The Hollies: Butterfly (1967)

Bit of a Twitter kerfuffle the other day over the appropriate placement of the Hollies among the classic rock pantheon. And while the band has its passionate defenders, I personally place them well below the Big Four (Beatles/Stones/Who/Kinks). Among the British Invasion stand-outs, maybe they fit in somewhere among the Small Faces, Zombies, Pretty Things, etc. No doubt they were a terrific singles band. And when it came to harmonizing -- I'm a sucker for a good harmony -- they were arguably near the Beach Boys' class (though, as much as I admire Graham Nash, his high-pitched tenor does get a little tiring over the length of an LP).

None of which is to say they didn't have a couple decent long-players. In 1967, they released not one but two psychedelic platters. The first, Evolution, had a bit more electricity, a more direct line back to the Beatles' Revolver; but Butterfly is a little more tuneful and enjoyable overall (though, really, the two can be, and probably should have been, edited down into a single album which might have helped boost the band's placement among the Sgt. Pepper-influenced psychedelic masterpieces of '67-'68). It's also the most Nash-dominated album (after which he left the band, annoyed at their insistence on moving in a more musically conservative direction).

"Dear Eloise," of course, is another in a long string of killer stand-alone singles the band seemed to have no trouble churning out, more straight pop than psychedelia. "Wish You A Wish" is a sweet little sunshine pop ballad, something Paul Simon might have come up with; "Postcard" is lovely and engaging, shades of the Moody Blues or Zombies; "Elevated Observations" is understated and ambitious, prefacing Nash's later work with CSN/Y (more like a Crosby song in its free-form explorations); "Step Inside" is another one of those tuneful radio-ready tunes that calls back to the band's earlier work.

As with some of the other "straight" bands who attempted to take on the psychedelic affectations of the day, it can certainly get silly, as on "Maker's" hippy-dippy lyrics among a swirl of sitars, or the drugged-out sentiments and backwards cymbals of "Try It." But they were hardly alone in this, and it makes for a more intriguing album than their pre-Evolution collections.

Spending a day embedded in Evolution and Butterfly didn't quite make me a convert, but I do think the album deserves some affection and makes a good case that they were more than the singles band that history casts them as.

Here's the "Dear Eloise" video:
Here's an audio rip of "Wish":
...and an audio rip of "Step Inside":
Here's a trippy fan-made video for "Try It":