Bill Fay – Life Is People
You can take the singer out of the 1970s, but you can’t take the 1970s out of the singer. It may be his first proper album in 41 years, but you can still hear the early 1970s in Bill Fay’s new album. There’s the slight trembling of the vocal, a folksy giveaway. And then there’s the lyrics. There are songs about, you know, Life, man. ‘In the space of a human face there’s infinite variation, It’s a cosmic concerto and it stirs my soul’. But Bill Fay is no mere 70s’ throwback. This is no nostalgia trip. This is a great, new, album. Take the second song, ‘Big Painter’. With no real verse or chorus, in the early 1970s this would have been a thin-sounding tone poem or, worse, a long, but “really meaningful” dirge. Now, with contemporary production techniques, the song is full of sounds. Similarly, ‘City of Dreams’ builds slowly, but the production gives it a big, bold, and brooding feeling right from the start. It’s precisely the combination of the vintage vocals and songs with the modern production methods that makes Life Is People such a great listen. It means, though, that when the album veers more towards the straight contemporary, then it falters slightly. On ‘This World’, Jeff Tweedy guests. His vocals fit really well and it would make a great up tempo Wilco number. But it doesn’t come together as a Bill Fay ft. Jeff Tweedy track. Equally, when it sounds just a little too nostalgic, then it doesn’t quite work either. ‘The Healing Day’ is eminently skippable. But put the two elements together and it generates some really great songs. And then, to cap it all, there’s the cover of ‘Jesus, Etc’. Played with just a piano, the tempo slowed right down, and the vocals closely miked, Fay transforms the song from the fairly jaunty Wilco version to an intimate confessional. ‘Bitter melodies turning your orbit around’. Indeed.