Recalls happier times when Abbey Road was throbbing to the pop sounds of the 60s.
Adrian Edwards 2010-02-19
In the week that Terra Firma, owners of EMI, put Abbey Road studios on the market, this two-disc release recalls happier times when that building was throbbing to the sounds of The Hollies, The Beatles, The Animals and many more. Nor were the studios confined to pop: the restaurant queue included conductor Herbert Von Karajan, who remarked to his players in the Philharmonia Orchestra that, “those boys (The Beatles) are paying for our recordings”. Ah, the heady days of the 1960s.
Today the Hollies are on the road again with two of their original members, singer-guitarist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott. This compilation reflects their on-going partnership by including live tracks from last year’s tour and the autobiographical Then, Now and Always album. Aside from a remix of The Midas Touch, all the material is drawn from the half-a-dozen or so albums and numerous hit singles they cut for Parlophone. Titles such as He Ain’t Heavy, The Air That I Breathe, On a Carousel and Jennifer Eccles, sung in The Hollies’ distinctive, bright harmonic style, will please today’s fans as well as the generation brought up on them.
In his sleeve notes, Elliott wonders if the group was too diverse for its own good. It could be argued that they were too prolific – there are some humdrum singles included – but nobody should deny The Hollies their share of 60s glory, and these songs, though rather arbitrarily arranged, deserve a place in pop history.
There are cover versions included – a favourite being their rollicking take on the swaggering Leiber/Stoller number Searchin’ – a sample of their own songs written under the pseudonym of L.Ransford and a young Elton John playing piano on He Ain’t Heavy. Elaborate arrangements on the album-sourced selections suggest a bigger budget was set aside for these sessions. The whimsical Butterfly is the most extraordinary offering, a pastoral idyll with a nod in the direction of Delius, and Soldier’s Song also wears symphonic clothing. Along with King Midas in Reverse, these tracks anticipate much of what was to come in Sgt Pepper’s in their fusion of styles.
Hindsight tells us that The Hollies entertained, and wrote for, a much wider public than artists reach today, a fact overlooked when considering the plight of a company like EMI now. Their forthcoming enrolment into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a tribute to their enduring and endearing appeal.