Bill Fay: Life is People
Bill Fay last released an album of new material in 1971. That was Time of the Last Persecution (we reviewed it and his first, eponymous, album here) and though Fay continued to write songs, he’s spent four decades doing other things since then. His albums were re-released in 1998, with a number of younger musicians starting to sing his praises (this album comes with a sticker of appreciative blurbs from Jeff Tweedy, Nick Cave and Jim O’Rourke). There’s been another album since, though it sounds more like a set of demos, and some other fragments have been released. But here we are in 2012 with a new album, of new material, and it’s something special.
Fay is now in his late sixties, and this album sounds like he may well have made peace with himself and the world – Time of the Last Persecution is a fairly troubled work, fearful for what was coming next – and while Fay isn’t a fan of modern life he does at least seem to have refound his conviction that there is still hope, still something beautiful in this world and in each other. Jesus gets a name-check, and there are gospel arrangements throughout these songs, but it’s not clear, or even really very important, whether this simply goes with the territory when you’re singing songs of redemption or is genuinely part of who Fay is. As he sings on the sweeping standout of the album, ‘Cosmic Concerto’, ‘As my old dad said, life is people’.
While this is a genuinely charming album, with some beautiful highlights (‘Cosmic Concerto’, ‘Be at Peace with Yourself’), the production and arrangements are less startling and imaginative than the first two albums, which still sound fresh in comparison. Fay’s new band of musicians do an excellent job, but are perhaps more reverential than those who contributed so much to the other records – this is a Bill Fay record, and the music is secondary to his (admittedly marvellous) voice. But this is a minor criticism and this is certainly worth waiting 40 years for. I hope he continues to write and sing, because we may not have another forty years.
And from ‘Later’:
Buy the album here or in decent record shops.