The Hollies Sing Dylan

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Bruce Eder
This is the most controversial album in the Hollies' entire output. Co-founder Graham Nash claimed he quit over the decision to record it, and critics hated it. And on its face, the divisions that existed (and still exist) over this album are all understandable -- even though they had been doing some of his songs in concert, the Hollies' distinctive high harmony singing and pop-oriented British beat sound were not a seemingly natural fit with Bob Dylan's work, with its mix of earthy sensibilities and raw musicality, not to mention words that were perceived as very important, even profound; an album of, say, Burt Bacharach songs (and this is not meant to be a swipe at ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Bruce Eder
This is the most controversial album in the Hollies' entire output. Co-founder Graham Nash claimed he quit over the decision to record it, and critics hated it. And on its face, the divisions that existed (and still exist) over this album are all understandable -- even though they had been doing some of his songs in concert, the Hollies' distinctive high harmony singing and pop-oriented British beat sound were not a seemingly natural fit with Bob Dylan's work, with its mix of earthy sensibilities and raw musicality, not to mention words that were perceived as very important, even profound; an album of, say, Burt Bacharach songs (and this is not meant to be a swipe at Bacharach or lyricist Hal David) would have seemed a slightly better fit to many listeners, and certainly to most critics (for whom the Hollies doing an album of Dylan songs was only a step removed from Herman's Hermits doing one). The fact is, with one possible exception, the dozen songs here are not presented in anything close to their ideal forms -- and a few even miss their ideal Hollies form. Yet the album has virtues that may grow on you. Allan Clarke's powerful lead vocals are their own justification, almost everywhere here except for on his overly dramatic rendition of "Blowin' in the Wind," which is also overproduced, with a too-active brass section punctuating the verses and a string section that sounds like it's trying for a fade-out similar to that of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love." And the soaring harmonies of Tony Hicks and new member Terry Sylvester, along with Hicks' myriad guitar contributions to the album; and the group's decision to draw from some of the then newer and also some less well-traveled corners of Dylan's songbook combine to make this a more interesting record than it might otherwise be. The songs range from then new compositions such as "This Wheel's on Fire" to earlier, relatively obscure pieces like "When the Ship Comes In" (which would have been better known to folkies at the time). The latter is highlighted by Clarke's forceful singing, solo on the first verse with the other joining in subtly on the second, and a lively contribution on banjo by Hicks, which eventually blooms into a cascade of stringed instruments (with what sounds like a harp buried deep in the mix); Clarke's dramatic lead works there, and on "I Shall Be Released," which stands at the opposite pole, nicely stripped down and played on acoustic guitars with soaring harmonies, with an understated embellishment of what sound like marimbas, topped by a steel guitar break played by Alan Parker. The overblown, orchestrated version of "Blowin' in the Wind" (in an arrangement by Manfred Mann's Mike Vickers) breaks under the weight of the instruments and Clarke's singing is magnificent, but too dramatic, anticipating the approach he took more suitably a little later on "He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother)." The song lies there like musical indigestion, but the singing is simply extraordinary. "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" benefits from a minimalist approach, all acoustic guitars and harmonica, and "I Want You" offers some of the more subtly nuanced singing here. "Quit Your Lowdown Ways" is well-sung and even better played, with some superb rockabilly-style acoustic guitar courtesy of Hicks. "Just Like a Woman" is one of the those tracks where one wishes it were possible to go back to the multi-tracks and wipe the orchestral accompaniment away, or at least reduce its presence, leaving the band's moody, subdued performance, highlighted by Bernie Calvert's gospel-style organ -- Clarke's performance on this song (and, indeed, the entire album) also anticipates his subsequent success as an interpreter with the songs of a then little-known Bruce Springsteen. "The Times They Are A' Changin'" -- done decidedly late in the day, for anyone who was paying attention to the words -- is done with bracing enthusiasm and an off-putting sense of drama, a problem that also afflicts "This Wheel's on Fire" (though it's worth hearing just for the bass work, about as animated and upfront a performance on the instrument as ever graced a Hollies record). "All I Really Want to Do" has superb singing and a strange marimba accompaniment that somehow works. And then there is "My Back Pages," the best track on the album, loose and flowing, with beautiful acoustic guitar at its center, a reed and wind orchestra accompanying the band, Bobby Elliott beating the hell out of his snare, and Bernie Calvert's bass holding the beat. That should have been the album's finale, but the producers chose instead to finish with "The Mighty Quinn" -- the latter has possibilities for about 30 seconds, until the excessively heavy orchestration comes in and starts to wreck whatever the group has accomplished up to that point in the way of rocking up the track. This album marked only the second round of sessions on which new member Terry Sylvester participated with the group, and that also raises questions -- his singing is fine as far as it goes, but one wonders, in terms of group dynamics and psychodynamics, what some of these songs would have sounded like if Graham Nash, who'd been with the band from before the beginning, had been present. A 1993 CD reissue of this album included two live cuts of Dylan songs with Nash in the band, from his final days with them -- and while they aren't profoundly different, one has to wonder if the group, had it been at "full strength" (i.e., with Nash present) for the studio recordings, would have felt compelled to rely on some of the more outsized arrangements that they ended up using. Released in America as Words and Music By Bob Dylan -- and thanks to the peculiarities of the American music marketplace, despite all of the controversy it elicited, for many years this was also the only non-compilation 1960s-era album by the group that one could find in print in the United States.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/14/2000
  • Label: Emi Europe Generic
  • UPC: 724352824625
  • Catalog Number: 5282462
  • Sales rank: 132,394

Album Credits

Performance Credits
The Hollies Primary Artist
Allan Clarke Harmonica, Vocals
Terry Sylvester Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Mike Vickers Conductor
Bobby Elliott Percussion, Drums
Tony Hicks Banjo, Guitar, Vocals
Lew Warburton Conductor
Technical Credits
Bob Dylan Composer
Mike Vickers Arranger
Ron Richards Producer
Lew Warburton Arranger
Lucy Jordache Producer
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