Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: The Hollies' 'Bus Stop/Stop! Stop! Stop' remastered

During that transitional year of 1966 when the LP made it most prominent bid for pop dominance to date, an archetypal singles band such as The Hollies really had to scramble to compete with their more ambitious contemporaries. Growing pains are evident on their first long player of the year, Would You Believe, in which passé covers are randomly shuffled with some pretty good group compositions (credited to the pseudonymous “L. Ransford”). The Hollies’ showing in ’66 was further complicated in the U.S. when their U.S. label, Imperial, picked tracks off Would You Believe to form the basis of two hodgepodges. The first of these, which sports the almost willfully generic title Beat Group, has nothing on the second mostly because it includes the band’s first stateside top twenty hit and one of the decade’s greatest pop singles. Titled Bus Stop to capitalize on that success, the record trots out too many old nags that can’t touch the original renditions by Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry, and The Miracles, while committing the further crime of recycling a track that had already been included on Beat Group. Of course, by kicking off with “Bus Stop”, the album of the same name has something that Would You Believe and Beat Group don’t: one unimaginably indispensible track.

Considering the marginal artistic impact of The Hollies’ first LP of '66 and the shoddy treatment it received from Imperial, there was little reason to think their follow up would find the boys acclimating much better to the burgeoning album age. Think again. Released at the end of the year, For Certain Because is a remarkably confident collection of twelve group originals (and one of Psychobabble’s 19 Greatest Albums of 1966). Two excellent hit singles—the frantic, exotic “Stop! Stop! Stop!” and the tantalizingly mercurial “Pay You Back With Interest”—anchor the disc, but the rest of the material is nearly as fabulous, particularly “What’s Wrong With the Way I Live” and “Tell It to My Face”. Even more amazing is Imperial’s decision to only screw with the album’s jacket and title. And though there’s little non-commercial justification for calling the LP Stop! Stop! Stop!, that cover photo featuring Allan Clarke smoking a hookah and Graham Nash clutching a giant snifter of brandy is pretty groovy.

For the first time, BGO records in the UK is releasing Bus Stop and Stop! Stop! Stop! as a remastered twofer today. The spruced-up sound is clear and mighty, if a bit on the loud side. No bonus tracks, but it’s still nice to have all this music collected on a single disc, though you may find yourself skipping ahead to For Certain Because (sorry… Stop! Stop! Stop!) as soon as “Bus Stop” fades out.

Get Bus Stop/Stop! Stop! Stop on here.
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