Billy Nicholls

Would You Believe

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Billy Nicholls' stillborn 1968 album does indeed recall the Beach Boys' 1966-19 67 era, not just due to Nicholls' melodies and high, versatile vocals, but also the production of Andrew Oldham, an avowed fan of Phil Spector and Pet Sounds. Although very attractive, however, the songs and production do not have the depth and emotional resonance of Pet Sounds. This is not a knock; Nicholls was very young at the time, after all, and it's hard to match Brian Wilson, though Oldham pulled out a bunch of tricks with baroque keyboards, tasteful brass, and airy multi-part harmonies. As with the Oldham-produced cuts done by Del Shannon in the same era, the deftly elaborate L.A.-meets-London semi-Wall of Sound is more impressive than the pretty but often rather slight material. It's still a pleasurable listen, with the more acoustic and darker "Come Again" slightly foreshadowing the kind of sound Pete Townshend would employ on much of Who Came First, and "Girl from New York" (with Steve Marriott on lead guitar) going for a gutsier British rock vibe. The CD reissue (on the Immediate imprint, but actually put out by the British reissue label Sequel) includes mono single versions of "Would You Believe?" and "Daytime Girl" as bonus tracks.

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