When the Hollies -- one of the best and most commercially successful pop/rock acts of the British Invasion -- began recording in 1963, they relied heavily upon the R&B/early rock & roll covers that provided the staple diet for countless British bands of the time. They quickly developed a more distinctive style featuring three-part harmonies (heavily influenced by the Everly Brothers), ringing guitars, and hook-happy material, penned by both outside writers (especially future 10cc member Graham Gouldman) and themselves, eventually composing most of their repertoire on their own. The best early Hollies records evoke an infectious, melodic cheer similar to that of the early Beatles, although the Hollies were neither in their class (not an insult: nobody else was) nor demonstrated a similar capacity for artistic growth. They tried, though, easing into somewhat more sophisticated folk-rock and mildly psychedelic sounds as the decade wore on, especially on their albums (which contain quite a few overlooked highlights).
Allan Clarke (lead singer) and Graham Nash (vocals, guitar) had been friends since childhood in Manchester, and they formed the nucleus of the Hollies in the early '60s with bassist Eric Haydock. In early 1963, EMI producer Ron Richards signed the group after seeing them at the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool. Guitarist Vic Steele left before the first session, to be replaced by 17-year-old Tony Hicks. Drummer Don Rathbone only lasted for a couple of singles before being replaced by Bobby Elliott, who had played with Hicks in his pre-Hollies group, the Dolphins. The lineup changes were most fortuitous: Hicks contributed a lot to the group with his ringing guitar work and songwriting, and Elliott was one of the very finest drummers in all of pop/rock. Although their first singles were R&B covers, the Hollies were no match for the Rolling Stones (or, for that matter, the Beatles) in this department, and they sounded much more at home with pop/rock material that provided a sympathetic complement to their glittering harmonies. They ran off an awesome series of hits in the U.K. in the '60s, making the Top 20 almost 20 times. Some of their best mid-'60s singles, like "Here I Go Again," "We're Through," and the British number one "I'm Alive," passed virtually unnoticed in the United States, where they didn't make the Top 40 until early 1966, when Graham Gouldman's "Look Through Any Window" did the trick. In 1966, Eric Haydock left the group under cloudy circumstances, replaced by Bernie Calvert.
In 1969, the band tried to have its cake and eat it too by doing a whole album of Hollie-ized Dylan songs, which was received poorly by some critics, although it was a decent seller in Britain. Nash was replaced by Terry Sylvester (formerly of Liverpool bands the Escorts and Swinging Blue Jeans), and the hit streak continued for a while. "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," in fact, was one of their biggest international singles. But the group was really reaching a cul de sac; they'd managed a remarkably long run at the top considering that they hadn't changed their formula much since the mid-'60s, adding enough sophistication to the lyrics and arrangements to avoid sounding markedly dated. It was apparent they really weren't capable of producing long-playing works striking enough to appeal to the album audience, though, and their singles, though still hits on occasion, weren't as memorable as their best '60s work. A modest slide in the early '70s was arrested by "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," a Creedence Clearwater Revival-type rocker that made number two in the States in 1972. The timing wasn't ideal; by the time it became a smash, Clarke, who had sung lead on the single, had left to go solo, to be replaced by Swedish vocalist Mikael Rickfors. Clarke rejoined in mid-1973, and the group had one last international monster, "The Air That I Breathe," which made number six in the U.S. in 1974. The group went on to record a string of further albums in the second half of the 1970s.
This is a fine collection of Hollies songs from the early years of the band where they build the cadre of her pop songwriting skills. The 28 songs are well selected and gathered.