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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Billy Fury: Classics And Collectibles


CD I: 1) Halfway To Paradise; 2) Cross My Heart; 3) I'd Never Find Another You; 4) A King For Tonight; 5) You're Having The Last Dance With Me; 6) Turn My Back On You; 7) Maybe Tomorrow; 8) Wondrous Place; 9) Like I've Never Been Gone; 10) Baby Come On; 11) Do You Really Love Me Too; 12) I'm Lost Without You; 13) Letter Full Of Tears; 14) Turn Your Lamp Down Low; 15) In Thoughts Of You; 16) What Am I Living For?; 17) Somebody Else's Girl; 18) Jealousy; 19) Push Push; 20) Last Night Was Made For Love; 21) Nothin' Shakin' (But The Leaves On The Trees); 22) A Thousand Stars; 23) It's Only Make Believe; 24) Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I); 25) Once Upon A Dream; 26) This Diamond Ring; 27) I Will; 28) A Million Miles From Nowhere; 29) Run To My Lovin' Arms; 30) You're Swell; 31) Forget Him;
CD II: 1) Break Up; 2) Nothin' Shakin' (But The Leaves On The Trees); 3) The Hippy Hippy Shake; 4) Glad All Over; 5) I Can Feel It; 6) You Got Me Dizzy; 7) Saved; 8) You Better Believe It Baby; 9) She's So Far Out She's In; 10) Straight To Your Arms; 11) Away From You; 12) Am I Blue; 13) That's Enough; 14) Kansas City; 15) From The Bottom Of My Heart; 16) I'll Be So Glad (When Your Heart Is Mine); 17) Lovesick Blues; 18) Keep Away; 19) What Did I Do; 20) Cheat With Love; 21) I Can't Help Loving You; 22) Candy Kisses; 23) I'm Hurting All Over; 24) Nobody's Child; 25) Wedding Bells; 26) Stick Around; 27) Time Has Come; 28) Let's Paint The Town; 29) Begin The Beguine; 30) I'll Never Fall In Love Again; 31) I Will Always Be With You.

Billy's discography after 1963 quickly becomes a poorly-studied mess. He did have at least one movie soundtrack in 1965 (I've Got A Horse, with some new material), but other than that, most, if not all, of his releases for Decca, and then, later, for Parlophone (from 1967 to 1970) were singles — none of them hits, and few of them even gaining the honor of reappearing on later com­pilations. For obvious reasons: with Beatlemania hitting the decks, by the end of 1963 nobo­dy needed Billy Fury, shorn of his «rock'n'roll» reputation, any more, and he just withered away like the «poor man's UK Elvis» he was (and his withering was correspondingly more pitiful — at least Elvis still sold records a-plenty all the way up to 1977).

Anyway, as a brief post-scriptum, here is one of the most readily available comprehensive com­pilations — more than 60 songs in all — that goes way beyond Billy's LP material and includes lots (but far from all) of the single A- and B-sides from 1960 to 1966, that is, his Decca years. In between The Sound Of Fury, which is seriously underrepresented here, and this huge collection, honestly, nobody needs any more of Billy in one's life (well, throw in We Want Billy!, perhaps, just for all the girlie fun). And it is also not very surprising that the Collectibles part, emphasi­zing B-sides and rarities, is generally more enjoyable than the Classics part, mostly dedicated to sentimental and syrupy pop.

«Enjoyable», of course, does not mean «outstanding» or «original» — in fact, the best songs are usually covers of contemporary rock'n'roll and R&B hits, with some surprising choices (LaVern Baker's ʽSavedʼ, for instance, or Hank Williams' ʽLovesick Bluesʼ with some credible yodeling, or ʽYou Got Me Dizzyʼ from the repertoire of Jimmy Reed, the world's greatest toothless home­less bluesman getting the blues-de-luxe treatment with pompous brass and all) and some predictable ones (ʽKansas Cityʼ, ʽNothin' Shakin'ʼ, ʽThe Hippy Hippy Shakeʼ, which every British rock'n'roller knew by heart). Interestingly, Billy almost completely refrained from covering the big pop hits of the British Invasion era, the only exception here re­presented by the Dave Clark 5's ʽGlad All Overʼ — he might have been quite bitter at all those whippersnappers outshining him in droves. But what can you do: with the Beatles and the Stones at the front of the movement, professional singers were pushed back by singer-songwriters, and since Billy no longer writes his own material here, or, when he does, strictly adheres to the reci­pés of corporate crooners, sulking ain't gonna help matters none.

Still, there is no denying that Billy was a fairly decent chameleon. Elvis was his main, but not on­ly role model. He could have his way with smooth vocal jazz (ʽBegin The Beguineʼ), could inject the required subtle slyness into a Jerry Lee Lewis song (ʽBreak Upʼ), could stir up the soul on an R&B classic (ʽWhat Am I Living For?ʼ). He just never really took it to the very top — and this is where he fails, because in the long run, nobody needs one guy scoring a bunch of B's when one can have instead several different guys, each one scoring one A.

Anyway, as long as this whole compilation stretches out, there are no unjustly forgotten classics here, but fans of strong, reliable British vocal cords set to family-entertainment-level arrange­ments will find a lot to heartily nostalgize to. And oh yes, the first disc actually ends with Billy's last recorded track — ʽForget Himʼ, recorded in the early 1980s (yes, synthesizers and elec­tronic drums are included) and released already after his death in January 1983, at the awfully young age of 42. For the record, the song shows that Billy's music remained loyal to cheesy atmosphere until the very end, but also that his vocal power stayed with him for all that time (although the singing does seem a little thinner, probably due to health problems).

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