This retooled, revamped version of the Hollies' self-titled 1974 album doesn't seem like much at first glance -- but first impressions can be wrong, and this one would be. At the time of its recording, the original album marked the return of original lead singer Allan Clarke to the Hollies lineup after a two-year absence, and it also yielded the group's last major hit, "The Air That I Breathe." Otherwise, Hollies has mostly been forgotten, even by many loyal fans, for the very good reason that, the one hit aside, there really wasn't that much on the album that was exceptional. It was a perfectly good, competent record by an early British Invasion act that was very obviously running low on inspiration and material, and if not for "The Air That I Breathe," it would have done little more than fill a space on the release schedule, and maybe bought them some time -- as it is, the song brought them to the U.S. charts one last time and got them a new round of television appearances just before the commercial roof started falling in on the group. And the very fact that the hit was an Albert Hammond/Mike Hazelwood song only provided fresh evidence that, despite their improved and higher-volume in-house songwriting, the members had a long way to go to compete in the pop record sweepstakes -- apart from Tony Hicks' "Out on the Road" and "Down on the Run" and Terry Sylvester's "Pick Up the Pieces Again," few of the originals on the 1974 LP offered much that was memorable. The 2008 EMI reissue restores the original U.K. album song lineup (with "The Air That I Breathe" as the last track), which is an improvement right there, and it augments the album with five bonus tracks from the same sessions that either went unreleased at the time or ended up elsewhere (i.e., single B-sides, etc.). And the irony is that those five songs are mostly significantly better than much of the material that ended up on the album -- "Mexico Gold" and "Tip of the Iceberg" are fiercely stylized tracks with good hooks and memorable choruses that stand out as straight-ahead rockers, which is more of what the group needed (and fewer ballads), and the previously unissued "Burn Fire Burn" (composed by drummer Bobby Elliott), presented here with a fresh mix, is at least as good a track as anything that did make it onto the original LP. "Born a Man," featuring Tony Hicks on lead vocals, was a reconsideration of a track from the lost Out on the Road album from the prior year, and is worth it just for the spotlight it gives to Hicks' seldom showcased singing. And "No More Riders" is a Terry Sylvester number with compelling hooks, a great melody, and a distinctive guitar sound behind some great harmony singing. The sound here is also significantly improved over earlier reissues of the album, and the whole package suddenly makes Hollies a lot more interesting than it has ever seemed before. Bruce Eder, Rovi
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