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Alternative & Indie - Released August 21, 2012 | Dead Oceans

Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Life Is People is Bill Fay's first non-retrospectively released album since 1981. His first two, Bill Fay and Time of the Last Persecution, were released at the beginning of the '70s, sold poorly, and were not reissued until 1998. Tomorrow Tomorrow and Tomorrow, recorded with the ACME Quartet, was self-released in a very small quantity in 1981, before it was picked up by David Tibet's label for general release in 2007. Life Is People's producer Joshua Henry (who grew up listening to Fay's early albums via his father's vinyl collection) and engineer Guy Massey, persuaded Fay to reenter the studio, enlisting Matt Deighton, Mike Rowe, Matt Armstrong, some string players, four singers from the London Community Gospel Choir, guitarist Ray Russell, and drummer Alan Rushton (both played on Time of the Last Persecution). Jeff Tweedy (a longtime champion) also appears. Fay plays piano and sings. Fay has written songs and recorded at home for 40 years, when he wasn't working in factories, shops, and parks. His experiences as a writer and as a citizen are inseparable from these strange songs, which are the works of a master craftsman. His bittersweet reflections on wasted life, loss, death, grief, environmental apocalypse, and human frailty are balanced by themes that affirm tolerance, healing, love, and spiritual redemption. Now in his late sixties, Fay's voice is seasoned, but not weathered. It's plaintive; it imparts the great wisdom in these songs humbly and without artifice. But there is no preparation possible for hearing Life Is People. It's an intimate recording even at its most epic and majestic, as evidenced by the glorious opener "There Is a Valley" and the shimmering "The Healing Day." The liturgical organ and piano that introduce the album's centerpiece, "Be at Peace with Yourself," is, in its repetitive subtlety and grace, a hymn to self-acceptance that is stated elegantly and without bombast. When the choir enters, the song lifts off, rooting itself deep in the scarred human heart. Elsewhere, Fay's sense of intimacy expresses world-weariness and haunted despair, such as on "Big Painter." Fay performs solo on "Jesus, Etc." (written by Tweedy), which makes a perfect bookend to the stark gospel prayer "Thank You Lord." In between them is the foreboding "Empires," a 21st century blues with stellar guitar work from Russell. "Cosmic Concerto (Life Is People)" gorgeously celebrates life in the process of being lived, be the circumstances mundane or profound. Fay (who is donating his proceeds to Médecins Sans Frontières) performs these songs as if they were living things, independent of his inner world. His reverence for them makes the listening experience one of great emotional depth. Life Is People brims with compassion, vulnerability, and tenderness. It is not a comeback record but a late continuation, a great work of art. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Pop/Rock - Released January 17, 2020 | Dead Oceans

Often reduced to a cliché of the missing link between Bob Dylan and Nick Drake, Bill Fay has become something of a cult figure, despite a less than plentiful discographic production: a single in 1967 (Some Good People), two albums in 1970 (Bill Fay) and 1971 (Time of the Last Persecution) then radio silence for four decades followed by a comeback in 2012 (Life Is People) and Who Is The Sender? in 2015. Venerated by younger stars (Ed Harcourt, The War On Drugs, Wilco, Okkervil River, Marc Almond and A.C. Newman worship the bearded Englishman and have all covered his songs), Fay is a master of concocting sublime miniatures. His songs are overall quite simple, rarely baroque or flamboyant, but yet they shine through their crepuscular toned-down gospel flair. The Brit carries the melodies with his faded but poignant voice and a refined piano accompaniment. These stylistically timeless moments are once again brought to the forefront on Countless Branches which is composed of songs written over the past 40 years, thus bringing some unfinished songs back to see the light of day with new melodies and lyrics on Fay’s favourite themes of nature, family, the cycle of life and the unimaginable scale of all of it… Music which moves the heart. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz

