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Billy Fury

in Reissues

Billy Fury – Wondrous Place – The Brits Are Rocking, Vol.2

Billy Fury

Bear Family Records – BCD17583
Gonna Type A Letter – Baby How I Cried – Comin‘ Up In The World – Wondrous Place – Don‘t Leave Me This Way – Colette – Keep Away – Running Around – Bumble Bee – Nothin‘ Shakin‘ (But The Leaves On A Tree) – My Advice – Don‘t Say It‘s Over – Unchain My Heart – Sticks And Stones – Twist Kid – Push Push – Baby Come On – What Did I Do – If I Lose You – One Kiss – Play It Cool – Sweet Little Little Sixteen – Don‘t Knock Upon My Door – That‘s Love – Don‘t Jump – Tell Me How Do You Feel – Talkin‘ In My Sleep – I‘d Never Find Another You – I‘m Moving On – It‘s You I Need – Phone Call – Turn My Back On You – Alright, Goodbye – You‘re Having The Last Dance With Me

After Tommy Steele, the second volume of this series is deservedly dedicated to Ronald Wycherley, better known as Billy Fury. I personally hold “the Sound of Fury” as one of the best pieces of Rockabilly ever recorded. Billy Fury had it all, the look, the voice, and above all, he could write his own songs (and he was good at that!). This 34-song collection focuses on Fury’s most upbeat material and avoids the hits and the well-known songs like “Halfway to Paradise” or “Maybe Tomorrow” (which is a good thing if you ask me.)
To compose a varied compilation, Bear Family chose to present the songs randomly, but for this review, we’ll take them chronologically in the order of the recording sessions.
“Gonna Type Me a Letter” was originally the b-side of Maybe Tomorrow. It’s a solid rocker, though the typewriter gimmick can be slightly annoying.
Asked about his influences, Fury answered, “I was most of all an Eddie Cochran fan. I was an Elvis Presley fan second, and then I liked Dion.” If you can, without a doubt, hear some of the latter two throughout this collection, “Don’t Knock Upon My Door” is pure Cochran.
“Colette” was obviously written with the Everly Brothers in mind. “On Baby How I Cried,” a plaintive ballad, his voice channels the best of Gene Vincent while the Vernon Girls enhance the performance with their backing vocals. “Turn My Back On You,” recorded during the same session, is a pure Rockabilly masterpiece and will appear on “The Sound of Fury.” Eight out of ten songs of that essential album are included here. From the Buddy Holly tinged “My Advice” to the bluesy “Phone Call,” those songs are worth the price of that compilation alone. They also benefit from the superb guitar work of Joe Brown. For the anecdote, Andy White, the session drummer, is best remembered for having replaced Ringo Star during the recording of “Love Me Do” (and he also married Lyn Cornell one of the Vernon Girls.) Also, since the art of the slap bass was yet to be discovered in Albion, two basses were used: one electric bass to play the notes and an acoustic to record the slap.
In June 1960, Billy Fury cut his masterpiece, Wondrous Place, an eerie ballad with sparse backing, sounding like a mix between Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Crawfish.” Even more provocative, listen to that breath just before he drops ‘Wondrous Place.’ Bear Family made an excellent choice by including the first version rather than over-arranged one recorded in 1963.
By comparison, “Push Push” with its semi Calypso beat seems pale while “You’re having the Last Dance With Me” adds nothing to the glory of Fury.
Penned by Gene Pitney, “Talkin’ In My Sleep” brings a little more blues, and “Comin’ Up In The World” offers a superb contrast between the singer’s voice and the screaming sax.
Backed by a Duane Eddy sounding twangy guitar and an ethereal female vocal at the right moment, “Don’t Jump” is a splendid melodramatic tune. “I’d Never Find Another You” is another highlight thanks to Billy, of course, but also to the arranger who kept it simple despite the presence of strings. Just compare to Paul Anka’s version to see how a poor arrangement can waste a good song. From the same session comes “If I Lose You,” a soulful ballad that shows the other side of Fury’s voice, the rough one.
The next pair of songs, both written by Norie Paramor, are far less successful. On “Play It Cool,” the mix between strings and Rock’n’Roll doesn’t work very well, whereas “the Twist Kid” proves that even Fury couldn’t turn lead to gold.
The Presley-esque “Running Around” finds him in better form with a song more suited to his voice. “One Kiss” sees him returning to his idol Eddie Cochran, in a laid back jazzy manner.
“On Keep Away” and “What Did I Do,” the singer is backed by the Tornadoes of “Telstar” fame. The former shows the inspiration of Elvis’ “Stuck On You.”
After a session without the Tornadoes to record Laverne Baker’s “Bumble Bee,” the band returns to record the live-in-the-studio album “We Want Billy.” Five songs are lifted from that album (Sweet Little Sixteen, Baby Come On, Sticks and Stones, Unchain My Heart, and I’m Moving On.) The singer is wild and more rhythm ‘n’ blues than ever, and the Tornadoes are excellent throughout.
“Tell Me How do You Feel,” recorded in 1963, continues with the rhythm ‘n’ blues vein with organ, sax, and a trumpet solo.
The compilation ends with “Nothing Shaking (But The Leaves On The Tree)” on which one can hear some Mersey echoes.
As usual with Bear Family, it comes with a thick 40-page booklet containing photos, informative liner notes, record covers, and detailed sessions. Highly recommended.
The next artist in the series will be King Size Taylor & The Dominoes.

