a rip-off, yet more evidence that EMI no longer cared about their second-biggest cash-cow of the 1960s. However fans who picked this up cheap and had already worn out their old singles had a few things to celebrate: there are 26 songs across this album which is half a dozen songs' worth better value for money than 'Golden Greats'. Most of the 'extra' songs are the sensible choices too, giving a welcome extra hearing to mid-range hits like 'If I Needed Someone' 'Hey Willy' and 'Curly Billy' while any compilation that includes the glorious 'King Midas In Reverse' (still fairly hard to find back in 1993) can't be all bad. Fans also rushed to this album at the time because it was a means of getting hold of the brand new Hollies single 'The Woman I Love' which thanks to a blaze of publicity seemed to be a certain hit; however the song stalled at a lowly #42 in the UK (without charting in America at all) when fans actually heard it and realised how ghastly it was. It's inclusion here as the last track on the album is logical but flawed, all the Hollies' weakest points from across the album put together in one mis-guided inanity that lodges in the mind for days afterwards and puts you off ever getting this compilation out again. Some detailed sleevenotes would have been nice too.
                                                           
"The 30th Anniversary Collection"
(EMI, June 1993)
CD One: (Ain't That) Just Like Me?/Hey What's Wrong With Me?/Searchin'/Whole World Over/Stay/Now's The Time/I Understand/Just One Look/Keep Off That Friend Of Mine/Here I Go Again/Baby That's All/We're Through/Come On Back/Yes I Will/Nobody/I Can't Get Nowhere With You/I'm Alive/You Know He Did/She Gives Me Everything I Want
CD Two: Look Through Any Window/So Lonely/If I Needed Someone/I've Got A Way Of My Own/You In My Arms/I Can't Let Go/Bus Stop/Don't Run and Hide/After The Fox/Stop! Stop! Stop!/Pay You Back With Interest/Kill Me Quick/On A Carousel/We're Alive/Carrie Anne/Signs That Will Never Change. King Midas In Reverse/Everything Is Sunshine
CD Three: Dear Eloise/Jennifer Eccles/Open Up Your Eyes/Wings/Like Everytime Before/Do The Best You Can/Man With No Expressions (Horses Through A Rainstorm)/Listen To Me/Sorry Suzanne/Not That Way At All/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/'Cos You Like To Love Me/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Gasoline Alley Bred/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/Long Dark Road/The Air That I Breathe/The Woman I Love/Nothing Else But Love/Purple Rain
"These feelings can't be sacrificed when we're so close to paradise, it's made for me and you"
While most of the world had largely forgotten The Hollies by their 30th birthday in 1993 and had to make do with a rather shoddy single CD, the fab five were still big names in Germany and treated with more reverence there than any other 1960s band apart from The Beatles. Sensing this untapped market, Germany got their own three-disc set, which gave a far better understanding to curious fans of what The Hollies' complex musical journey was all about and a set that, while cheap and minimally packaged, oozed the sort of love and attention that wasn't forthcoming on 'The Air That I Breathe' released three months earlier. The track listing was clearly chosen by a fan (or perhaps a panel of them) containing all the hits you might expect but alongside several hard-to-find B-sides and key album tracks. The set was perhaps a little skimpy on the fascinating 1970s period (with a massive gap between 'The Air That I Breathe' in 1974 and three closing tracks from the early 1990) but in terms of 1960s material it remained the single best Hollies compilation out there until the 'Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years' released the whole bang lot twenty years later. However what really got collectors salivating - and paying over the odds for pricey imports - were the first 'unreleased' Hollies let out of the archives since 'Rarities' five years earlier. Most of these were prime 1960s Hollies, with three self-written 'experiments' from the self-titled 1965 album sessions ('She Gives Me Everything I Want' 'You In My Arms' and 'I Can't Get Nowhere With You') which might not have been up to the best of 'Rarities' but threw new light on the period when the band were caught between playing it safe and playing it cool. One of Nash's last songs with the band 'Horses Through A Rainstorm' (the only Hollies song the full CSNY line-up ever recorded under the name 'Man With No Expressions', although their version was only allowed out of the vault stables in 1991 on the 'CSN' box set) is similarly strange yet fascinating, a surreal pop song that's an early collaboration between Nash and Terry Reid that aims for the middle path between 'King Midas' and 'Jennifer Eccles'. There's even a vintage 1967 Hollies single only released in Italy - and while the band may have groaned over the release of 'We're Alive' and 'Kill Me Quick' they're actually under-rated songs, dated for 1967 perhaps but highly welcome in 1993. Oh and talking of which, 'Nothing Else But Love' takes us bang up to date, a Richard Marx recorded at the same sessions as 'The Woman I Love' at the start of the year but still only officially available on this German-only set (though all the others have been released in the rest of the world, notably on the 'Abbey Road' and the 'Long Road Home' sets). Containing everything you'd expect to be there, with a few old friends who don't often get a look in and some unexpected surprises, this is my kind of a birthday party and with a vintage unseen shot of the band oozing cool from 1967 on the front beats looking at trees while listening to the same old tired hits anyday. EMI lost a trick by not releasing this set elsewhere too.

 "Special Collection"
(EMI, October 1997)
CD One: (Ain't That) Just Like Me?/Talkin' Bout You/Lucille/ Little Lover/Here I Go Again/Don't You Know?/To You My Love/You'll Be Mine/We're Through/Very Last Day/Look Through Any Window/So Lonely/I Am A Rock/I'm Alive/Bus Stop/Tell Me To My Face/Clown/It's You/After The Fox/Stop! Stop! Stop!
