Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Nice paying the price for being kept under

Upon the departure of original lead singer Alan Clarke in 1972, the Hollies continued on unabated with a Swedish replacement, Mikael Rickfors. Known for their phenomenal gifts with singles in the 60s, the loss of Graham Nash resulted in a somewhat less successful career although there are still a few excellent nuggets to be mined from their 1968-1972 output. But they were never really contenders when it came to 33 1/3rd. That is, not until 1973 and the advent of the first (and only US-released) Rikfor's led LP.

Romany is a little-heard jewel that contains some of their finest harmony work. Terry Sylvester turned out to be quite a talented replacement for Mr. Nash, and Rickfors added a soulful baritone lead that took them in an entirely different direction. Unfortunately, except for a few singles and a release-in-Germany-only LP, this lineup would never again issue vinyl.

There is so much to enjoy here. Judee Sill's odd vision of religious ecstasy Jesus Was a Crossmaker is given a beautiful power pop rendition with Terry Sylvester's lead vocal. Magic Woman Touch is the failed single that should have been a hit what with its lovely opening guitar work by the underrated Tony Hicks and a splendid lilting verse melody. Or Courage of Your Convictions - seen by some as an attempt to cash in on the sound of 1971's hit Long Cool Woman - but in my book this is a vastly superior rocker with more excellent chiming guitar work by Mr. Hicks. And the ballad Romany exhibits Mr. Rickfor's honeyed-voice in a way that no previous Hollies tune could have.

Perhaps the most surprising song here is Delaware Taggett and the Outlaw Boys. The Hollies imbue this tune with harmonies right out of Crosby Stills and Nash, and the tightness of the instrumental work indicates that they had finer chops that anyone had given them credit for up to this time.

Long time fans rejoiced the next year when Mr. Clarke returned to the fold but for me the promise of Romany was forever lost.


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

But Mama there's safety in numbers!

Ah -- my H.S. graduation year, so you'd think I'd have been paying attention! But no! Missed this album entirely.

But in eerily prescient fashion, Ms. Who & I wore just finished wearing out a copy of the Hollies' 2003 2-disc Greatest Hits CD while driving to Missouri & back last weekend. We had a hard time getting past Magic Woman Touch -- "ONE more time!"-- but no Delaware Tagget there, not just the tiny bit. That's remedied now via iTunes -- thanks for the lead and Pleasant Valley guide book, Mr. Pleasant! -- hey, what happened to 99 cents? They're charging $1.29 now.

And yes, waaay CSN harmonies & American rock roots kinda guitars on this song. Just excellent on all levels.

Mister Pleasant said...

Well what do you know Mr. Who - that was my high school graduation year too! Glad you liked the song. As I mentioned in the post, I think the Hollies were headed in an exciting new direction but fate (and the record company) put them back on their former path. Isn't it a pity?