The Hollies

The Long Road Home: 1963-2003

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This box is a difficult thing to recommend, good -- no, make that great -- though it is. Partly, that's because it's almost too much of a great thing for most Hollies fans -- if they don't mind paying $120 for the six-CD U.K. import set, but most listeners aren't capitalized that way. And it does have its shortcomings, despite its cost. In contrast to, say, Crossroads by Eric Clapton, or Dreams by the Allman Brothers, it isn't where one could start listening to the Hollies -- there's too much that's not here, including "Bus Stop," and "Look Through Any Window." The shortcomings are understandable in a way, because between EMI in England, Sony Music in America (which still controls the Hollies classic sides from between 1966 and 1973 in that market), and sub-licensors like Disky in Holland, the Hollies may be the most heavily anthologized '60s British group this side of the Who; what to include, and how far to overlap existing collections become major problems, and they seem to have limited the hits to those that are biographically important in the band's history. such as "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother," which re-established them commercially after Graham Nash's departure, or "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," which precipitated a major personnel crisis. Even with that limitation, there's almost too much here, at 136 tracks spanning 40 years. Disc One is certain to appeal to all of the group's fans, opening in 1963 with the first three tracks they ever recorded, the jangling "Hey, What's Wrong With Me," "Ain't That Just Like Me," and the achingly beautiful ballad "Whole World Over," only one of which has made extensive appearances in the decades since. Then things start jumping around in some pleasing and unexpected ways, between singles and album tracks that do showcase the many sides of the group's sound -- the selection of tracks does perhaps shine the spotlight on Tony Hicks' guitars a little more prominently than they would be with a totally random sampling, but, then, he was always the group's secret weapon; the B-sides with which the group graced British audiences, including "Keep Off That Friend of Mine," "Baby That's All," and "Come on Back," are some of the best songs of their kind that aren't generally known; and one also gets a keen appreciation of the tightening of the band's sound that took place from the moment that Bobby Elliott joined on the drums (one shudders to think what the group's cover of "Mickey's Monkey" would have sounded like with Don Rathbone still in the lineup). Among the jewels making their debut here are a low-wattage rendition of "We're Through," a crunchy, stripped down version of "She Said Yeah," and a trio of group originals, "So Lonely," "Bring Back Your Love to Me," and "Listen Hear to Me." The array of B-sides and album cuts on this disc make for a somewhat heavier, more intense sound than the Hollies were known for by way of their singles -- in a sense, one can understand "Bus Stop" not being included here, amid the heavier and more soulful sounds of "You Must Believe Me," and the near garage rock textures of "She Gives Me Everything I Want"; the only thing missing is "Tell Me to My Face." Almost as an act of defiance against expectation, we're given the folk-rock oriented "If I Needed Someone" and "Stewball," and the pop-exotica of "Oriental Sadness," the latter an LP track that deserved to be a single. It almost breaks up the celebration of their album tracks and B-sides when the disc ends with the Italian-language single "Non Prego Per Me," a less-than-catchy and, until the chorus, a less-than-Hollies-like effort that is a genuine rarity and, thus, qualifies here. Disc Two picks up at the end of their mid-'60s period, with the Italian single sides "Kill Me Quick" and "We're Alive," two catchier if not especially ambitious rarities -- then we plunge head first into the psychedelic era with "Schoolgirl," a killer track from the sessions for Evolution that was just a little too far ahead of its time (in terms of subject matter), to be released; and "All the World Is Love," a jangly, languidly trippy mood piece with a good beat, and another B-side. Evolution and Butterfly are represented by some of their best tracks, including the lost single "Rain On The Window," and the (still-underrated) single "King Midas In Reverse," but not, oddly enough, the American B-side "Water On The Brain" (though the U.K. B-side "Everything Is Sunshine" is here). "Wings," the group's contribution to the No One's Gonna Change Our World project (whence came the Beatles' original "Across The Universe"), a remix of "Man With No Expression," and a previously unissued, ravishing version of "A Taste of Honey" featuring Graham Nash and rounding out the rarities as the repertory moves past psychedelia, and on to the highlights of the Hollies Sing Dylan and Hollies Sing Hollies LPs, including the Graham Nash version of "Blowin' In The Wind." The first third of Disc Three dwells on the new group compositions off of Hollies Sing Hollies and Confessions Of The Mind -- if this set were structured and priced in a way that made it more attractive to casual fans, it's possible those same people who only know "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" would find in "Man Without A Heart" or "Confessions Of A Mind" serious revelations in their listening and their understanding of the group. This disc ends with the bold music but confused situation surrounding Distant Light and "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," and then with a nod to the tenure of Mikael Rickfors as Allan Clarke's short-lived replacement, which produced some great singles but ultimately proved a dead-end -- the one rarity is a high-energy surprise, "Mexico Gold," from 1971. Disc Four is the most frustrating part of the package, for the fan as well as, undoubtedly, the group. At least until you get past the opener, "The Air That I Breathe." Over the ensuing five years, the group touches all of the right bases, with strong songs ("Sandy"), but no chart action anywhere in the world. To many American fans, most of this disc will prove revelatory, merely because the material in question came off of LPs that were seemingly deleted by Epic Records almost as fast as they were issued, and were near impossible to find in stores during their respective windows of availability. It's all solidly commercial and even ambitious in its way, pop music with a soul/disco slant, and a slightly progressive edge that was a near-match for anything the Bee Gees were doing at the time, but utterly unheard of by most of the Hollies' fans. Disc Five closes out the group's studio years with such jewels as the three Mike Batt productions -- "Soldier's Song," "Can't Lie No More," and the killer original version of "If The Lights Go Out" -- frankly, these three tracks alone would justify this disc musically, but we also get two of the group's better Buddy Holly covers, and most of their other representative studio tracks of the period (a shocking number of them unreleased). Oddly enough, the set by-passes the early '80s What Goes Around reunion album with Graham Nash. It ends with a 2003 vintage recording of "How Do I Survive," featuring current lead singer Carl Wayne, who succeeded Allan Clarke in 2001. Disc Six is an appended body of live recordings that opens with a trio of tracks, renditions of "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" and "Too Much Monkey Business," with "Stop! Stop! Stop!," all from a 1966 Swedish radio show, "The Times They Are A-Changin'," from 1968, and the complete contents of the Hollies Live album, which seems more a matter of expediency than a wise choice per se. All of this material is supported by a beautifully illustrated, heavily annotated booklet that's just about worth the price of an additional CD -- until someone does a definitive book-length biography on the group, it will suffice.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 1:55 Amazon
2 1:58
3 2:04 Amazon
4 2:12 Amazon
5 2:45
6 2:05 Amazon
7 2:17 Amazon
1:55 Amazon
2:12 Amazon
10 2:18 Amazon
11 1:43 Amazon
2:39 Amazon
13 2:45 Amazon
1:43 Amazon
2:04 Amazon
16 2:29 Amazon
17 2:57
18 2:30 Amazon
19 2:08
20 2:22
21 2:14
22 2:01
23 2:19 Amazon
24 3:05 Amazon
25 2:27
26 2:37
27 2:18
29 2:43 Amazon
30 2:13 Amazon
31 2:00 Amazon
32 3:45 Amazon
33 2:44

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:07
2 2:37
3 3:04
4 2:15
5 3:11
6 2:30
7 2:25
8 2:39
9 1:58
10 3:12
11 3:05
12 2:52
13 4:07
14 2:32
15 2:42
16 2:49
17 1:39
18 3:00
19 2:08
20 3:23
21 2:35
22 4:09
23 2:43
24 2:59
25 2:49
26 3:33
27 3:13
blue highlight denotes track pick