CD Two: Carrie Anne/Dear Eloise/Then The Heartaches Begin/ Pegasus/Postcard/Rain On The Window/On A Carousel/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/Leave Me/Listen To Me/Open Up Your Eyes/Wings/Do You Believe In Love?/Goodbye Tomorrow/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/Frightened Lady/Man Without A Heart/Too Young To Be Married/Isn't It Nice?/Gasoline Alley Bred
CD Three: Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/Hold On/To Do With Love/A Little Thing Called Love/If It Wasn't For The Reason That I Love You/The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee/The Air That I Breathe/No More Riders/Draggin' My Heels/Daddy Don't Mind/Caracas/Let It Pour/Soldier's Song/Take My Love And Run/Too Many Hearts Get Broken/This Is It/Reunion Of The Heart/Find Me A Family/The Woman I Love/Purple Rain (version One)
"Though my cup's overflowing, baby let it pour"
Well, if you take 'special' to mean a different and longer collection of Hollies songs than normal as opposed to, say, decently packaged or stuffed full of rarities then this three-disc three-hour compilation does rather nicely. Just about every Hollies hit is here, but the random grab-bag assortment of Hollies flipsides and album tracks still sounds every bit their equal: I'm particularly pleased to see unheralded classics like  'So Lonely' 'Then The Heartaches Begin' 'Postcard' 'Wings' 'Too Young To Be Married'  'To Do With Love'  'Soldier's Song' and 'Too Many Hearts Get Broken' here (five-star classics all) although I'm a bit more puzzled as to why dross like 'Don't You Know?' 'You'll Be Mine' 'Leave Me' 'Do You Believe In Love?'  'Isn't It Nice?'  and 'Reunion Of The Heart' made it in given that you could easily release a six-disc Hollies set without anything less than excellent. For once the contents are in chronological order too, which is excellent as it means that fans can really trace the speedy developments and the to-ing and fro-ing of styles instead of being thrown from one extreme to the other as per most EMI compilations. While overshadowed somewhat by the 'Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years' set of more recent years (which featured everything from 1963-68 in twice the space for roughly the same price) this remains the best single-shop method of getting tracks from every Hollies era in one space for those who don't want to spend money on the pricey 'Long Road Home' box set.

"At Abbey Road Volume One: 1963-66"
(EMI, October 1997)
(AIn't That) Just Like Me?/Hey What's Wrong With Me?/Searchin'/Whole World Over/Poison Ivy (Plus Studio Chat)/Stay/Now's The Time/Just One Look/Keep Off That Friend Of Mine/Here I Go Again/Baby That's All/We're Through (Alternate Take)/We're Through (Finished Version)/Come On Back/Yes I Will (Plus Studio Chat)/Nobody/I'm Alive/You Know He Did/Look Through Any Window/So Lonely/If I Needed Someone/I've Got A Way Of My Own/I Can't Let Go/Running Through The Night/Bus Stop/Don't Run And Hide/Stop! Stop! Stop!/It's You
"Been so long since I last saw you (Come on back! Come on back!) I've been feeling lost without you (Come on back! Come on back!)
The 'Abbey Road' series was a sadly short-lived exercise from EMI to raise the profile of both label and studios when both were undergoing something of a financial crisis without having to spend much money. Over time a whole range of CDs were released in the series including a 'Merseybeat' edition (featuring Graham Gouldmann's band The Mockingbirds from about the time he was writing 'Look Through Any Window' and 'Bus Stop' for The Hollies) and a Swinging Blue Jeans edition (featuring - briefly - a pre-Hollies Terry Sylvester at the end) amongst others (though sadly there never were sets for the bigger names like The Beatles or Pink Floyd). As EMI's longest lasting act (with fifty years without a change of label and only briefly in 1972 and at the end of the 1980s recording tracks outside Abbey Road) The Hollies were the only act to have more than one set dedicated to them - in the end they got three! This was a tremendous return considering that, a few cheap and nasty compilations aside, The Hollies had been all but ignored for the past decade. Each 'Abbey Road' Hollies set was exquisitely packaged, with notes on each song and essays about the band and the studios (viewed retrospectively all this seems like a good way of testing the 'Long Road Home' box set format a few years early...) and came with the usual hits alongside a few rarer B-sides and album tracks, all of which made these sets far more desirable than most of the Hollies compilations out there. Each one was also sensibly divided into roughly the 'right' amount of space each era needed: this one for instance goes from Merseybeat to the first stirrings of psychedelia, before the psychedelia to folk protest years in set two and the ups and downs of the 1970s and 1980s in volume three.
However it's the unreleased material that these sets were most famous for in their day (even though all of it is available elsewhere nowadays, although sadly there aren't quite as many gems on this set as the other two. Highlights included the Hollies' first attempt at 'We're Through' before they decided to beef it up and make it more commercial (this version is slower, with more emphasis on the guitar riff and with even more of a bossa nova flavour), a rare version of 'Yes I Will' (accidentally released on a compilation in the 1980s which starts with the chorus rather than the verse, complete with an unissued snippet of Clarke and Nash arguing over use of a chair!) and 'Poison Ivy' (fun Leiber/Stoller cover with Clarke on particularly good form from one of the band's earliest recording sessions - this track too had appeared briefly in the 1980s but was out of print at the time this set came out). Clearly there's less to get excited about here than, say, 'Hollies Rarities' and there were plenty of complaints made at the time about all these sets taking collectors' money despite only having a sprinkling of new recordings. However for the casual collector at least these sets were ,made with a lot of care, gave more time to periods of Hollie history than most other sets had room to and by and large got the track selections about right. Note: all three volumes were re-released as a three-disc box set in 20000 without any additional packaging or material.

"At Abbey Road Volume Two: 1966-70"
(EMI, February 1998)
Pay You Back With Interest/On A Carousel/All The World Is Love/Schoolgirl/Carrie Anne/Signs That Will Never Change/King Midas In Reverse/Everything Is Sunshine/Dear Eloise/Open Up Your Eyes/Man With No Expressions (Horses Through A Rainstorm)/Listen To Me/Do The Best You Can/Blowin' In The Wind/Sorry Suzanne/Not That Way At All/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/'Cos You Like To Love Me/Sign Of The Times (Plus Studio Conversation)/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top (Plus Studio Conversation)/Mad Professor Blyth/Gasoline Alley Bred (Plus Studio Conversation)/Dandelion Wine/Confessions Of A Mind
"Win a game, lose the game, don't feel sad when things go bad you just do the best you can!"
