US - Epic 5-10400 (Sep 1968)
Image taken from my own collection - click for a larger view.
It had been a frustrating 18 months for The Hollies. Whilst they were enjoying plenty of hits around the world, they were desperate to expand their horizons creatively. The songwriting team of Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks and Graham Nash were certainly hitting a peak, but the majestic King Midas In Reverse single failed to get the support of the record buying public, and whilst it did manage a respectable placing of number 18, it was a commercial disappointment by their previous standards - they had already enjoyed 12 top-ten hits in the UK. The ambitious LP Butterfly failed to chart altogether.
In need of a big hit, Clarke and Nash literally threw together Jennifer Eccles as a joke. The consequences must have been disheartening: not only did EMI deem it fit for release as a single, but it went straight to number 7, hitting the top 10 in several other countries. It was probably the final straw for Graham Nash, who announced that he was leaving.
Nash's farewell to the band was this release, by one of my favourite songwriters of the period, Tony Hazzard. Although not one of the group's most celebrated releases, Listen To Me remains a personal fave of mine. A great production job by the group's mentor Ron Richards, with Nash multi-dubbing his voice over the choruses, driven along by Bobby Elliott (one of the world's most underrated drummers in my opinion) and the piano of Nicky Hopkins. It quite unjustly stalled at number 11.
Graham headed off to the USA to join David Crosby and Stephen Stills. The Hollies recruited Terry Sylvester, and despite the predictions of some naysayers they continued to have hits, including He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother and The Air That I Breathe, and became something of a British musical institution. However, this underrated gem, very much marking the end of an era, is just the thing to brighten up a cold and damp November day, like the day on which I'm writing this, and listening to one of the best harmony groups the UK has ever produced.
More on this record and its various international releases can be found at 45cat.com