Some of us (including me) may have been missing the boat here. THE HOLLIES-long thought of as just another pop group with some radio hits from the "British Invasion" era-were much more than that. Yes, they were a pop group, with some lightweight tunes occasionally. But the songwriting, the arrangements, the beautiful vocals, and the inclusion of some good rock 'n' roll cover songs, are proof that this group (like THE KINKS, and THE ZOMBIES) was one of the better bands of the period-who didn't garner much respect-but who released music that's still relevant and great to listen to today. The period in question is April 1963 through October 1968, when the Allan Clarke/Tony Hicks/Graham Nash triumvirate (with a few differing band-mates), pumped out a number of fine albums/tunes-and not just the ones you heard on the radio. The (mono/stereo) sound is clean (and at times exhilarating) yet retains a kind of warmth, which only improves their music. This is the kind of music that sounds even better when you crank the volume up a bit (or a lot) because the band's harmonies ring out loud and clear-the effect is sometimes close to goosebumps.
This 6 CD set is crammed full of great music-much of it relatively unheard by a lot of people, including me, which I'm embarrassed to admit. Yes their 7 albums (all here) had some lightweight clinkers ("Lullaby To Tim" with it's gurgling, "underwater" vocal, from the "Evolution" album, also the maudlin tale about "Fifi"), but the majority of their original songs and a bunch of well chosen covers more than makes up for it. THE HOLLIES' sound was a mix of pure pop, English style beat, Everly brothers, r'n'r, and a bit of THE BEATLES, all mixed together. This box set includes many well known tunes-hits, almost hits, and songs that should have been hits (but were unknown to many listeners at the time), and just plain great sounding music. Combined with their wonderful vocals, several cool cover tunes and some electric guitar, and you have one heck of a band. Listening to this collection you can hear the evolution of the band's sound-from r'n'r to strings and horns-on their later albums. But through it all the group's wonderfully full, exciting vocals are front and center. For a good example of how the group sounded live, there's several previously unreleased tracks from the period-proving that not only could they sing on stage, they could play as well. Throw in some rarities-an unreleased stereo version of "The Times They Are A'Changin'", four tunes with French lyrics, and the group's earliest releases-and you have a very nice package of what THE HOLLIES were doing during this period.
Many people have been satisfied with a "Greatest Hits" package of THE HOLLIES. But after hearing this ear-opening collection from their (arguably) most vital period, that greatest hits album simply won't suffice. Listen to this set (which is now at a lower price) and see if you don't change your mind. There's nothing truly startling here-just well written/arranged/sung tunes. All British/Sixties fans (SEARCHERS/ZOMBIES fans especially) need to hear this set. I'm embarrassed that I wasn't aware of just how good this group was beyond the usual radio hits-but this fine collection set me straight, and it'll probably do the same for you.
One very small caveat-I wish the booklet was more inclusive and informative, it's okay as far as it goes-but it could have been better. A concise overview of the band, their music, and the period included would have been a nice tie-in. Plus (and this is really niggling), a better, more atmospheric period photograph on the cover would've added to the overall feel of this great collection-look at the photos on the inside, front and back trays for examples. But the music is the important thing here-and that couldn't be a better look at a group, who didn't really garner the accolades they should have at the time. Check this out.