BILLY FURY: HALFWAY TO PARADISE (1961)
1) Halfway To Paradise; 2) Don't Worry; 3) You're Having The Last Dance With Me; 4) Push Push; 5) Fury's Tune; 6) Talkin' In My Sleep; 7) Stick Around; 8) A Thousand Stars; 9) Cross My Heart; 10) Comin' Up In The World; 11) He Will Break Your Heart; 12) Would You Stand By Me.
This marks the end of Fury's transition from «wannabe-rocker» into the «lite entertainment» category: the cover of Goffin & King's ʽHalfway To Paradiseʼ, originally recorded by Tony Orlando, sent him to the top of the charts, lost him a squadron of devoted hardcore fans but gained an army of newly evolved softcore ones. But was he really to blame? The British Elvis, after all, had to follow in the footsteps of the American one, and now that the real Elvis, back from the army, was softening up his act, the UK shadow had to follow suit — no serious alternatives. «Guitar bands are on their way out», after all.
Even worse, Billy is no longer willing to (or allowed to) write his own songs — apart from a little semi-nostalgic, semi-comic number (ʽFury's Tuneʼ), a folk-poppy ditty where he amuses himself by quoting as many titles of his own past hits as possible. Everything else is just stuff by contemporary US and UK professional songwriters, writing for the lite-pop scene: I mostly do not recognize the titles, other than ʽYou're Having The Last Dance With Meʼ, which, for some reason, invents new lyrics for the recent Ben E. King classic ʽSave The Last Dance For Meʼ.
Still, if you have nothing against early 1960s «soft-rock» per se, Halfway To Paradise is as nice and elegant a ride back into the epoch as anything. There is only one syrupy, orchestrated ballad, floating along at a slow waltz tempo (ʽA Thousand Starsʼ); most of the rest is upbeat, catchy pop with occasional echoes of blues and R'n'B, and if only the arrangements were relying a little less on keyboards, strings, and girlie harmonies, than on a well-recorded guitar sound, the whole thing could have been a cool, tasteful example of pre-Beatles pop.
For starters, ʽHalfway To Paradiseʼ, want it or not, is a Carole King classic (perfect melody resolution and all), and Billy, with his Elvis-like style, does a grittier, less manneristic job with it than Tony Orlando. Then there's some piano-led country-pop stuff like ʽDon't Worryʼ and ʽTalkin' In My Sleepʼ (imagine Elvis guest singing lead on a Jerry Lee Lewis album from his «country» period, but do remember to dim the lights a little — this is Billy, after all, not Elvis or Jerry), some bossa nova influences (ʽHe Will Break Your Heartʼ), some further cuddlifying of the sentimental approach of Buddy Holly (ʽStick Aroundʼ)... nothing jaw-dropping, that is, but still a respectably diverse bag of styles, created with a modicum of intelligence, arranged with a big nod to catchiness, and, for the most part, delivered without any signs of overt «sweetening» or theatrical exaggeration.
Of course, all of it is way too smooth — the addition of even a single track that would have a faint hint at going a little deeper (such as ʽWondrous Placeʼ) would have helped a lot, but no dice. Still, this is just the kind of album that would get one of those «slanted» thumbs up — mildly pleasant, «average» with a positive-rather-than-negative shade, etc. Historically, it helped make Billy a national star while at the same time forever burying his hopes of artistic growth — but the same could, indeed, be said about Elvis' early 1960s records, and we do still enjoy them from time to time. Seems like there is more to life than artistic growth, after all.
Check "Halfway To Paradise" (MP3) on Amazon