Thursday, May 15, 2014

Evolution (1967): The Hollies Psychedelic Pop Album Classic

By Eric Brothers (C) 2014

British release of the Hollies' Evolution (1967) on EMI records.
Critical acclaim for The Hollies' Evolution

Music critics from the Village Voice, Robert Christgau and David Fricke, wrote of The Hollies' 1967 album Evolution, "'Carrie Anne' is the only hit on this forgotten gem, which with no apparent effort or self-consciousness -- you barely notice the French horn here and violin there -- achieves the adolescent effervescence and lovelorn sentiment that indie-pop adepts of the Elephant 6 ilk spend years laboring after. Signature tracks: 'Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe,' which concerns candy and features a harpsichord, and 'Games We Play,' which concerns teen sex and features a knowing grin."  In a different review of Evolution, Cristgau wrote, "...the only mystery about this record is why it was good for only one hit single."

The Hollies in 1967.

Hollies' Evolution had first psychedelic album cover

Christgau and Fricke reviewed the American version of Evolution, which included "Carrie Anne," The Hollies smash hit, while the British version did not.  The album cover artwork for Evolution was created by The Fool, with the psychedelic cover photo by Karl Ferris, who is credited with creating the first truly psychedelic photograph for an album cover.  Ferris commented on the making of the album cover during a special signing of cover prints in 1997:

 ... they wanted to break from their 'Pop Beat' sound into something more psychedelic. So I listened to the music that they were recording at Abbey Road Studios, and got an image of them pushing through a membrane into 'the Psychedelic world', and so in summer of 1966 I took a studio shot of them pushing out their hands and the lead [guitar player Tony Hicks] pointing through clear plastic. Over this I superimposed a shot of William Morris Art Nouveau wallpaper with an illustration and 'Love' lettering drawn by my girl friend Anke. This combination created the image of the Hollies 'pushing through to a new wave of music style and consciousness'. I worked with The Fool (lead by Simon Posthuma) on this, and they did the lettering, the back cover design and the group's costumes.

The Hollies recorded Evolution at Abbey Road studios

The album was recorded at EMI's Abbey Road studios in just six days spread over three months in early 1967, at the same time the Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in the studio down the hall.  Evolution charted at number 13 on the UK album chart, peaking at number 3 in Norway, but only reached 43 in the U.S.  Evolution was The Hollies' debut album for their new US label, Epic Records. However, like many American issues of British albums, this album was remixed using heavy echo and reverb. Additionally, three songs were left off the album (with only "Carrie Anne" added).  Therefore the British album is of a higher quality and thus more desirable to own. 

 Listen to "Water on the Brain," available only on the British Evolution.

Evolution: "pop and psychedelia" 

In a review of the U.S. version of Evolution for ALLMUSIC, Lindsay Planer writes, "For many Hollies enthusiasts, Evolution (1967) is considered the band's most accessible blend of pop and psychedelia. The quintet were headed into musical territories beyond simply 'moon-June-bloom' and boy-meets-girl lyrics coupled with the tightly constructed vocal harmonies that had become their calling card.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the tripped-out cover art...there are clear indications of new horizons on cuts such as the modish 'You Need Love,' the arguably passé distorted electric guitar on 'Have You Ever Loved Somebody,' and the wailing fretwork on the driving freakbeat rocker 'Then the Heartaches Begin.'"

Planer continues that Allan Clarke (lead vocals), Graham Nash (rhythm guitar and vocals), Tony Hicks (lead guitar and vocals), Bernie Calvert (bass) and Bobby Elliott (drums) "were also taking different approaches in their writing and arranging, as heard on the trippy 'Headed for a Fall.'" Lead guitar player Hicks told an interviewer in 2001 that Evolution "was an experiment. We had a Byrds influence. Music was evolving and we wanted to go along with it."

Enjoy listening to The Hollies "Then the Heartaches Begin."

Graham Nash's influence on The Hollies and Evolution

Graham Nash was, along with Allan Clarke, one of the two original Hollies years before The Hollies came into existence in late 1962.  The two boys met in 1947 as 6-year-olds at the Orsdall Primary School in Salford, Manchester, England.  Discovering both their mutual love of music and natural singing ability, they became best friends and devoted their lives to enjoying and creating music together.

After the Hollies, who were at one time known as the "Manchester Beatles," began writing their own material, Nash and Clarke collaborated with guitarist Tony Hicks to create smashing songs with unsurpassed harmonies.  Nash added what could be called a "hippy sensibility" to the music and culture of The Hollies. He was the only one of them to experiment with psychedelics, while his mates in The Hollies were "pub boys" who enjoyed a pint-- but not a toke.

Hollies Graham Nash (L) and Allan Clarke in the studio.

Clarke-Nash-Hicks wrote all of the songs on Evolution and the hippy influence that culminated with 1967's "Summer of Love" comes shining through on most of the songs.  The Hollies' ringing harmonies are accompanied by Hicks' amazing guitar work--Hicks is considered among the best (although quite underrated) guitarists to come out of the British Invasion--as well as beautifully arranged strings, horns, and even a harpsichord.
It could be said that Evolution is one of the best albums to emerge out of the watershed year of 1967.  This "forgotten gem" shows The Hollies evolving into a more complex and sophisticated group of songwriters and musicians.  After listening to the two above songs from Evolution, those who are interested in hearing more can see what is available at


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