With oldies radio having reduced Hermanâ€™s Hermits catalog to only a couple of their hit singles, many listeners may be unaware of the groupâ€™s immense mid-60s popularity. The Hermits were the top-selling British group in 1965, besting even the Beatles, spurred manic responses from female fans, and starred in two feature-length films. ABKCOâ€™s two-fer pulls together the soundtracks from both 1966â€™s Hold On! And 1968â€™s Mrs. Brown, Youâ€™ve Got a Lovely Daughter. To be fair to the Fab Four, neither of the Hermitsâ€™ films holds a creative candle to A Hard Dayâ€™s Night (or even Help, really), and while the soundtracks havenâ€™t the brilliance of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, they do combine charming hit singles, interesting explorations of folk-rock, good album tracks, and yes, some filler.
Hold On spun off two hit singles, the music-hall styled â€œLeaning on the Lamp Postâ€ and the folk-rock â€œA Must to Avoid.â€ The latter is one of four titles penned by ace Los Angeles writers P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. The Hermitsâ€™ original version of Sloan & Barriâ€™s â€œWhere Were You When I Needed Youâ€ hasnâ€™t the venom of the Grass Rootsâ€™ subsequent hit, but Peter Nooneâ€™s double tracked vocal is a nice touch, and the band cuts an interesting groove that marries British Invasion beat music and West Coast folk-rock. The title track quickly reveals Sloanâ€™s fascination with Dylan, and the tambourine, hand-claps and waltz-time of â€œAll the Things I Do for You Babyâ€ suggest the Sunset Strip sound of the Leaves and Byrds.
The remainder of Hold On includes the novelty â€œThe George and Dragonâ€ and a generous helping of tunes written by soundtrack specialists Fred Karger, Ben Weisman and Sid Wayne. Wayne and Weisman wrote several of the more passable songs for Elvis Presleyâ€™s films, and here they work up the foot-stomping â€œGot a Feeling,â€ Zombies-styled â€œWild Love,â€ and, for film co-star Shelley Fabares, the mid-tempo ballad â€œMake Me Happy.â€ Mickey Mostâ€™s productions, heard here in true stereo, hold up well, sounding punchier and more nuanced than one might have heard through an AM radio in 1966. The entire album clocks in at just over twenty-two minutes, and so it pairs nicely with the Hermitsâ€™ second soundtrack.
The Hermits scored their second feature film two years later, but by this time the music scene had moved on from cute mod style to hippie couture, and the bandâ€™s commercial fortunes had waned. The soundtrackâ€™s single, â€œThe Most Beautiful Thing in My Life,â€ managed a measly #131 in the U.S. and didnâ€™t chart at all in the UK. Still, the album contained several interesting songs from ace pop songwriter (and then soon-to-be 10cc founder) Graham Gouldman, including the Hollies-influenced â€œItâ€™s Nice to be Out in the Morning.â€ Filling out the track list were the bandâ€™s 1965 title hit (reproduced here in mono) and their last top-five, 1967â€™s â€œThereâ€™s a Kind of Hush.â€
ABKCOâ€™s reissue (with fantastic digital transfers by Peter Mew, Teri Landi and Steve Rosenthal) adds a bonus rehearsal session of â€œMrs. Brownâ€ in which Peter Noone tries out an a cappella introduction and pins down the tempo. Noone was among the most charming front-men of the British Invasion, and his good nature and hard-work shines through on both the hits and album tracks. Much like the recent Hermanâ€™s Hermits documentary, these soundtracks show off an endearing band that cannily picked their material from top-flight writers. The two-fer CD is also available as individual album downloads [1 2], but both soundtracks are recommended, and the two-fer is the way to go. [Â©2011 hyperbolium dot com]