My fondness for the Hollies seems to develop in stages. I started by listening to a greatest hits collection many years ago and later moved on to some whole albums. The current situation involves a rather comprehensive view of the Hollies' early years.
It wasn't quite yesterday but when I heard about a new Hollies box set Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years (The Complete Hollies April 1963 - October 1968) I just had to get it. The box contains probably every song recorded during this time period, also conveniently including rarities released throughout the years on different compilations. Despite being very compact the box set includes nearly 160 songs and there are not all that many misses. I have been listening to this set for months and there are still lots of songs that deserve more attention.
“The Beatles were the first through the door and they opened up the door for us and every other band to run through” (Graham Nash in an interview for the box set)
There is no big mystery behind the Hollies concept. Like many others, Clarke, Hicks and Nash had done their homework on American rock & roll and soon they were “selling [the music] back to the Americans as the British invasion”. The Hollies wrote many of their hit singles and stood out from the rest with their merrily sounding unique three-part harmony. The presence of the happiest vocal trio of all time often added with Allan Clarke's lead vocals makes for something really special. And as we know, the Hollies were also very skilled musicians in other areas than singing.
There is a very strong r & b presence especially in the earlier material. Little by little the blues seems to subside giving room to other kinds of nuances, including experimentations on different arrangements and orchestrations, and psychedelia. In any case the songwriting trio was amazingly prolific right from the start, even though “there was never any time put aside purely to write songs” as Nash states in the same interview. That is just incredible.
Most often I find myself listening to the first couple of CD's because they are generally the most energetic ones, radiating both primitive energy and good cheer. Moving on to the other CD's, there are always surprises and many interesting things to hear, and music on Stay with the Hollies (1964) is definitely different from the music on Butterfly (1967). This kind of a complete chronological set is great exactly because you can notice the overall high quality of the work: the Hollies weren't just a singles band but put a lot of effort to all of their songs. There must be a reason to why record companies don't release similar complete sets from all bands!