Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The Hollies (1976) Samuel LOST 70s GEMS

The unreleased Write On album of 76 is a secret cave of hidden Hollies gems; OK don't know what I mean then let me start from the top. The album Epic Records eventually passed on starts with Star; which begins with an soaring Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western styled motif on a tin whistle that is played through a synth or a flanger of some sort. The song is your average stacked harmony bubblegum tune, but the solo returns the Morricone flute motif with a heavy tremelo effect; a strong underwater ripply effect that sounds so unique! The title track is up next with a slow building piano strings and acoustic strum ballad and a fine but forgettable melody; in the middle a funky clavinet bass enters but it doesn't animate this track enough, though Tony Hicks' overdriven wailing solo is Southern blues mania! I Won't Move Over features all the 70s Hollies trademarks; the steady hard acoustic rock beat, coursing harmony vocals with a bubblegum lightness, wah wah squelchs and a heavily filtered strained solo by Hicks. Narida is simultaneously light Latin Jazz, acoustic Disco and a salsa workout while Allan Clarke sings a story about a 'sweet Narida', while the harmonies take on the bewitching smooth vocals of Santana while an elegant piano plays underneath the whole song; and once again another fantastic, tastefully conciseand precise solo that doesn't divert you from the song's original context.

 Stranger is a delight to the ear with a low frequency organ line spookily leering over the track while a wah wah guitar rocks over the top, the clavinet also works giving a pulsating propulsion to a standard AM pop song. The slippery wah wah synth that drips over the track is also another audio splendour that the mid 70s Hollies loved to indulge in; probably so no two songs would sound exactly the same, they all had unique instrumental sounds. Crocodile Woman (she bites) is a pure Sweet/T-Rex early 70s Glam Rock Boogie with 50s throwback feel, breakneck piano, revved up guitar and aglorious chorus; the biscuit box drumbeat could've been played by Mick Tucker for all we know it sounds just like his standard drum sound while the spacey-echo-delay vocal effect in the chorus recalls Fox on the Run.

 My Island is a highlight with it's calming mix of twinkly windchimes, congas and mellow Oberheimer lines dancing alongside a jazzy strum, while the choral vocals are soothing. The next album highlight is There's Always Goodbye with it's meowing and deranged slide fuzz guitar orchestra before a more romantic folk yacht rocker enters, pianos, harmonies, strings etc all play a part but the central melody is more engaging than the ones that came before. The last songs critically bring up the rear, their cover of Emmylou Harris' classic Boulder to Birmingham is sung to tersely, while it's deeply felt, it's over done even though it should've suited their country soft rock voices it just doesn't match the authentic mourning of the song's author; though as always the intro is another delight with grindingly slow dual slide guitars drawling away similar to the track before it. Samuel starts with more twanging bottleneck sitars and delicately plucked Italian mandolin runs before a strong folk pop tune enters with harmonies reminiscent of the Nash years. And well the attempt at the Springsteen classic Born to Run, well let's just leave it at they bear all the instrumental and production prowess but none of the grit n soul, sounding more like Elvis impersonators than some great rock n roll messiah.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Paris (1976) Solitaire - LOST 70s GEMS

Paris was Bob Welch's new project after Fleetwood Mac, it was a trio with Jethro Tull bassist Glenn Cornick and the drummer form the Nazz, Thom Mooney. From his slashing power chords, stop start dynamic and slightly huskier bluesier wail he is aping Led Zeppelin to the core. It's a money grab and his usual jazzy hypnotic pop balladry only comes to the fore occasionally, this is try to ride the coattails of Page, Plant and co. Religion reminds me of early Rush with the vocal distortion and the Zeppelinisms that group also took early on. Starcage is more along Welch's streamlined folky blues rock, while Narrow Gate (La Porte Etroite) is the glistening concoction of trippy blues that Welch perfected in the Mac, here the effect laden slide licks are stupendous. Beautiful Youth is almost a new version of The City from the Mystery to Me album of 1973 but with a more hard rock bent; after all in the Mac he got his fill of jazz and blues influences and wanted to cut loose form the pop image that band had slowly become. Solitaire features soaring guitar wails, overly wah wah-ed and distorted add a euphoric backing vocal texture to the track before the generic hard rock verses. What Paris continues is Welch's sleep eyed singing delivery and yet excited guitar arrangement, even if in Rock of Ages (before the musical) features a direct Plant imitation and lack of originality.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Hollies (1976) Draggin My Heels - LOST 70s GEMS

The Clarke-Sylvester-Hicks' Hollies were in some respects a superior unit than the famous 60s Nash era when they released a lot of singles, Russian Roulette was an album of rock steady-disco beats, hard driving funk rock and their usual harmony laden bubblegum pop.