Volume Two of the 'Abbey Road' series covers the 'glory years' beginning with 'For Certain Because' in 1966 and ending with the unusual choice of the title track from 'Confessions Of A Mind' in 1970. The Hollies were really pushing boundaries in this period and along with the usual hits it's nice to see EMI include so many of the rarer flipsides and album tracks that seemed to come as something of a surprise to reviewers on first release. Highlights include flipside 'All The World Is Love',  'King Midas' and its pretty B-side 'Everything Is Sunshine', 1970 flipside 'Mad Professor Blyth' and overlooked single 'Gasoline Alley Bred'. Once again though the collectors will be mostly interested in the unreleased material and while what's here is fascinating there isn't very much of it. 'Schoolgirl' is a surprisngly raucous third Graham Gouldmann song gifted to the band along with 'Any Window' and 'Bus Stop' but despite being about Hollie favourite subject matter schoolgirls and possessing  a cracking backing track with a nifty piece of arranging where two Nashes chase their own tail, the song doesn't sound quite right for The Hollies: musically it's The Who while lyrically it's Herman's Hermits. 'Man With No Expressions' is a fun Nash collaboration with Terry Reid from his dying days in the band that was rejected along with 'Marrakesh Express' and 'Lady Of The Island' despite the fact that its surreal prettyness makes it a much more obvious candidate for a Hollies tune (CSN later recorded it too for 'Deja Vu' with their version going unheard until the 1991 box set; though both are good this is a more natural hit for The Hollies). A Nash era 'Blowin' In The Wind' taped before the 'Sing Dylan' version is fun and arguably better (or at least more energetic) than the re-recording  but isn't all that different (Terry was clearly told to sing as much like Graham on the re-make as he could). Finally the most interesting song here is probably 'Sign Of The Times', a breezy piece of adolescent protest recorded for 'Confessions' the same day as 'Eleanor's Castle' and that album's title track. Hick's fuzz guitar and an offbeat riff make up for lyrics that are best described as 'very sixties' and quickly u-turn from the promising 'it's a new situation' start- telling the parental generation that while they want more freedom they'll always respect the boundaries ('We want your love and blessing till we do the right thing!') Finally there's another small dose of studio conversation - a hilarious warm-up of 'I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top' where Clarke practices his warm up scales while Elton John and Bobby Elliott set of on a jazz improvisation that's actually more fun than the song itself! As ever with these sets the sleevenotes and rare pictures are lovely, but there's a case to be made that with such a short running time and so many rarities still left in the vaults these three volumes could and should have been better still.

"At Abbey Road Volume Three: 1973-89"
(EMI, August 1998)
The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee/ Transatlantic Westbound Jet/Tip Of The Iceberg/The Air That I Breathe/Give Me Time/Son Of A Rotten Gambler/Layin' To The Music/Sandy (4th Of July, Ashbury Park)/Come Down To The Shore/I'm Down/Samuel/Crocodile Woman (She Bites!)/ Harlequin/Say It Ain't So, Jo/Lovin' You Ain't Easy/Satellite Three/Take My Love And Run (Single Version)/Too Many Hearts Get Broken/Find Me A Family/No Rules
"I gave you all I had and more - in vain"
For fans 'Abbey Road Volume Three' is the one to have, containing the most amount of unreleased songs (four) plus a collection of material that we Hollie-heads are hard pressed to find on CD even now (this is still the only official UK release for the single mix of 'Take My Love and Run', plus both sides of the 1989 single 'Find Me A Family' and B-side 'No Rules' while flop single-only 'Air That I Breathe' follow-up 'Son Of A Rotten Gambler' has been re-released since but never if ever at the time). Elsewhere however it's an even more curious mixture of the great and ghastly that paints an even more distorted picture of what The Hollies were like during their 'missing years' of certainly 1973-80 (which means all but four songs in this set). The 'At Abbey Road' concept means that sadly we have to dispense entirely with the 'Distant Light' 'Romany' and rare 'Out On The Road' LPs (all cut at George Martin and Ron Richards' AIR studios) so the action picks up in late 1973 when Clarke has returned to the band, although even things are from straightforward. Somewhere along the way most of the obvious tracks from this era have been passed over: most fans would take Clarke's 'Don't Let Me Down' over the re-recording of Bobby's slightly odd 'Transatlantic Westbound Jet' any day to represent 'The Hollies', while the title tracks of 'Another Night' 'Write On' and 'Russian Roulette' are all missing  in favour of oddities like the retro 50s re-hash 'Crocodile Woman'. Though the three selections from '5317704' are all superb there's not one song here from the overlooked 'A Crazy Steal', which is something of a wasted opportunity to say the least (patchy as that record is, 'Feet On The Ground' in particular beats practically everything here). Welcome as 'Too Many Hearts Get Broken' is, it would have been nice to have some of the rarer 1980s recordings here too - although that said songs like 'Shine Silently' and 'Purple Rain' are among the few Hollies tracks not to have been recorded at Abbey Road in the first place.
As for the unheard songs, they're a bit of a mixed bag: 'Tip Of The Iceberg' (an outtake from 'The Hollies') is a fierce rocker, more focussed than many Hollies attempts at the same thing but without much of a story to tell; 'Come Down To The Shore' is an interesting Mardi Gras flavoured novelty with some excellent harmonies that's good but isn't quite up to the high standards of the 'Another Night' LP; 'Samuel' is a torch-waver with a cracking melody but a confusing story that would still have been nice to hear as part of 'Write On' and 'Lovin' You Ain't So Easy' is arguably a ballad too many to overload '5317704' with, drippier than most The Hollies did without being unlikeable. None of these four recordings - or indeed any from the 'Abbey Road' series - are quite up to the outtakes released on 'Hollies Rarities' but then that release had set the bar a little high; sequels are rarely as good as the originals after all, but all are remarkably good considering they'd been discarded more than twenty years ago.