Pop/Rock - Released April 28, 2015 | Dead Oceans

After a 40-year gap between albums, North London songwriter Bill Fay returned to recording with the glorious Life Is People in 2012. Who Is the Sender? reunites he and producer Joshua Henry. They recorded this set in 13 days with most of the same musicians (including guitarist Ray Russell and drummer Alan Rushton, who have been part of Fay's circle since the 1970s). Fay's vocal and a piano are the center of these songs with standard rock band instrumentation, though tastefully employed chamber strings and horns are more prevalent this time around. They illustrate Fay's soft yet authoritatively questioning voice, which is more assured but far from pendantic. His poetic, poignant observations about the natural world, humanity's contradictory impulses, philosophical and cosmological queries, and direct political assertions are direct yet presented with genuine humility. As a result, these simple songs are brimming with moral authority. "War Machine" is a waltz painted by Mellotron, organ, strings, and electric guitars. Fay sings "There's a hawk in the distance/He ain't praying for forgiveness/It's his nature to kill/But mine isn't/ But we all kill in ways/That he doesn't/As we pay our taxes/To the war machine...." The chorus is hymn-like as Dannie Deller's vocals shore up Fay's with conviction. "Underneath the Sun," with its cascading piano chords, cello, French horn, and rumbling cymbals, is almost processional as the songwriter juxtaposes images of birds, squirrels, rivers, and pines with trains full of uranium and human violence. "How Little" commences as a gentle, minor-key ballad that explores the mystery of origin in nature. It's not without drama and tension, however: Russell's electric guitar explodes with sharp, angular shards in the center. The title track is almost a chamber piece. Fay's questioning title is actually an expression of gratitude for his songs; he recei9ves them as a gift. His vocal is affirmed by strings, brass, and a Wurlitzer. "A Page Incomplete," with Matt Deighton's guitar punching through mix, is brief yet soul stirring. The country-tinged "I Hear You Calling" was first recorded by Fay on Time of the Last Persecution. Heard through the passage of 40-plus years (most of it spent working menial jobs), its poignancy is revelatory: "All my time is lying/on the factory floor...Give me back my time/I hear you calling/From the river bank/I will be coming/When the air is black…" There is no bitterness, only desire and affirmation. Christian spirituality has always been the thread in Fay's work, but he's no evangelical autodidact. The simple, profound songs on Who Is the Sender? ask numerous questions and express doubts -- genuine faith has to if it is to remain viable. But because these tunes embrace the totality of earthly experience in the presence of the Divine, they can willfully accept a painful, broken world with a gentle, wide-open heart. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released January 19, 2010 | Coptic Cat

In his extensive liner notes to this double-disc, Bill Fay claims that only David Tibet would have released Still Some Light, a collection of demos from 1970 and 1971 gathered from various sources, and a disc of new songs. So it is Tibet we must thank as well. Fay is the British singer/songwriter whose first two albums -- Bill Fay and Time of the Last Persecution -- were issued by Decca in the early '70s to favorable reviews and poor sales. They disappeared until the 21st century, where they have been rightfully regarded as lost classics. The first disc in this collection features demos that Fay and his bandmates had lying about for decades. The fact that these relationships continued after the music stopped says a lot about all of the respect and trust for one another these men have. Fay plays piano, organ, acoustic guitar, and sings, while Alan Rushton is on drums, Daryl Runswick on bass, and Ray Russell on electric guitar. Fay's love of creation, his belief in a higher authority, and the consequences of human folly in caring for it, are at the heart of his argument on the song demos on disc one. The music is mostly melancholy and dark, even foreboding, but Fay is not a preacher, nor is he a prophet: there isn't a hint of self-righteousness in his approach, but a poetic sadness imbued with compassion. Whether it's the original demo for "Time of the Last Persecution" (his unique reading of the Book of Revelation), "Pictures of Adolph Again," "Love Is the Tune," or "Release Is in the Eye," they all reflect these concerns. The simple, even rudimentary recordings on disc two reveal that despite holding working class jobs for decades after his music career, Fay continued to write fine songs simply for himself. Their tone is lighter, offering glimmers of hope in darkened corners. Twenty-four of the 26 remarkable tracks are self-penned. The exceptions are set-opener "My Eyes Open," featuring Fay plaintively (and beautifully) singing over cellist/composer Michael Cashmore's instrumental, and the closer "I Wonder," written by brother John Fay (whose artwork adorns this gorgeous package). Three tracks here are the original versions of songs that appeared on Fay's widely acclaimed 2012 album Life Is People: "There Is a Valley," "Be at Peace with Yourself," and "City of Dreams." They reflect the humility and dignity in his approach. Songs such as "Jericho Road," the title cut, "Solace Flies In," "Your Life Inside," "Fill This World with Peace," and "I Will Remain Here" are almost prayers, yet are imbued with such a gentle but pronounced musicality that they touch the profound. For anyone at all interested in Fay, Still Some Light is an essential collection that underscores a well-deserved reputation only recently cemented. All of the artists' proceeds from the sale of the album will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Pop - Released January 7, 2020 | Dead Oceans

