Saturday, December 15, 2012

11. Bill Fay - Life is People (Dead Oceans)

"Did you see him walk on water?” Thus Ian MacDonald, in an only slightly less than serious frame of mind, recalled a typical question from fans of Nick Drake, many years after the singer’s death in 1974, when MacDonald (who himself was to die tragically in 2003, following a prolonged period of depression) told them he had known Drake during undergraduate days at Cambridge. Later in the essay, ‘Exiled from Heaven: The Unheard Message of Nick Drake’, to be found in the collection The People’s Music, MacDonald observed that sometimes “it’s as if Drake is half-asleep, daydreaming of something on the spiritual threshold of the material world”. Nevertheless, Drake’s use of nature imagery and “haiku-like simplicity” directs MacDonald into a more focused consideration of Drake’s hybrid mystical spirituality: a conflation of Basho and Blake.

On the sleeve of his eponymous first album, originally released in 1970 and languishing almost entirely neglected until a 1998 re-issue, Bill Fay too appears to be walking on water; though, as he pointed out in his retrospective observation for the subsequent 2005 re-release, some water had lapped onto a promontory by a lake in Hyde Park and it was this that had created the illusion. As with Drake, some recent enthusiasts for Fay’s music have drawn attention to the pastoral imagery in his songs, and then gone on to offer comparisons between the two writers’ uses of language and tone. Yet Fay’s details in his word pictures are quite a distance from some of the pastel shades of Drake, and they have long deserved to be appreciated on their own terms. The acuity suggested by “On a foggy day I can see her clearly through a hole I punched in the window” is plain.

via The Line of Best Fit (read the rest there)

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