BILLY FURY: BILLY (1963)
1) We Were Meant For Each Other; 2) How Many Nights, How Many Days; 3) Willow Weep For Me; 4) Bumble Bee; 5) She Cried; 6) Let Me Know; 7) The Chapel On The Hill; 8) Like I've Never Been Gone; 9) A Million Miles From Nowhere; 10) I'll Show You; 11) Our Day Will Come; 12) All My Hopes; 13) One Step From Heaven; 14) One Kiss; 15) Hard Times; 16) (Here Am I) Broken Hearted.
Unsurprisingly for 1963, Billy's best-selling LP was his artistic nadir — and with the Beatles on the near horizon, ironically, it would also be his last proper LP. Nothing here is self-written; most of the songwriters involved in the project are hack-like professionals, long since forgotten; and the emphasis is rapidly shifting from light, cutesy pop-rock to saccharine balladry.
The voice is still there, and, actually, Billy's range and art of imitation are the only things that seem to have been improving with time. For instance, Ray Charles' ʽHard Timesʼ will never make anyone forget the original, but it is not a bad cover: sung with the proper feeling, without superfluous over-emoting, and it's hardly probable that the record industry people forced this cover on Billy — why not just another hack tune from a local craftsmanship instead? Even at this point he might have been allowed the liberty to make a small bunch of «artistic choices», and this one's not bad, and neither is the LaVern Baker nursery-R'n'B of ʽBumble Beeʼ (with Billy's British audiences, most likely, wondering their heads off about the title, because instead of the expected "you hurt me like a bee, an evil bee, an evil bumble bee", Billy prefers to sing "oo-wee, my life is misery, get out of here and don't come back to me". Was «bumble bee» a slang term for something offensive at the time in Britain? Who knows?).
But the rest of the songs leave rather faint traces, to put it mildly — even a bare glance at song titles like ʽThe Chapel On The Hillʼ is quite enough to get a preliminary idea of the content and the style: strings, strings, more strings, superstrings (okay, not really), and epic romantic vocalizing over passable, ten-for-a-dime melodies, of which old Tin Pan Alley standards like ʽWillow Weep For Meʼ are actually the «highlights». The upbeat, but still heavily orchestrated, ʽHow Many Nightsʼ and especially ʽLet Me Knowʼ are the only tracks on here that could even barely suggest that four years earlier, this here gentleman was the unofficial head of Britain's rockabilly scene — on ʽLet Me Knowʼ, the familiar Elvis «snap» reaches out from under the softcore arrangement — but barely suggest is the key phrase here.
Overall, this is just for those who can't get enough out of their Paul Anka records; but, perhaps, Beatles fans also deserve a listen — it would be interesting to try and imagine the Fab Four's reaction to this act of «musical betrayal» (and appreciate their own force of resistance: as we all remember, even George Martin almost fell into the trap of «taming» and «teenifying» their act by trying to saddle them with silly soft crap like ʽHow Do You Do Itʼ at the beginning). An utterly ignoble thumbs down.