It starts with Wiggle That Wotsit which maybe a Disco parody or a straight attempt, it features a stellar horn section bursting through in stacks while the melody is a hard driving rock beat full of energy married with their high tenor bubblegum harmonies and some tactile funky guitar work. Forty Eight Hour Parole opens with fiery Hendrix blues playing, the guitar tweaks and whines away in a screaming tone, while the chorus is once again a sparkling pop sensation with their spellbinding harmonies front and centre. Thanks for the Memories is a little bit different with a bed of placid electric piano chords lumbering along in a watery echo and some echo and delayed horn lines punching through the polite layers of dreary keyboards; the rest is four on the floor Bee Gees serene vocal drenched balladry. But the spectral horns remind me of the song fascination form Bowie's Young Americans album a couple years before where the horns sound ghostly in faded echo state; this layered production with it's many chord runs is thick enough to drown in.

My Love is a romantic folk hard rocker with startling vocal refrains and another top notch Clarke lead vocal that manages to have a pop rock soul quality all sweet but not smooth. Lady of the Night is a hot burning soul number with a curious techno sound with talkbox synth chord progression before a cooing chorus that inter plays with some wicked saxophone work; the fluid yet distorted flamenco solo confirms the nighttime jazz feel of the track. The title track is a hard rocker with waka waka guitar, a gurgling eruption of rumbling clavinet, sultry upper register piano and hard rock chords that remind me of the A Team theme of later years in it's unique stop start rhythm. The pan African rhythms add tension as do the echo chamber chorus to give a hot and sweaty vibe keeping the song at fever pitch, the solo by Hicks as always featuring a Hendrix water distortion and thick wah wah tone you can reach out and touch as he strangles the fretboard with vigour in his heavy playing style.

 Draggin my Heels screams the Isley Brothers; from the 'Whos that Lady' rhythm guitar; a sprightly funk figure strummed back and forth to the chamelionic 'baritone soul' vocal Clarke puts on for the song. The spicy Jazz piano vamping, the Latin percussion, the analog synth patches; it is all too uncharacteristic of the Hollies but good. The album slows down with the stodgy forgettable T Rex bop of Louise, while the mildly dreary Be With You with i's multi-tracked layers of circular 'ahahahahs' is rescued by another rip roaring, countryesque solo by Hicks. Daddy Don't Mind ends on a fitting note with it's raw soul vocal and slicing funk guitars and disco beat; the heavy distorted lead guitar riff and the half speaking, breathy harmonies make this track sound like something the band Exile would have produced after their hit 'Kiss you All Over' a couple years after this record. But the foghorn sounding horn solo would fit a hazy jazz number not uptight hardcore funk rock.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

The Hollies (1972) Romany - LOST 70s GEMS

 The Romany album was the first of two Hollies albums without their long standing vocalist Allan Clarke and it coincided with some the band's freshest material. Won't You Feel Good That Morning starts right out of the gate with a bright power pop guitar line and a chugging rhythm section and some laidback lead vocal lines but a horribly stilted pop chorus, they occasionally sang lines to straight without some soulful wavering or bluesy grit. Touch is a touch forgettable with it's acoustic/organ ballad sound I've heard many times before, though that quiet electric flamenco solo with a second guitar underneath plucking a note pull repeatedly like a Sonar signal; its a delight for the sense in it's dulled glowing style like Jimmy McCullough's solo on Thunderclap Newman's Something in the Air. But there are far more impressive tunes to come in this great..you read that..Great.. album! 

Words Don't Come Easy is built on a beautiful acoustic guitar figure of descending arpeggio where every chiming string is captured cleanly before the Baroque chorus enters with an upfront tabla sounding like the lead instrument over the more superfluous strumming and backing vocals. Lizzy and the Rainman opens with upbeat piano, crisp soft rock lead vocals and a ton of wah wah guitars filleting through the mix with it's squashy fills and a catchy chorus.
 Down River is almost the one forgettable tune on this solid album of folky pop rock but it harbours another heartfelt and unique Mikael Rickfors' vocal with a deep set heartbreak warble tone employed here. Delaware Taggett and the Outlaw Boys is the Hollies going full country with down-home deliveries and boogaloo bluegrass licks set to a folk rock shuffle as per usual for maximum commercialism; they found a formula and it worked! The funky scratches and the choral-ling 'ah's are stunning and fresh additions to their folk rock style.