 "Orchestral Heaven"
(EMI, June 2000)
Butterfly/Soldier's Song/I'm Down/The Air That I Breathe/Sandy (4th July Ashbury Park)/Heartbeat/Second Hand Hangups/Say It Ain't So Jo/Boulder To Birmingham/When I'm Yours/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/Satellite Three/Confessions Of A Mind/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Amnesty/Blowin' In The Wind/It's In Everyone Of Us/Something To Live For
"They told us that our hero has played his trump card and doesn't know how to go on, we're clinging to his charm and his winning smile but the good old days have gone"
 One of EMI's more interesting Hollies compilation, 'Orchestral Heaven' was hung on the rather clever peg of using only Hollies tracks that features orchestras. The idea is so obvious you wonder why nobody had thought of this before - it allowed the compilers to still include several of the band's biggest hits ('He Ain't Heavy' 'The Air That I Breathe' and 'I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top') as well as fan favourites and half-hits ('Sandy' 'I'm Down' 'Heartbeat' 'Soldier's Song'). Abbey Road Studios were famous for their full orchestral sound (after the likes of The Beatles and The Hollies stopped turning up every week the studios was mainly used for recording film scores) and The Hollies had worked with some of the best names in the business: Mike Vickers, Johnny Scott, Alan Tew and Tony Hymas, each with their own distinctive style (Manfredd Mann's Vickers' is elaborate and slightly posh as heard on 'High Classed',  Scott's is louder and yet quietly psychedelic as per 'Away Away Away', Tew's tends to use the orchestra as more of an extension of the band, rocking  out on tracks such as 'Man Without A Heart' and Hymas' is more subtle and lush as per 'Love Is The Thing'). This set should be fascinating - and at times it is, especially the choices from the lesser known second half of the 1970s with the likes of 'Second Hand Hangups' 'Say It Ain't So Jo' and 'Satellite Three' amongst the best trio of Hollies songs from the whole decade. However, it speaks volumes that the four songs that immediately spring to my mind when I think 'Hollies' and orchestra aren't actually on this album or that yet again The Hollies' material is released her out of chronological sequence where it would make most sense. There's a fascinating story here, how The Hollies began using an orchestra to make them sound 'big', before using it to make them sound 'psychedelic' before turning  to it to add colour to their protest songs and then ultimately becoming a lush orchestral ballad act (this album is particularly heavy on this last era, with a total of five songs from the comparatively obscure '5317704' alone). However this isn't it, yet another compilation caught in purgatory, somewhere between the Hollie Heaven promised by the title and Hollie Hell as usual ('Amnesty' on a best of? The orchestra doesn't come in till right near the end anyway!) Still at least this set tried to be different and these concept sets may in fact be the way to go; how about a 'psychedelic Hollies' or a 'protest' Hollies next time EMI?

"The Long Road Home" (Box Set)
(EMI, October 2003)
CD One: Hey What's Wrong With Me?/(Ain't That) Just Like Me?/Whole World Over/Stay/You Better Move On/Keep Off That Friend Of Mine/Baby That's All/Don't You Know?/Come On Back/We're Through/She Said Yeah/Nobody/So Lonely (Demo)/Bring Back Your Love To Me/Listen Here To Me/Honey And Wine/Very Last Day/Mickey's Monkey/You Must Believe Me/She Gives Me Everything I Want/I've Got A Way Of My Own/You In My Arms/If I Needed Someone/Stewball/Don't You Even Care (What's Gonna Happen To Me?)/Oriental Sadness/After The Fox/Don't Run And Hide/Pay You Back With Interest/It's You/What's Wrong With The Way I Live?/Crusader/Non Prego Per Me
CD Two: Kill Me Quick/We're Alive/Schoolgirl/All The World Is Love/Rain On The Window/You Need Love/Stop Right There/Signs That Will Never Change/Everything Is Sunshine/King Midas In Reverse/Dear Eloise/Maker/Would You Believe?/Elevated Observations/Butterfly/Open Up Your Eyes/Relax/Wings/Like Everytime Before/Man With No Expressions (Horses Through A Rainstorm)/A Taste Of Honey/Blowin' In The Wind/Quit Your Lowdown Ways/My Back Pages/Not That Way At All/Why Didn't You Believe?/Please Let Me Please
CD Three: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother/Marigold-Gloria Swansong/Goodbye Tomorrow/Man Without A Heart/Confessions Of A Mind/Too Young To Be Married/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Promised Land/Long Dark Road/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/The Baby/Magic Woman Touch/Jesus Was A Crossmaker/I Had A Dream/Mexico Gold/Don't Let Me Down/Second Hand Hangups/ Lonely Hobo Lullaby/Give Me Time
CD Four: The Air That I Breathe/Sandy (4th July, Ashbury Park)/I'm Down/Star/Write On/Love Is The Thing/I Won't Move Over/Draggin' My Heels/Daddy Don't Mind/Boulder To Birmingham/Writing On The Wall/Burn Out/Hello To Romance/Amnesty/Harelquin/When I'm Yours/Something To Live For/It's In Every One Of Us
CD Five: Say It Ain't So Jo/Sanctuary/Soldier's Song/Can't Lie No More/If The Lights Go Out/Heartbeat/What To Do/Carrie/Take My Love And Run/Let Her Go Down/laughter Turns To Tears/Too Many Hearts Get Broken/This Is It/Reunion Of The Heart/Stand By Me/Shine Silently/Find Me A Family/The Woman I Love/How Do I Survive?
CD Six (Live): Reach Out (I'll Be There)/Too Much Monkey Business/Stop! Stop! Stop! (All Sweden 1967)/The Times They Are A Changin' (London 1968)/'Hollies Live Hits' (1977, the entire record)/Purple Rain (Harrogate 1991)
"You go on putting hope in my life, but a single mistake can be all that it takes..."
Britain finally gets round to doing what Germany had already done perfectly well ten years earlier, but in a much bigger and elaborate way: there's probably a World War Two joke in here somewhere! Yes after ignoring The Hollies' 30th anniversary in 1993, Britain gets into the act by releasing an epic six-CD box set containing many of the same loved hits, rarities and unreleased recordings, alongside an expanded section dedicated to the 1970s, (almost) a full disc filled with tracks from the 'forgotten' 1980s/90s years and a final CD comprising 'Hollies Live Hits', 'The Times They Are A Changin' from 'Rarities', an earlier alternate take of 'Purple Rain' and - perhaps best of all - three vintage 1966 tracks when The Hollies were young and energetic and fabulous. Actually The Hollies are pretty fabulous throughout here, this being one of those magic box sets where even the hard to get material taken from hard-to-find sets like 'Rarities' and 'Abbey Road' sounds every bit as good as the better known hits. While there's actually very little here that really hadn't been heard before (those 1966 live tracks, three demos from 1965 including a tentative version of the great 'So Lonely' and an unfinished song 'Listen Here To Me', 90 second Larry Williams cover 'She Said Yeah' which sounds more like The Rolling Stones than The Stones' own cover version and a new recording in 'How Do I Survive?' - what turned out to be the only Hollies recording made with Carl Wayne, which makes for a rather odd ending to the set as a whole), you'd have to be a pretty monkeynuts collector to own all of it and there are oodles of hard-to-find pieces of the Hollies jigsaw here, including EP tracks, songs only available on short-lived compilations or rare B-sides that had never appeared on CD before. The track listing is generally spot on, with lesser known and lesser selling albums like 'Another Night' 'Write On' 'A Crazy Steal' and '5317704'(against all the odds the four Hollies albums best represented here) given a new lease of life and making for an excellent introduction to fans who either stopped at the hits or had never really heard of The Hollies at all.
