BILLY PRESTON: EARLY HITS OF '65 (1965)
1) You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'; 2) Eight Days A Week; 3) Downtown; 4) Goldfinger; 5) My Girl; 6) Go Now; 7) Ferry Across The Mersey; 8) Shotgun; 9) Stop! In The Name Of Love; 10) King Of The Road; 11) The Birds And The Bees; 12) Can't You Hear My Heartbeat.
Not much to say here: as far as I can tell, most or all of these songs were recorded during the same session that yielded Exciting Organ, so this is a same-style companion album that is often called a «compilation» — a strange definition, considering that only a few of these titles seem to have been released as singles. In any case, it was an original Vee-Jay LP, re-released on CD thirty years later, and it functions as part of Billy's legacy, so here you are.
The «hits», of course, are not Billy's, but other people's — he runs a relatively short gamut here, mostly contemporary Motown material (ʽMy Girlʼ; Junior Walker's ʽShotgunʼ, etc.), interspersed with a few oddities, such as a Beatles cover and the latest Bond song. Since Billy's own compositions are rather slack as far as thematic hooks are concerned, this is not a big problem, and in terms of capturing the «spirits» of the originals, he consistently does a very good job — that organ captures everything, be it the warm romance of Smokey Robinson, the classy seductiveness of Diana Ross, or the desperate praying of Denny Laine.
Even ʽEight Days A Weekʼ works a fine charm — in subtle ways, finer than the original, since Billy, being careful to preserve each vocal note, embellishes them with quirky little flourishes on the sides, coming out with something more complex and less predictable than Lennon / McCartney's original creation (which was great, but lacked development — once you had your verse, chorus, and middle-eight, the rest of the song was exactly the same; for Billy, a bare transposition to organ would have been too boring).
The biggest problem is with the choice of material — about half of these songs weren't too great in the first place (I mean, ʽThe Birds And The Bees?ʼ, really?), and I don't quite manage to see the «fun» in producing all these arrangements. Maybe an entire record's worth of Beatles covers (they did have enough popular hits by late 1964 to stuff a 12-song LP, didn't they?) could have been a better idea: in any case, ʽEight Days A Weekʼ sitting next to ʽGoldfingerʼ does give a fairly accurate snapshot of the era, which wasn't exactly overpopulated with pop-rock masterpieces, but doesn't function so well by way of general enjoyment. (Unless you really dig Hammond organ encoding of Dame Shirley Bassey's acoustics).