Bill Fay is a criminally forgotten singer-songwriter musician with a handful of releases under his own name, all orbiting within the few years before and after 1970, when his eponymous debut LP was released. Obscured by the curtains of history, I’m drawing them back to reveal a vital force in pop songcraft.
Wondrously baroque orchestral arrangements embrace his Dylan-echoing lyrics, conveyed via endearingly imperfect vocals. The instrumentation dances a fine line between the majestic pop of early Scott Walker and the near-cheese overblown nature of Burt Bacharach, yet feels all the more appealing for this uneasy blend. The near-awkward earnesty of his approach grows by leaps and bounds upon repeated plays, buffeting apprehension, giving way to an elated comfort with the style. There’s an nigh-indefinable attraction built in to this album which manages to defy any and all possibly-unfavorable comparisons to the exalted greats like Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, or Donovan. (I’d toss in Harry Nilsson‘s tenuous sound connection to this album because of my personal affinity and the fact that his Nilsson Schmilsson album entered my mind upon first listen). Fay simply exists in his own musical ecosystem, relating to but standing outside the historical idioms and standardized notions of his more famous peers. This certainly isn’t a perfect cup of tea for everyone, but those of us struck by the sounds of any artist I’ve mentioned here should spare the necessary time to take the whole record in.
Note: The final track, one of two bonus cuts, has an added poignancy and heft for fans of the film OLDBOY. I won’t give anything away, other than to urge a close listen, and possibly a cracked grin upon the first few seconds.
[although reissued this decade, it’s semi-difficult to obtain. thankfully amazon has a selection of new and used copies, and it’s available digitally as well]