Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Well God bless the old BBC.  They weren't really that cool in the 60's, but they were first-class broadcasters, and they certainly knew how to record and present musicians.  Confusing, left-over union rules meant only so much "needle time" (playing records) was allowed, so bands had to perform in the studios.  This didn't mean live, however; the bands went into BBC studios all over Great Britain, and recorded new versions of their songs under the supervision of Beeb engineers.

There still was a lack of understanding of the cultural importance of the pop acts they were bringing in.  Even The Beatles had some performances erased after airing, a disastrous corporate decision to re-use tape to save money.  But lots did survive, and since the BBC was at that point the only legal broadcaster in the country, they had their pick of them all.

This Hollies collection is jammed with 32 cuts on a 78-minute CD, with songs spanning three lineups of the group, from 1964 to 1971.  The bulk come from the glory years, '64-'68, with Graham Nash still in the band.  Most of the hits are here, plus as was the norm for bands that performed a lot on the shows, several cover versions so they wouldn't repeat themselves.  There are even some rare moments, such as early and different lyrics to the 1968 track Wings.  The covers are early R'n'B from the U.S., the staple tunes that every Beat group was doing, including Sam Cooke's Shake, and Lawdy Miss Clawdy by Lloyd Price.  None of the covers are particularly inspiring.  Even though they did start out as a covers band, their trademark harmonies really sounded much better on pop tunes, rather than the rawer stuff that more suited the Stones and Beatles.  That choirboy high-end from Nash didn't really imply sexy either.  One interesting cover is a George Harrison number, If I Needed Someone, a Rubber Soul album track that had been given to The Hollies as a single.  Oddly, even thought they were in the middle of a string of hits, a Beatles cut failed for them, but this version is good.

Always a solid live group, the band do solid and faithful recreations of their hits and album cuts, and the vocals sound especially good.  There was a bit of multi-tracking going on, but for the most part, these are recordings of how the live band would have sounded, minus the audience of course.  It's actually quite surprising how well they mirror the originals of classics such as Jennifer Eccles, Bus Stop, I Can't Let Go and He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.  Maybe too good in fact, because if you aren't that big a fan, the studio hits will be all that's needed.  British Invasion fans will, however, find lots to celebrate, especially in the many album cuts found here.

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