In many ways it’s a miracle that Tomorrow Tomorrow and Tomorrow ever saw the light of day. Ever since making a couple of decent albums in the early 70s and then splitting with his label, Bill Fay remained resolutely independent, continuing to write and record music on his own.
It was only in 2005 that long-time fan David Tibet took it upon himself to give Fay’s lost third album a proper release. Recorded between 1978 and 1981, T T and T (as it shall henceforth be called) sounds like nothing else from that period. Yes, there are more than a few cheesy synths, but Fay’s introspection, melancholy and constant questioning gives the album a greater significance.
While it’s pretty difficult to identify with Fay himself given his tendency to see things in abstract form, at times the gorgeous atmophere he creates works a charm. Strange Stairway is a prime example of this, recalling Paul McCartney at his most effortless, fragile and lilting. Even the synths suit the song perfectly, which can’t be said for the otherwise excellent mini-epic Planet Earth Daytime.
Other reviewers have described Fay as a wannabe Dylan who can’t hold a note. This is of course ridiculously unfair, but in Goodnight Stan he does rather come across as a plaintive Robert Zimmerman, particularly in the rising tones at the end of some words. The title track is a real standout, partly because Fay sounds more at peace than ever before and partly through the effortlessly simple piano.
I understand why the label included a series of fragments – after all, this collection isn’t really designed for newcomers. I’m not exactly sure why they bundled them all together though – in the middle of the album no less – which causes some of the flow to be lost. There’s no doubting the quality of the songwriting though, especially the Syd Barrett clone Sam (“How are you Sam?” “Very well thank you I am”) and the short fuzzy (through tape deterioration) goodness of Turning The Pages.
There are more than a few missteps as you might expect: the unfortunately named Love Is The Tune was a bad time for Fay to go hideously out of tune, and only a hardcore fan will ever see the merits of a song like Jericho Road. Towards the end of the album, Fay turns rather existential, as titles like Life “(Who are we? Where do we stand?”) and Man attest to, and this slows the album right down almost to a standstill.
There are however plenty of moments of sheer beauty to counterbalance the times when Fay gets too bogged down in his own thoughts to pay much attention to the melody. If you take the best 12 cuts (i.e. most of the first half), it’s the perfect Sunday afternoon album. Let’s just hope that the next Bill Fay record doesn’t take another 34 years.