There are, however, a few issues that prevent this box from being quite as perfect as it ought to be, however close it gets. In a nutshell the 1960s are too short, the 1970s are too long and the rest wildly inconsistent. The 1960s are generally regarded as The Hollies' golden age, full of their fiery energy and adventurous psychedelia and the passage from one to the other is one of the most remarkable stories in rock. Despite being two CD lengths longer than, say, CSN's even better box of 1991, that whole deeply important section of the story is told in a mere disc and a half, the entire Merseybeat beginning told in a mere twelve very short tracks. You'd think, too, that a set this long would feature a complete set of hit singles but no - whilst 'He Ain't Heavy' 'The Air That I Breathe' and curiously 'Stay' are all here there's no sign even of the #1 mega-hit 'I'm Alive'. That would be fine had EMI decided to cater this set to the more adventurous collector, perhaps leaving the hits off altogether and allowing more room for the classic albums like 'Evolution' 'Butterfly' and 'Confessions Of A Mind'. But no: the entire dizzying heights of the 12/11-song psychedelic roller-coasters are relegated to just three, five and three songs apiece. The 1980s are a particular hazard for the collector: the entries listed here are a curious mix of the more 'usual' though highly welcome fare ('Soldier's Song' and 'Too Many Hearts Get Broken') and the tracks included for sheer rarity value: 'Let Her Go Down' 'Laughter Turns To Tears' 'Reunion Of The Heart' and 'This Is It', songs released either solely in Germany or as new-to-CD B sides that are actually pretty awful and soul-less. That means less space for, say, the songs in between that are equally hard to find yet of better quality, such as the flipsides to 'Purple Rain' ('Naomi' and 'Two Shadows', both still missing on CD), the unreleased 1986 single 'Hard To Forget' or the then-missing 'Stop! In The Name Of Love' flipside 'Musical Pictures', neglected gems all. More B-sides would have been nice too, although four of the best are there at least ('So Lonely' 'All The World Is Love' 'Not That Way At All' and 'I Had A Dream' - 'Mad Professor Blyth' deserves place too though!) Also while including an alternate rarer version of 'Purple Rain' and the extended seven minute mix of 'Shine Silently' are welcome for the major Hollies collector, neither comes close to the 'proper' versions, both of which more than deserve to be here on merit. There's a truly fantastic compilation of 198-0s Hollies non-album A and B sides to be made - but frustratingly this isn't it.
The packaging is, generally, fabulous, full of glossy unseen photographs, a Hollies family tree (which has been very useful navigating our way around the band's ever-changing line-ups), a discography and a re-printing of a slightly extended sessionography  first printed in Record Collector magazine back in the early 1990s. Most of the surviving Hollies have taken part in the informative booklet, which is sadly the closest thing we yet have to a 'proper' Hollies book, given that Graham Nash's biography only spent about two chapters on his time with the band (Bobby Elliott, the member of the band who tried his best to keep everything down the years, keeps threatening to write one too - let's hope he does soon as it's a fascinating story to tell!) While Allan and Tony and to a lesser extent Bobby have always had the chances to speak over the years - and don't really add a lot we don't already know - it's great to hear Terry and especially Bernie (who never gets the chance to speak) talking about their years with the band, both of them sounding a lot fonder of the whole experience than you'd have expected from other snatches we've heard in interviews since. Amazingly even Graham Nash talks at length about his memories and is in deeply nostalgic mood for his first band, clearly enjoying the chance to talk about something other than CSN for a change! However even here it seems that, sadly, there are still a number of axes to grind. Eric Haydock continues to get short shrift from the others, to the extent that his comments on the band's years are far shorter than everyone elses and the inside shot of the band at Abbey Road (like the other photos used here, a spot-on striking shot - the one of the 1968 era Hollies with Tony up front is an excellent front cover too) 'cuts' Eric out of the picture. He's also 'missing' from the pictures on the actual CDs (which feature the other original four, Bernie and Terry - so at least they don't have a thing about bass players!) Other voices are missing too: Ray Stiles has been a member of the band for longer than anyone except Allan, Tony and Bobby and yet doesn't get interviewed for the box; Mikael Rickfors and Alan Coates are other noticeable absentees and all the 'newbies' in the band are missing to boot even though technically today they are 'The Hollies' (to be fair they may have been asked and refused; even so it's a shame that vintage interviews weren't used).
Ah well, even if 'The Long Road Home' (named for the opening line of 'He Ain't Heavy' and perhaps in a nod to 'Long Dark Road') occasionally falls into the usual box set traps of lack of room, dodgy track selection and band politics, it's still a lot better than it might have been and remains the best single-stop purchase for the band's entire career (in fact it's the only real single-stop purchase that covers every single decade). Better made than the 'Abbey Road' sets and a hundred times better than all the increasingly desperate 'best-ofs' if not quite up to the sheer thrill of seeing the track listing for 'Rarities' for the first time or the sheer collector's completism joy of the 'Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years', at least 'Long Road Home' does what it says on the tin (well, the back of the box anyway): it's a guide to a long and complex journey with many a long and winding turn along the way that once again proves that The Hollies were one of the most consistent bands that ever walked the planet. Not an essential purchase if you own everything else in this book, perhaps, but one of the better introductions to The Hollies' sound for interested newbies out there. 

