Review : Bill Fay - Life Is People
PitchforkYou don't need a history lesson to love Life Is People, the third proper album by British singer-songwriter Bill Fay. If you've ever enjoyed the records of Pink Floyd or Randy Newman, Spiritualized or Wilco, the dozen gems here move between similar poles of spartan grace and outsized grandeur. The organ-abetted lilt of "The Healing Day" suggests Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett turning the page toward happiness a decade ago, while the gospel choir delivering the mantra of "Be at Peace with Yourself" might make you scan the credits for a J. Spaceman acknowledgment. The flinty "Empires" is a piano-led political tune written from a distance and with a dark, Newman-like wit, where the world's biggest timbers eventually yield to the teeming underbrush beneath. Its warped tones and terse delivery suggest Roger Waters coming back to Earth. Beautiful, patient and poignant, Life Is People is an expert singer-songwriter album, as dependent upon keen insight as it is upon meticulous arrangement.
But a history lesson makes Life Is People that much more meaningful. Bill Fay is 69 years old, and he hasn't released a proper studio album since his second, 1971's brilliant and acerbic Time of the Last Persecution. He'd stumbled into a recording contract with the Decca Nova/Deram imprint. As he admitted to WFMU in an interview last year, labels at that point scooped up an abundance of acts, hoping that at least something would turn into a best seller. "Somebody told me at the time," he said, "that their policy was to throw as many pieces of mud as possible at the wall, and hope that some would stick. Fay's records didn't stick, however, and neither did he. Deram dropped Fay and, in the 41 years since Persecution, he's recorded new material and consistently written new songs but never finished a complete record. Music, as he also told WFMU, was a private family affair for him as a child, with his aunts and uncles playing together and his mom occasionally sitting down at the family piano; he performed several times, but largely it seemed that, after stumbling toward fame through music, he wanted to keep the stuff to himself....full text
GuardianThe existence of Life is People is already a quiet triumph. Bad luck and public indifference seemed to have ended Bill Fay's career in the early 70s; his first two records slipped into obscurity until Nick Cave and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy evangelised about them, helping to pave the way for his first proper album in 41 years. Unsurprisingly it feels like a period piece; swirls of Hammond organ, bluesy guitars and Fay's tremulous vocals contribute to the impression of something discovered and dusted off rather than newly created. But these songs work a gentle charm, reflecting on life and mortality with an unhurried grace....full text
BbcSome careers are hard-fought; some are just hard. And some are as lonely as the long-distance runner. Bill Fay’s happens to be all three.
After two distinctly powerful and ignored albums – 1970’s Bill Fay and the following year’s Time of the Last Persecution, whose title alone indicates an already wearying state of mind – Fay went into exodus. Twenty-seven years passed before his reputation was salvaged when both albums were reissued in 1998, with previously unheard material and Wilco’s cover of Fay’s Be Not So Fearful feeding the cult worship.
Arriving 41 years after Fay’s last original studio album, Life Is People represents the return of a prodigal son you never knew existed. Its religious symbolism is inspired by Fay’s own relationship with faith, the result a stunning, profound, moving and soulful record.
Fay’s never preachy, his questioning the kind you might expect from a brilliant mind who, at one point, worked as a factory cleaner. There’s environmental awareness, existential drama and considered advice. If Father Time made an album, it might sound like Life Is People....full text
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