The Hollies

Write On

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At the time of its release in early 1976, Epic Records passed on Write On, but subsequently included a handful of its songs, including "Star," "Love Is the Thing," "I Won't Move Over," and the title track on 1977's Clarke, Hicks, Sylvester, Calvert & Elliott. Why they passed on it is anyone's guess, since it's as strong as anything the group had been putting on LP up to that time, made up of pleasant and tuneful, if not always memorable or exciting songs, the authorship of all but one credited to Allan Clarke, Terry Sylvester, and Tony Hicks. The opening track, "Star," might have been a modest hit, with its engaging hooks, quasi-reggae beat, and gorgeous harmonizing on the choruses, if it had been given a chance on AM radio. "Write On" is also beautifully sung and offers a delicious chorus, but just misses the level of tension needed to put it over, even with Tony Hicks' larger-than-life guitar solo in the middle. The delightfully ebullient "Sweet Country Calling," by contrast, is a lost AM radio classic that ought to have kept this band at least near the Top Ten; "Narida" is a dance number with a great beat and a powerful, reverb-drenched lead vocal performance by Allan Clarke; the languid, ethereal "Love Is the Thing" might be the prettiest song the group ever recorded this side of "The Air That I Breathe"; "Crocodile Woman" is an uncharacteristic (for this group) rock'n'blow blowout heavily featuring Hicks' guitar; "My Island" was a showcase for their softer, more lyrical, acoustic side; and the closer, "There's Always Goodbye," was a good attempt to merge these different facets of the group's sound within one song, highlighted by some gorgeous dual-layered acoustic guitars. Good as the group is on the best of these songs -- and that's very good -- the album also illustrates the basic problem faced by the Hollies, entering an era in which they were defined by their songs rather than a precise image: Mid-'70s audiences (and DJs) could never be sure if the Hollies were trying to go head-to-head with Bruce Springsteen as rockers, competing with Billy Joel as creators of AM pop, or were challenging England Dan and John Ford Coley as romantic balladeers. They were intersecting with all three, but not in a distinctive way, at least not without a heavy promotional push, which never came close to happening.

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