"As Bs and EPs"
(**, March 2004)
(Ain't That) Just Like Me?/Hey What's Wrong With Me?/ Searchin'/Whole World Over/Stay/Just One Look/Keep Off That Friend Of Mine/Talkin' 'Bout You/Lucille/Here I Go Again/Baby That's All/I'm Alive/You Know He Did/Honey and Wine/Mickey's Monkey/I Can't Let Go/Look Through Any Window/I've Got A Way Of My Own/So Lonely/Stop! Stop! Stop!/It's You/On A Carousel/All The World Is Love/Carrie Anne
"Now you're ready for the tastin' of honey and wine"
Following the natural end of the 'Abbey Road' series, EMI started up another interesting idea: a mismash of hit singles, lesser known B sides and really obscure EP tracks featuring all of the bands on their label (as well as 'borrowed' sets featuring The Animals and Herman's Hermits). Pleasingly the Hollies set got most of the best reviews and added new clout to the band's critical standing, many critics discovering the Hollies' worthy self-written flipsides for the first time and raving about them even more than the hit singles. Big collectors will of course already have owned all this before - the rarest track being 'Honey and Wine' from the 'I'm Alive' EP and even that had appeared on 'The Long Road Home' box set - but for newcomers this is about the best single-disc purchase around, giving a real flavour as to what The Hollies were all about in the 1960s and proving what depth there was to their catalogue.

 "Midas Touch: The Very Best Of"
(EMI, February 2010)
CD One: Here I Go Again/Bus Stop/I'm Alive/I've Got A Way Of My Own/King Midas In Reverse/Sorry Suzanne/Rain On The Window/Heartbeat/Honey And Wine/(Ain't That) Just Like Me?/Jennifer Eccles/Listen To Me/Butterfly/The Air That I Breathe/Soldier's Song/Pay You Back With Interest/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/Look Through Any Window/On A Carousel/ Just One Look/Carrie Anne/We're Through/Searchin'/Stop! Stop! Stop!/Too Many Hearts Get Broken/The Baby (Live)
CD Two: I Can't Let Go/Gasoline Alley Bred/Dear Eloise/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/Man With No Expressions (Horses Through A Rainstorm)/This Wheel's On Fire/Yes I Will/Stay/Schoolgirl/Mickey's Monkey/Hey Willy/The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee/I'm Down/So Damn Beautiful/The Woman I Love/Take My Love And Run/Laughter Turns To Tears/Don't Let Me Down/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/If The Lights Go Out (Version One)/Then Now Always (Dolphin Days)/I Would Fly (Live)
"Here I go again, making the same mistakes, heading for more heartaches"
At the time of writing the 'latest' in a long (a hundred?) line of Hollies compilations, 'Midas Touch' is included here simply because those of you reading this soon-ish are more likely to come across this set than some of the others. To be honest though it doesn't really do much that the ones before it didn't do, although a few choice selections of my particular Hollies favourites you don't often see ('Honey and Wine' 'Rain On The Window' 'Too Many Hearts Get Broken' 'Soldier's Song' and 'Don't Let Me Down') up it a few places above the average. However my complaint with most of the Hollies sets continues with this one: the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s/90s Hollies are all very different to each other in terms of material, line-up and texture, so why on earth jumble the material up like this? It's just unsettling: no sooner have you 'realised' what the 'Hollies Style' is (e.g. at the start of disc two full on Merseybeat a la 'I Can't Let Go') then it shifts to late 60s folkie protest ('Gasoline Alley Bred') and on to psychedelia ('Dear Eloise') and moody orchestral ballad ('He Ain't Heavy'). These tracks have virtually nothing in common with each other - and yet hearing the singles (and albums) evolve in order a la the 'Clarke Hicks Nash Years' set it all somehow makes perfect sense. There's also far too many recordings by the 'modern' Hollies (yuk!) which sound different again: 'So Damn Beautiful' is the worst thing here by a mile, insipid and artificial, and sticks out like a sore thumb (as opposed to the album where amongst similar sounding songs it's actually quite palatable), though an exclusive-to-this-set live recording of a new song 'I Would Fly' cuts it close (thankfully Hicks' nostalgic 'Dolphin Days' is here too, meaning you don't have to suffer the 'Then, Now, Always' album just to hear it). A typically curious best-of that makes you go 'yeah!' 'Dear God no!' and 'not this again' with every throw of the dice. I'm also not very keen on the packaging which as per usual is far less than The Hollies desire and makes them look like they're copycats of The Beatles, their silhouettes standing in front of a giant golden version of their logo as per the 'Anthology' TV series. Also 'Midas Touch'? Really? I know EMI must be running out of names by now after fifty years of saying 'greatest hits again' but seriously? Using half of a name of one of the most obscure tracks here which was a song precisely about losing the Midas touch and never wanting it in the first place? In keeping with the theme, these EMI Hollies sets are cursed - surely one day we'll have a decent one that has a proper title, a proper cover and a proper track selection all in the right order?...

