Bill Fay: Remastered Import
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|Audio CD, Import, 1 Jan 1900||
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The album is completely self written by Fay and fits into the singer-songwriter mode, although the songs seem to be hinged somewhere between darkness and light. This is perhaps where the Nick Drake comparison comes from, but in truth he has more in common with Bob Dylan in the vocal department. Fay is not a great singer and a lot of the songs have a very small range, but the delivery is impeccable. He puts a ton of emotion and feeling into very simple melodies which makes the songs very effective and affecting.
The album is also heavily orchestrated and features lush string, brass and woodwind arrangements by musical director Michael Gibbs. These arrangements are very nice and cover a number of styles. For example the arrangements on 'We Want You to Stay' and 'The Room' sound almost like they are from Broadway. Elsewhere the string arrangements are more understated as on 'Gentle Willie' and 'Be Not So Fearful'. Other tracks are a lot more sparsely produced, such as 'Sing Us One Of Your Songs May' which, after a militant drum roll intro, is just Fays' semi spoken vocal at his Piano soaked in reverb; or the closing track of the original LP 'Down to the Bridge' which has a pleasant accordion backing.
The lyrics concern themselves with a spiritual quest through such themes as time, nature and understanding human behaviour. They almost seem to plead for an understanding of life's mysterious journey. Fays' weary vocals really suit this setting, and are akin to a wise old man telling a tale.
The one noticeable thing about the songs is that they are all relatively short, rarely exceeding the three minute barrier. There are no weak cuts on the album, but the strongest songs are the opening 'Garden Song', 'Narrow Way' (which features a mandolin and some wonderful classically inspired cellos), 'We Have Laid Here' and 'Cannon's Plain'.
As a bonus the CD also includes both sides of his sole single from three years earlier which definitely fit more into the psychedelic category, especially 'Some Good Advice' with it's mellotron and haunting piano arrangement. Both these tracks are also excellent. This is one of those albums that might not be available that long so it is well worth getting this reissue!
Comparisons with Nick Drake appear limited, to my ears at least, to the orchestral approach to some of the songs here, and the fact most are quite short (indeed, the whole album, even with 'bonus tracks' only runs for 40 minutes). Mike Gibbs orchestration, and John Surman on sax appeal to my 'jazzy side', but there's really little to suggest a strong jazz influence beyond some rich, creamy sax.
To be honest, some of the arrangements suit Bill's wistful, fragile vocal more than others, though most of the tracks, such as 'We have laid here', 'The Room' and 'Cannons Plain' slyly lodge inside your head until you simply have to play them again. In a few cases I'd have preferred more restrained orchestral backing, as is the case with his curent album.
The biggest surprise for me is the inclusion of the bonus tracks, with 'Screams in the Ears' being a wonderfully powerful and scathing comment about the lonliness of parties. Both the bonus tracks seem to have been cut/transferred at a higher level than the rest of the album, and the dramatic way they grab your attention is very exciting.
Though not as complete/consistent as Bill Fay's recent album (where I'd suggest you should start if you're new to the man), there is still much to admire in an album which was put together in two days (quite indulgent, given 'Last Persecution' only took a day!). Honestly, who could turn out music of this originality and quality in that timescale today...? Recommended.
The "Garden Song", and "Goodnight Stan" seem to hold ones attention, with their earnest like missives This is as close to the gates of music heaven as possible." Down by the Bridge" with its captivating accordion closes the show. We have been well served. Wonderful
If you are really desperate for a copy on vinyl this might serve the purpose,but if you want a quality pressing then probably best to look elsewhere.
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