The Hollies

Staying Power

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How much can (or should) one expect from a band in its 43rd year of existence? Astonishingly, however, there is a huge amount to enjoy on this album, and so much that is new mixing with the old. The familiar Hollies sound has evolved into something a bit less distinctive -- the harmonies here aren't nearly as special, and don't feel in any way unique -- but all immensely accessible. For their first studio album in 23 years, the band reached back to their lean power pop sound of the early/mid-'70s, embodied by such hits as "Long Dark Road" and "Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)." New lead singer Peter Howarth, an alumnus of Cliff Richard's band, has a powerful voice that, when focused properly and with the right quality lyrics, does recall original Hollies lead vocalist Allan Clarke -- coupled with the guitar playing and backup singing by founding member Tony Hicks, the harmonizing of guitarist Steve Laurie and bassist Ray Stiles, with keyboardist Ian Parker filling in the body of the songs and longtime drummer Bobby Elliott holding the rhythm section together, they generate a lean and powerful pop/rock sound on Staying Power, with lots of guitar and vocal hooks. The songwriting is also very strong throughout most of the album, and with the energy levels much higher than one expects from a band in its 43rd year, Staying Power seems a triply appropriate title -- indeed, this is the album they should have released for that 1983 reunion, when they had all of the press attention on them. As it is, there's a risk that it will die on the vine, partly because of its high list price, almost double that of a standard full-priced U.S. release; but depend upon it, this reviewer took a chance on it out of his own pocket, and Staying Power has proved to be one of the biggest bargains in his collection.

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