"The Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years"
(EMI, May 2011)
(First reviewed as part of 'News, Views and Music Issue #100' on May 11th 2011)
CD One: Whole World Over/(Ain't That) Just Like Me?/Hey What's Wrong With Me?/Now's The Time/Little Lover/Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah/I Understand/Searchin'/Stay/Poison Ivy/Memphis Tennessee/Talkin' 'Bout You/It's Only Make Believe/Lucille/Baby Don't Cry/Do You Love Me?/Mr Moonlight/You Better Move On/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/What Kind Of Girl Are You?/Rockin' Robin/Keep Off That Friend Of Mine/Just One Look/Candy Man/When I'm Not There/What Kind Of Love?/Here I Go Again/Baby That's All
CD Two: Time For Love/Don't You Know?/You'll Be Mine/It's In Her Kiss/Come On Home/Too Much Monkey Business/I Thought Of You Last Night/Come On Back/Set Me Free/Please Don't Feel Too Bad/What Kind Of Boy?/We're Through (Alternate Version)/We're Through (Finished Version)/To You My Love/Nitty Gritty-Something's Got A Hold On Me/Put Yourself In My Place/She Said Yeah?/Yes I Will/When I Come Home To You/Nobody/You Know He Did/Yes I Will/Mickey's Monkey/That's My Desire/Very Last Day/Honey And Wine
CD Three: Listen Here To Me/So Lonely (Demo)/Bring Back Your Love To Me/I'm Alive/Look Through Any Window/lawdy Miss Clawdy/You Must Believe Me/Little Bitty Pretty One/Down The Line/Fortune Teller/Too Many People/So Lonely (Finished Version)/I've Been Wrong/Stewball/She Gives Me Everything I want/I Can't Get Nowhere With You/I've Got A Way Of My Own/You In My Arms/Don't Ever Think About Changing/If I Needed Someone/Running Through The Night/Don't You Even Care (What's Gonna Happen To Me?)/I Can't Let Go/Oriental Sadness/Stewball (In French)/Look Through Any Window (In French)/You Know He Did (In French)/We're Through (In French)
CD Four: I Take What I want/Hard Hard Year/A Taste Of Honey/That's How Strong My Love Is/Take Your Time/Fifi The Flea/Sweet Little Sixteen/I Am A Rock/After The Fox/Don't Run And Hide/Bus Stop/Peculiar Situation/Suspicious Look In Your Eyes/Stop! Stop! Stop!/Tell Me To My Face/Pay You Back With Interest/Clown/It's You/Crusader/What's Wrong With The Way I Live?/What Went Wrong?/High Classed/All The World Is Love/When Your Light's Turned On/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/Non Prego Per Me/Devi Aver Fiducia In Me
CD Five: Lullaby To Tim/On A Carousel/We're Alive/Kill Me Quick/Leave Me/The Games We Play/Schoolgirl/Rain On The Window/Then The Heartaches Begin/Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe/You Need Love/Stop Right There/Water On The Brain/Heading For A Fall/Carrie Anne/Signs That Will Never Change/King Midas In Reverse/Try It/Everything Is Sunshine/Wishyouawish/Postcard/ Step Inside/Pegasus/Dear Eloise
CD Six: Elevated Observations/Would You Believe?/Away Away Away/Charlie And Fred/Butterfly/Maker/Open Up Your Eyes/Wings/Jennifer Eccles/Tomorrow When It Comes/Relax/Do The Best You Can/Like Everytime Before/Man With No Expressions (Horses Through A Rainstorm)/Blowin' In The Wind/A Taste Of Honey/Listen To Me/(All following tracks recorded live in Lewisham Odeon May 1968): Stop! Stop! Stop!/Look Through Any Window/The Times They Are A Changin'/On A Carousel/King Midas In Reverse/Butterfly/Jennifer Eccles/Carrie Anne/
"Smiling faces all around, rushing through the busy sounds"
At last after a week of waiting the new Hollies set is finally back in stock and I now own a copy! And what a fab set it is too EMI have really done the band proud with their packaging and even use my favourite picture of the Hollies, the little seen Dear Eloise/King Midas sleeve for the CD inlay of disc six (which has been my laptop screensaver whilst writing up at least the last years worth of newsletters!) Theres also an intriguing interview with Graham Nash, which manages to be revealing despite telling us little we didnt already know although its a shame that theres nothing from Allan Clarke or Tony Hicks. The unusual running order I commented on last time around also makes much more sense now Ive read the booklet and realised that all the tracks are in recorded order (The Hollies are one of the few acts whose sessionography is complete and its regularly reprinted (in the Hollies excellent On A Carousel fanzine, in three issues of the 1990s Record Collector magazine and recently the other Hollies box set The Long Road Home) although its a shame that none of the oodles of unfinished songs have made their way onto this set). This should really irritate me, as on other sets that do the same it means you get ballads next to ballads and one guys vocals for three or four tracks in a row, but The Hollies were so eclectic that this alternative viewpoint of their canon is fascinating, with even misfires like Stewball sounding all the better in their new home. It's also the first place to ever gave up all of these stray releases in one place after decades of struggling to pin down, say, 'The EP Collection Volume Two', the 1985 'Music For Pleasure' compilation or 'The 1970s As and B sides' for a couple or rogue tracks. Sometimes I envy modern collectors (although finding all this stuff used to be half the fun, so I also pity them in equal measure)...
The set includes every single A and B side, album and EP track the band recorded during the Graham Nash years of 1963-68 and a previously unreleased eight track concert from Nashs dying days with the band in 1968 (of which only The Times They Are A Changin has been released before, on Rarities) months before he left to form CSNTalking of Stewball there are also three Hollies songs sung in French which have never been released before (in addition to Regardez Par Des Fenetres on Rarities) including that track which oddly sounds better than it does in English with much tighter harmonies, theres the long awaited B-side to the bands San Remo Song Contest entry of Non Prego Per Me which until now had only been released in Italy, the long lost 1966 version of A Taste Of Honey (which isnt up to the 1968 version but is still nice to hear) and a cracking eight song concert from one of Nashs last shows in Lewisham in 1968 of which only a decidedly Mancunian version of The Times They Are A Changin has been released till now. Oh and contrary to the running order I saw before release EMI have done the sensible thing and added all nine hard-to-find tracks from the Rarities album in addition to the alternative Were Through and Schoolgirl from the two At Abbey Road sets, the three EP only tracks (What Kind Of Love When Im Not There and Honey and Wine), three compilation-only songs (Poison Ivy Little Bitty Pretty One and Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah) and bits and pieces from the Long Road Home box set. If only EMI had added the three short songs from the live disc of Long Road Home then this set really would be complete for the 1963-1968 period (as released so far) and its also irritating that we have to wait until 1966 for the Hollies recordings to be heard in stereo (the bands stereo mixes are pretty much all superior to the mono recordings I think although conversely Butterfly, the last album here, has always sounded more mysterious and other-worldly in mono!) No matter this set is still 99% perfect and long overdue for recognising what a cracking and consistent band The Hollies were and is the perfect (and cheap!) introduction to newcomers who want to know what the band were all about. If you dont already own the first seven amazing Hollies albums with Nash on board then you really have no excuse not to buy this set at the price of just one (at full-price anyway) - all of them are great records in their own different way and amongst the greatest gems the 1960s had to offer.  
