Of all the Sixties groups I can name — and believe me, I can name a heck of a lot of them — Herman’s Hermits got just about the least benefit of stereo recording techniques, largely because producer Mickie Most didn’t believe in such a thing: he was a singles man, and singles were mixed to mono because singles were always mixed to mono, and he did much the same thing for the Animals and for Donovan and even for Lulu. (Most’s only real rival here was Joe Meek, and Meek, who died in 1967, is undeservedly unknown in the States; the Yardbirds got similar nonsupport from Giorgio Gomelsky, who died last week.) So a 66-track compilation with, um, 66 tracks in stereo is going way beyond the call of duty; 58 of them have appeared in mono only for half a century.
More astonishing than that is that these 66 tracks appear on a mere two CDs; the legendary German reissue label Bear Family managed to cram more than 87 minutes on each of these discs. (The CD spec originally called for 74 minutes, later boosted to 80.) Better yet, they hired Ron Furmanek to do tape research and produce, and Furmanek is one of the best in the biz. A lot of the early stuff is two-track because that’s all there was; producers of this particular era figured that this was the last step before a proper mono mix, and that’s what they kept.
The songs, or at least the hits anyway, you already know. A few have additional studio talk or countoffs from the original tapes; “Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” runs out to a cold ending instead of fading at 2:46 like the 45. The booklet runs 140 pages, and explains several things it didn’t occur to me to wonder about, like why the Hermits recorded old R&B stuff like “Silhouettes” and Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World.” Both these songs, it turns out, were controlled by American gung-ho exec Allen Klein, who took on Most’s representation in the States, and later managed both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. No wonder latter-day issues, when you could find them, came out on Klein’s ABKCO label — in mono, of course.
The band’s fractious post-1970 existence led to no hits, so the collection runs out in 1970. (The last American chart item, “Something’s Happening,” was recorded in late 1968 and released in 1969.) If you remember Herman and the Hermits, this is a pricey way to get all their tunes; a 2004 ABKCO issue called Retrospective contains the hits for about half as much — in mono, of course.