Just as the subtitle says, this six-CD, 158-track collection has "The Complete Hollies April 1963-October 1968
." That's everything recorded when singer Allan Clarke
, guitarist/singer Tony Hicks
, and guitarist/singer Graham Nash, who were the three constants in the band (though drummer Bobby Elliott
was there for all but the earliest of these recordings, too). As such, it's a major British Invasion document. Even if it's missing some work postdating Nash's departure in late 1968 which is highly regarded by some fans (including their hits "He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother," "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," and "The Air That I Breathe"), most fans would agree that the Nash era is by far the band's most significant.
This package has all the hits from this period, of course; all the B-sides; every album track; some material that even big Hollies
fans didn't suspect existed, like French versions of some of their songs (the ones of "Stewball," "We're Through," and "You Know He Did" are released for the first time here); their mucho obscure 1967 Italian-language single "Non Prego Per Me"/"Devi Avere Fiducia in Me," and rarities that have only appeared on the box set The Long Road Home 1963-2003
, or out-of-the-way compilations. There are also eight previously unreleased recordings, most of them big hits, from a good-fidelity recording of a live performance on May 24, 1968. It's all presented in almost exactly the sequence in which the tracks were recorded, giving about as precise a record of their evolution as could be envisaged.
There are drawbacks, of course, to so much Hollies in bulk. It's a lot to listen to at once, even for serious fans. For every unheralded fine track (and there are a good number), there are unremarkable, sometimes even mediocre cover versions of rock & roll oldies, as well as some not-so-hot original tunes. And there's no escaping that the band did not artistically evolve nearly as much, or nearly as fast, as their main British Invasion rivals, such as the Beatles
, did. They were still doing some run of the mill covers in early 1966, and their attempts to evolve with the times on post-1966 albums, while producing some good music, could not disguise that they were for the most part still writing fairly straightforward pop
ock songs. The frustration a listener feels at this relative lack of progress could be similar to the frustration Graham Nash himself felt when he was itching to go into more adventurous directions near the end of his time in the band, leading to his departure for Crosby, Stills, & Nash
Still, any Hollies fan would be able to compile a fairly lengthy list of excellent songs here that are still largely unknown to most listeners, whether top-notch 1964 Merseybeat-style rockers like "When I'm Not There" and "When I Come Home to You"; the odd but excellent, offbeat cover, like their version of the little-known Gerry Goffin
composition "Honey and Wine," and their cover of Peter, Paul & Mary
's "Very Last Day"; songs that grew out of the writing they did for the Everly Brothers
, like the uncommonly hard-nosed "Hard Hard Year," and the occasional victory from the psychedelic era, like the 1968 B-side "Open Up Your Eyes." For such a big compilation, it's also quite affordably priced, and if that might be in part because the packaging isn't that elaborate, the liner notes do include an interesting Q&A with Graham Nash.