Plus a footnote from 'News, Views and Music Issue #99': Maybe its because we keep plugging it on our pages, maybe because its so brilliant, maybe its because its so cheap or maybe its because finally EMI have done the decent thing and issued a Hollies set properly, but the new Hollies six disc box set The Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years is at #1 on the Amazon music box set lists and is now sold out! On the very day of release! Wow! When did that last happen to an AAA act that wasn't The Beatles? (No don't bother checking  - it was Neil Young Live At Massey Hall in 2002 and yes I do get out quite often thankyou, though only as far as my headphones will stretch out the door). To be honest I should be really cross because I havent got around to ordering myself a copy yet but who cares The Hollies are back at #1 where they rightfully belong! Yippee! Lets hope this unexpected success means a Clarke-Sylvester-Hicks years box set will be out soon! (Editor's note: Alas, we're still a-waiting and a -wishing at the time of writing...)

"More Live Hits (We Got The Tunes!)"
(EMI, March 2013)
(First reviewed as part of 'News, Views and Music Issue #275' on December 15th 2014)
The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee/I Can't Let Go/Jennifer Eccles/Yes I Will/On A Carousel/Dolphin Days (Then, Now, Always)/Sandy (4th Of July Ashbury Park)/King Midas In Reverse/Very Last Day/Emotions/The Baby/Look Through Any Window/Bus Stop/Sorry Suzanne/Stewball/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Weakness/Just One Look/Stay/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/Carrie Anne/Stop! Stop! Stop!/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/The Air That I Breathe
"Is that all there is? I was looking for more..."
We've waited a long time for a second Hollies live album - 38 years to be exact (to put this in context The Rolling Stones, who started recording a few months after The Hollies, are on their eleventh!) So little has changed in terms of the track listing - no less than ten of the original 15 songs from that 1976 album are repeated on this double set and most of the 'other' songs can be divided into the awful 21st century songs ('Emotions' 'Weakness') and the awful 1960s songs ('Sorry Suzanne' 'Stewball' - in fact the two worst songs The Hollies recorded up to the 1990s). There's a lot of difference in how the band sound too: only two members are the same, long-serving guitarist Tony Hicks and equally long-serving drummer Bobby Elliott. However Bobby now sounds like every other drummer out there, sad to say, while new (well, he's been with them a decade old now - but to me he's still 'new') vocalist Peter Howarth is a poor substitute for Carl Wayne never mind Allan Clarke, unable to work a crowd and clearly from a 'musicals' background rather than a rock and roll one. The brilliant Hollies back catalogue deserved better than the limp-kneed 'Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress', tired-sounding 'Carrie Anne' and teeth-curlingly painful versions of 'Jennifer Eccles' on show here. Howarth's attempts to get the crowd up on their feet make it sound all the more embarrassing when the crowd don't and he gets more and more frustrated - but then why should they, when one of the greatest bands of the 1960s are turned into a karaoke pub band? Tony Hicks is the only member to come out with any credit, his relatively 'new' song (actually the title track of 2010's 'Then Now Always') being one of the record's few highlights and his guitar solos are still inventive (especially on the rare live reading of Mikael Rickfors-era 'The Baby', last played in 1972 and which features a custom made 'sitar banjo'!) Two other nice re-recordings include a folky 'Look Through Any Window' (which suddenly explodes into full power midway through) and the first official live Hollies recording of the sublime 'King Midas In Reverse' (which is a little wonky, but almost there). However, for the most part this is a shocking album which would have benefitted so much more from some rarer Hollies gems and a few new arrangements - a sad waste of one of the greatest back catalogues of them all.

"Hollies At 50"
(EMI, September 2014)
CD One: (Ain't That) Just Like Me?/Searchin'/Stay/Just One Look/Here I Go Again/We're Through/Yes I Will/I'm Alive/Look Through Any Window/If I Needed Someone/I Can't Let Go/Bus Stop/Pay You Back With Interest/Stop! Stop! Stop!/On A Carousel/Carrie Anne/King Midas In Reverse/Jennifer Eccles/Listen To Me/Sorry Suzanne
CD Two: He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Gasoline Alley Bred/Hey Willy/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/Magic Woman Touch/The Baby/The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee/The Air That I Breathe/Lonely Hobo Lullaby/Sandy (4th Of July, Ashbury Park)/I'm Down/There's Always Goodbye/Boulder To Birmingham/Too Young To Be Married (Live)/Daddy Don't Mind
CD Three: Hello To Romance/Amnesty/Soldier's Song/Heartbeat/If The Lights Go Out (Version One)/Take My Love And Run (Version One)/Stop! In The Name Of Love/Let Her Go Down/Too Many Hearts Get Broken/Laughter Turns To Tears/So Damn Beautiful/On A Carousel (Live)/Dolphin Days (Then, Now, Always)/Skylarks
"Is it goodbye to one-night stands, where you give what you want such a crazy steal?"
Happy birthday dear Hollies! How does EMI celebrate? Why with a best-of of course! (Why change the habit of a lifetime?!) To celebrate the half-century milestone the label have finally done things properly (ie copying what their German branch did thirty years earlier) with three full discs of hits, overlooked gems and comparative obscurities. For once the set is (almost) divided into decades: the 1960s, the 1970s and the rest (though technically disc two starts in 1969 and disc three in 1979). The benefit of this approach is that the later Hollies are given lots more space than ever before - as well as the expected hits there are 'nearly' singles and album favourites like 'Magic Woman Touch' 'The Baby' 'Sandy' 'I'm Down' and 'Soldier's Song' which don't always get a look in on previous compilations to go alongside some surprising additions: 'There's Always Goodbye' or 'Heartbeat' for instance, while the inclusion of three of the newer post-Clarke songs (two studio, one live) displayed alongside their previous brilliance is either brave or foolhardy depending on how you look at it. The downside of all this is that the 1960s Hollies are breezed through using the same old boring hit songs - a pretty complete selection of them this time at least (along with surprise strong-selling US B-side 'Pay You Back With Interest') but as any Hollies fan will tell you that's like admiring the Eiffel Tower while telling sightseers they might as well go home because there's nothing else to see in Paris (while standing on the Arc D'triumphe). Not as bad as some compilations then and yet still something of a lost opportunity: what's wrong with a 'hits' 'misses' and 'fan favourites' if EMI insist on giving us pricey three-disc sets all the time? In other words, this is the sort of birthday present that everyone goes 'ooh' at when its opened and like too much to ever give away - but sits under the bed or in the cupboard taking up shelf space instead of on the CD player where an AAA music release truly belongs.




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