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Pop - Released November 13, 2019 | Dead Oceans

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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

"Enigmatic" was the tag oft-times tossed 'round Bill Fay, whose loyal cult following grew significantly over the years. Signed to Decca, the singer/songwriter and pianist released two albums in the late '60s and early '70s; their haunting, darkly shadowed songs were never meant to appeal to the masses, even at the height of the psychedelia-streaked introspection sparked by the soul-searching of the day. While the Beatles flew off to meet the Maharishi, Fay fell under the spell of a 19th century compendium of commentaries on the Biblical books of Daniel and Revelations, which would inspire his second album, Time of the Last Persecution. But before the born-agains jump on to the Fay bandwagon, they should be warned that the artist was equally influenced by the ravaging events of the day. The title track, "Time of the Last Persecution," was written in an immediate and visceral response to the killings of four students at Kent State. Even in 1971, the intensity of Fay's lyrics -- reflecting his commentaries in their poetical language, their highly introspective nature, the brooding quality of the music, all exquisitely enhanced by Ray Russell's evocative blues guitar work -- left most reviewers cold and confused. In truth, the album would have slotted much more neatly into the coming firestorm that descended on Britain later in the decade, and would have provided a surprisingly supple bridge between the apocalyptic visions of roots reggae and the political polemics of punk. The set certainly contains all the fire and fury of the latter movement, as well as the deeply dread atmospheres of the former. By 2005, with the rise of evangelicalism and Christian rock, Persecution no longer sounds so obscure or out of place; it is, however, a personal journey of spirituality, not a platform from which to proselytize. For all its dark vision, it's the possibility of peace and hope that shines through the gloom, and as for all the seeming quietude of the music, it thunders, too, with a power and emotion that speak in volumes as loudly as Fay's striking lyrics. © Jo-Ann Greene /TiVo

Pop - Released January 1, 1969 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Fay's self-titled debut album is an over-serious, labored folk pop/rock affair. As a songwriter, certainly his big influence is Blonde on Blonde-era Bob Dylan. But like someone else who heavily imitated that phase of Dylan's songwriting, David Blue, Fay doesn't have the deft touch with words that the master does. And like Blue, he has trouble hitting a lot of vocal notes, sometimes embarrassingly so. An aspect of this album that does not sound like either Dylan or Blue is the odd orchestration, which toes an uneasy line between the sort of stately, Baroque classicism heard in some of Nick Drake's arrangements and cheesy easy listening. It's usually delivered with a somber, earnest air, with the intent of someone who believes he has something very important to impart, but really isn't too interesting. The disjointed impressionism of songs like "The Sun Is Bored" have more ambition than quality or cogency, while songs with a storytelling bent like "Gentle Willie" seem to be leading toward a grand message that never arrives. ~ Richie Unterberger

Pop - Released December 5, 2019 | Dead Oceans

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 20, 2015 | Dead Oceans


Alternative & Indie - Released April 14, 2015 | Dead Oceans


Bill Fay in the magazine