Available here.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Tommy Steele

in Reissues

Tommy Steele – Doomsday Rock – The Brits are Rockin’ vol. 1

Tommy Steele

Bear Family BCD17581
Rock Around The Town – Giddy-Up A Ding Dong – Teenage Party (LP version) – The Trial – Tallahassee Lassie – Give! Give! Give! – Build Up – Knee Deep In The Blues – Rock With The Caveman – Take Me Back, Baby – Time To Kill – Hair-Down Hoe-Down – Swaller Tail Coat – Drunken Guitar – Kaw-Liga – Elevator Rock – Grandad’s Rock – Puts The Lightie On – On The Move – Cannibal Pot – Hollerin’ And Screamin’ – (The Girl With The) Long Black Hair – Rebel Rock – Two Eyes – Hey You – Happy Go Lucky Blues – Singing The Blues – Butterfly – Doomsday Rock – Razzle Dazzle – Come On Let’s Go – Honky Tonk Blues – Young Love – You Gotta Go

2019 saw Bear Family launching a new series called The Brits are Rockin’ dedicated to the British pioneers of the ’50s.
They couldn’t choose a better artist than Tommy Steele (real name Tommy Hicks) to begin this series with. If he wasn’t the best nor the most rocking, Steele was one of the first – if not the first – and he had a strong British identity to boot. Above all, unlike Tony Crombie, who was already 30 when he jumped on the Rock’n’roll bandwagon, Steele was a teenager singing for the teenagers.
Steele began his musical career by singing Hank Williams tunes and playing guitar various bands. George Martin signed him. He later recalled: “We sat with our coffee and watched this genial young man bounce on to the stage with his guitar over his pelvis, and my immediate impression was that he was a blond cardboard imitation of Elvis Presley. Tommy had a lot of energy, but he didn’t sound too great.
Fortunately for the young lad, people at Decca saw some potential in Tommy and, following his test audition, they almost immediately signed him. Two days later, Steele was in the recording studio to cut his debut single “Rockin’ with the Caveman / Rock Around the Town.”
This 34-song/71 minute compilation album spans the years 1956 to 1960. It shows how versatile Steele was, playing styles as various as pop-tinged stuff, country and western, novelty songs, and more. But, of course, the most exciting songs, were his Rock’n’roll sides. Steele was a credible rocker, and tunes like Teenage Party, Rock With the Caveman, Doomsday Rock, Two Eyes are small classics. This album also proposes good live versions of Freddie Bell’s Giddy Up Ding Dong and Haley’s Razzle Dazzle and the weird and Link Wray sounding semi-instrumental Drunken Guitar.
At first, I was surprised that the songs were not in chronological order, but it happened to be a good idea. It avoids the problem of too many compilations, especially when they are copious like this one, to have ten solid rockin’ tracks at the beginning and, as the years pass, you find mellower material. This is not the case with this compilation, which alternates styles and paces as well as studio and live recordings.
As usual with Bear Family, it comes with a 40-page booklet richly illustrated, though, for some reason, there’s no sessionography.
This album definitely proves that the Brits, and Tommy Steele, could easily rock like their American counterparts.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long series.

Available on Bear Family’s website

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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