Equally respectful is "Sing Hollies In
Reverse" (EggBERT), for which a crew of mostly American power-poppers
covered 21 songs by a Manchester band of an earlier era. Regular hitmakers from
the mid-'60s through early '70s, the Hollies were an exemplary
(if not especially experimental) pop-rock group, and any of the musicians
saluting them here would be justifiably proud to have crafted singles as
buoyant as "Carrie Anne" (here covered by Tommy
Keene),"Pay You Back With
Interest" (Mitch Easter), "Dear Eloise"
(Shakin' Apostles) or "Look Through Any Window"
(the Loud Family). Some of the Hollies' Later singles were
more ponderous, though hardly as leaden as the versions offered
here:Steve Wynn takes the wind out of "The Air That I
Breathe," and the Losers' Lounge version of "After the
Fox" (with vocals by Ivy's Dominique Durand) is even
campier than the 1966 Peter Sellers film for which it was the theme song.
Earlier tunes are also given baroque treatments by Kristian
Hoffman ("I'm Alive"), E ("Jennifer
Eccles"), the Jigsaw Seen ("On a Carousel") and
ex-Jellyfisher Jon Brion ("Sorry Suzanne"). Still, many
of these tribute-payers didn't lose the blithe spirit of the bands best work.
Cub's punk-girl group version of "You know He Did" is
ebullient and direct, Material Issue doesn't muck around with
the melodic appeal of "Bus Stop", and the Continental
Drifters (featuring former dB Peter Holsapple and his
wife, ex-Cowsill Susan Cowsill) make "I can't Let Go" a
showcase of high harmonies. Such arrangements may be out of vogue in today's
rock, but they don't sound any more old-fashioned then the best of the Hollies'
The Washington Post
TRIB. BEAUT: California's Eggbert Records prides itself on releasing really neat projects that most other labels wouldn't even think of undertaking. Their most swell album so far is a Mumps anthology called Fatal Charm. The Mumps were a cheeky, rather novelty-ori-ented pop band who were part of the Blondie-era New York punk scene. They were fronted by Lance Loud, the son who came out of the closet on the '60s PBS documentary An American Family. (That clan also provided the name for a band who would form many years later. OK, I'm digressing a bit, but I'll come back to the Loud Family later to try to justify it all.) Eggbert has also lavished music lovers with previously unreleased material from the Bent Backed Tulips - also known as Dramarama - and the label has released two of the very best tribute albums ever.
Last year's Melody Fair honored the highly misunderstood Bee Gees; it was the perfect Gibb trib. Now Eggbert turns its attention to that most simple of '60s-pop pleasures, the Hollies. On the surface, this may seem a bit redundant because the early Bee Gees and early Hollies were musically very similar (to use a yucky analogy, they were the Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots of their day). However, a tribute album passes or fails on the basis of what the honoring bands do with the songs -not necessarily the strength of the songs themselves. That, of course, leaves unlimited potential for success or failure. Sing Hollies in Reverse consists of 21 different artists. Its packaging is brilliant, and in keeping with the collection's title and its inherent theme (both appropriated from the Hollies' "King Midas in Reverse -here covered by the Posies), the songs are listed from last to first, and the design of the disc itself is a replication of the old Epic label.
Before I proceed to praise Sing Hollies in Reverse as the greatest tribute album ever made, let me explain that, yes, I'm a Hollies fan, but in no way is that a requirement. This tribute has an eclecticism that the Hollies never did, and in 50 percent of the cases, the redone versions are far superior to the originals.
There is nothing bad - or even slightly mediocre - on this tribute. In fact, Jon Brion (Aimee Mann's producer) contributes a much-better-than-the-original "Sorry Suzanne." (Incidentally, I'm starting with last things first, as Brion's tune closes the album - though in the inverted track listing, it's first). I suppose Brion had a head start, because his assignment was one of the Hollies' sweetest, fluffiest con-fections - easily improved on - but he does wonders with the song's cotton candy, whipping up a psychedelic treat that combines a gorgeous vocal, George Harrisonish guitar and a bevy of instrumental quirks.
R.E.M.'s first producer, Mitch Easter, makes a rare appearance with a bankable "Pay You Back with Interest," and Tommy Keene delivers one of his best vocals ever on "Carrie Anne." The Loud Family transform "Look Through Any Window" into a reflective (and more pretty than grotesque) fun-house mirror. In a different vein, Steve Wynn gives the limp "Air That I Breathe" some much-needed mouth-to-mouth, revising (and reviving) the song. He fills it with deadpan steam, making it sound a bit like the American Music Club.
Things bog down a bit with Cub's ","You Know He Did" and ex-Mump Kristian Hoffinan's "I'm Alive," but they pick up again with the Flamingoes' T. Rexy "Water on the Brain" and E's Rod Stewart-esque "Jennifer Eccles." Like Wynn, the latter two completely revise the source material, and do it with confidence and panache. By contrast, "Long Cool Woman" is another disappointment. It's probably the most radio-played (if least characteristic) Hollies song, and John Easdale of Dramarama tramples over the subtle CCR-like chug of the original. But it's Bill Lloyd to the rescue. He stretches "Step Inside" into baroque-pop taffy not unlike Tommy James and the Shondells.
The remainder of the album is unfailingly solid. Highlights include the Wondermints' "You Need Love," which gives the song's verse a shot of .38 Special, and the chorus even more '60s-pop helium than the original. The Continental Drifters featuring ex-Bangle Vicki Peterson and ex-dB Peter Holsapple - curb some of their country tendencies for a straight-pop reading of "I Can't Let Go." Material Issue add some punky decoration to "Bus Stop" without delacing it (I think Bi-State would approve), and Jon Brion closes the album with the already-reviewed "Sorry Suzarme." It rernains probably the best thing on the album. As I said before, you don't have to be a Hollies fan to love Sing Hollies in Reverse, but you might become one when you hear it, Unlike most CDs - at least the audio kind - it'll pay you back with interest every time you play it.
Wary that my defenses are being gradually numbed and eroded by the sheer onslaught of "tribute" albums in recent years, I find myself cautiously supporting a pair of the latest horde. Of course, there's no lack of base traitors to be hauled before the firing squad for summary execution. From the same folks who gave us the entertaining Melody Fair Bee-Gees tribute, Sing Hollies In Reverse (EggBERT) sets its sights on one of the U.K.'s great (and often overlooked) pop craftsmen/harmonizers. The fact that the 21-track lineup represents the current cream of contemporary power-pop is no guarantee in itself of satisfying results. Fortunately, led by such sublime contributions as Mitch Easter's "Pay You Back With Interest," Bill Lloyd's "Step Inside," and The Wondermints'"You Need Love" the cream rises to The Hollies challenge. Some of the performers motor down a straight-a-way interpretation (Tommy Keene, Continental Drifters, Material Issue) while others tinker furiously with the engines (E, Steve Wynn, The Loud Family, Canada's perky cub), but everyone is prepared to get their hands dirty and take to the task with fervor. Sing Hollies In Reverse should send any novice running to his local disc emporium in search of an actual Hollies compilation (I personally know of a documented case), surely the ultimate tribute that any "tribute" album could perform.
Copyright 1996 Rocon Communications \010101 Productions Limited - All Rights Reserved Roch Parisien...........................Communications Consulting Rocon Communications....................Editorial Services 010101 Productions Limited..............Music/Multimedia journalist at large