 The American accents of Jesus Was a Crossmaker along with the tepid piano work shows their excellent arrangement sense and effortless use of light and shade, while the title track, Romany is a sweetly sung gentle folk ballad; it's all about that winning voice and the fabulous smooth guitar melodies of Tony Hicks and some more heavenly vocal stacks. Blue in the Morning is based on or around a circular acoustic guitar hook forming the basis for some CSN vocals. Courage of Your Convictions is a jangly slice of 60s tinged power pop with a wordy syncopated refrain but a nice use of hand claps. The Baby is a big horn and string sweeping number with big band passages mixing with psychedelic tabla, organ and electric sitar in the far more smaller and quiet verses. Strange for such an introspective tune as there are hollering group vocals and a magnificent sitar solo that is incredible. Magic Woman Touch features a huge smattering of squelchy wah wah Electric Sitar work amongst a frenetic acoustic chord progression and a pointless chorus and Rickfors' earnest croon. Indian Girl starts the way a lot of their songs start with a lone acoustic strumming and a bubblegum vocal joined by more folk group vocals before the inevitably cheesy chorus. 

 Papa Rain is a clean production with seductive blues rock guitars and country strums and haunted by some meandering mellotron work, while the classic stacked harmonies of the chorus are extraordinary. There cover of the Eagles' Witchy Woman tries a little too hard, from the tinny guitar whines of the opening riff to the heavily reverbed vocals, they lack the heady mystique of the original. While the Eagles were right up their 'Countrified Folk Rock' street they weren't as authentic as the LA quartet thought I must admit the 'ah' bridge is far more powerful in this version. Oh Granny is a kick ass country rocker with bombastic fills and vocal driven acoustic songwriting and a bluesy 60s rock solo to boot. I had a Dream is a Zombies' sounding number with more Santana-esque vibe as a funky wah wah plays around the edges of Terry Sylvester's hallowed Colin Blunstone-esque vocals before the typical big chorus while the wah wah twinkles away. I will choose the title track for the major highlight in a glowing album of great early 70s fairy lite Folk Rock.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Springwater (1971) I Will Return LOST 70s GEMS

A sonic journey, this guitar instrumental mixes some cyborg guitar twangs with some ancient church organ chords, the organ hangs over the whole piece , as the guitar slides around like Lap Steel in outer space mode. The slight fuzz tone and the pinging sustains create a Sci-Fi effect while drum bashes away in the background; there are actually two guitar lines, a more complex shredding guitar much lower in the mix adds t the unique composition. The sliding guitar tone sounds doubled like a harmony, it almost cries like a swan song it is incredibly emotive whine backed with the organ and drums for a very early 'power ballad' sound. The meowing, crying slide guitars would also make an appearance in the famous Derek and the Dominoes hit Layla from the same year so who knows where this influence may have lead..

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The Hollies (1970) Gasoline Alley Bred LOST 70s GEMS

From their Moving Finger album, practically a reissue of their first Post-Nash album Confessions of the Mind, it's actually not that great but there are a few highlights; I Wanna Shout is a picture perfect pop song about shouting out how in love you are with someone, most notably covered by psychedelic folk rockers Wicked Lester, a New York band that would soon morph into 70s arena rock giants Kiss and use I Wanna Shout as a lyric starting off point for their anthem Shout It Out Loud. Hollies guitarist Tony Hicks wrote Lady Please, is based on a sturdy wheel of an acoustic guitar figure, which is soon overlaid by a 'Hammond organ filtered' guitar mimicking the same circular pattern, while the lyrics and melody are all post 60s bubblegum pop but carrying the Hollies' expert penchant for adding depth and deceptive musicianship. The watery guitar squeaks and squelches all over the track alongside the smooth catchy harmonies and modern folk sheen of the tune creating a funky original sounding track. Gasoline Alley Bred is a Greenaway Cook Macaulay tune, boasting no fewer than three hit songwriters, the track peaked at no 14 in the UK lasting seven weeks its starts with another arresting acoustic electric interplay; a drawling country wah wah moans away over a thrumming acoustic line. The melancholic tinge delivered by Allan Clarke's vocals and the softened country guitars chiming away with restraint. These two tunes are the bets highlights of the Moving Finger album by far with Gasoline Alley just about making the difference with it's more heartfelt feel.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

The Hollies (1975) I'm Down - LOST 70s GEMS

The Hollies' 1975 album Another Night saw a return of Allan Clarke, the band's seasoned vocalist who had missed the last two albums. It's hard to say if he was missed as those two albums he sat out are fantastic as is his last album before his hiatus, the fabulous Distant Light (1971) album. All these albums display The Hollies in a sparkling Folk rock style with huge productions and some harder edged fare like some funky blues jams as well. The two tracks that stand out are I'm Down and Layin to the Music; the former is a breathtaking vocal showcase. From the incandescent, breathy reverbed harmonies sighing along with a strident 12 string and some orchestral drama it's literal power ballad as the harmonies swoop and the instrumentation build behind it as well as the dive bombing title refrain. Layin to the Music is totally different, a funky Bo Diddley two step number with prominent banjo picking and countrified lead guitar over sweet group vocals and a cheery melody. The song features a simple country solo, an accapella 'ya hoo' and some tight vocal stacks but nothing beats the cascading vocal harmonies of I'm Down!