Released in 1972, Distant Light provided the first signs of The Hollies’ brief foray into hard rock territory. It included “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress,” which many people feel is atypical of The Hollies’ classic blend of fresh harmonies and catchy melodies. But the song worked out fine, as did most of the other tracks on this sadly overlooked album. Surprisingly, lead vocalist Allan Clarke, who co-wrote the song and played its now famous rolling guitar intro, departed to pursue a solo career prior to the album’s release.
Not that Distant Light came on like a whole lotta Led Zeppelin, but even long-time fans had to be pleasantly shocked to hear guitarist Tony Hicks cutting loose during the final minutes of “Promised Land,” a powerful anti-war song he co-wrote with non-band member Kenny Lynch. “You Know The Score,” written by Clarke and rhythm guitarist-harmony vocalist Terry Sylvester, sets its lament of “Death and destruction/We’ve got to change it now, Lord only knows how” to a hard-hitting arrangement. “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” with its Creedence Clearwater Revival style chugging guitar, would go on to be an FM radio staple, and lately, a gasoline commercial.
“Long Dark Road,” the other hit single from the album, was an appealing mid-tempo gem built on acoustic guitar, soaring harmonies, and Clarke’s high energy harmonica playing. Distant Light also had some gorgeous pop, particularly “Cable Car,” “To Do With Love,” and “Little Thing Like Love,” which sounded like vintage Elton John. “Pull Down The Blind,” Sylvester’s sarcastic look at heartache, and “Hold On,” Clarke’s rollicking tale of a one-night stand gone wrong, added even more flavor.
The Hollies would delve further into hard rock on the next album, Romany with new singer Mikael Rickfors, but by the time Clarke returned to the fold for a self-titled effort featuring “The Air That I Breathe,” they had pretty much abandoned the approach. Still, Distant Light stands as one of the most consistent efforts of The Hollies’ post Graham Nash era.