This is where the EMI's As Bs & EPs series begins to run out of steam, as a series, although this CD is decidedly useful as a Herman's Hermits compilation, apart from any larger catalog survey. Herman's Hermits, after all, were never on the cutting edge of pop or rock music, except in terms of sales; indeed, the later attribute, and their entire raison d'etre -- at least as far as their managers and producers were concerned -- was precisely to avoid the musical cutting edge which, by the end of 1965, had begun to carry the Beatles just a bit away from the warmest in the hearts of listeners (especially girls) ages 11 through, say, 14 (the point where fully enjoying the Beatles' work involved thinking a bit with the listening); rather, their goal was to produce safe, tuneful pop/rock, clever at times but not at all demanding, and which, on the whole, didn't advance musically either very much or very quickly. The 24 songs here pretty much fit into that mold, and there's not a lot of change or movement artistically, just the hits you remember from the radio. But there are a few exceptions among the B-sides that help distinguish this disc -- group members Derek Leckenby and Keith Hopwood's "For Love" is an edgy, dark homage to lust with some vaguely bluesy guitar, a catchy chorus, and good group vocals, representing the seldom heard "dark side" of Herman's Hermits; the same duo's "Gaslite Street," sort of their answer to "Penny Lane," is also worth rediscovering amid the plethora of familiar charting songs. And Led Zeppelin completists may want to check out the early John Paul Jones copyright, "Just One Girl," dating from 1968, an admittedly safe-sounding, sing-songy ballad in a decidedly retro, mid-1960s mode, light-years removed from the repertory he brought to the reconstituted Yardbirds lineup in the summer of that same year. If this release -- which does offer state-of-the-art sound -- exposes those more interesting edges to the group's sound (otherwise only available on Repertoire Records' CD reissues of their LPs), then it serves a purpose; those sides should only get the typical Hermits fan to pick up their "lost" classic album Blaze. The only question for the producers of the As B's & EPs series after finishing with this CD is where it goes from here: the Hollies, and Gerry & the Pacemakers? That is, the Beatles are off-limits, Cliff Richard is now so heavily anthologized that he ought to be off-limits, and remaining rock acts like the Fourmost, the Swinging Blue Jeans, and the Roulettes never generated enough real singles; and they apparently don't even own the Downliners Sect library anymore, even assuming that there was someone employed by EMI brave enough to suggest compiling their work (and it seems there's been no one like that there since Colin Miles left to form his own company). So, apart from Cilla Black, who's heavily anthologized already, from here do they step outside of rock & roll, to Alma Cogan, Michael Halliday, and Peter Sellers?
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder