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Thursday 23 March 2023

Billy Sullivan "Paper Dreams" a Review...

For those of you who've been reading the site for years now you'll know that The Spitfires were a band I was always fully behind and last year's final gig was one that will go down in folklore for some years to come. A band who weren't fully appreciated by those in "The Biz" but who were the most hardworking group of lads I've ever met. They toured relentlessly, up and down the U.K. and even across the continent. Their output for a largely unsigned band was phenomenal, five studio albums in just under seven years is a feat that even the most experienced of musicians will not manage across their careers let alone in under ten years! The Spits were constantly spearheaded by charismatic frontman Billy Sullivan a forward thinking, pioneer who strives for the best and nothing but! The ashes had barley settled on The Spitfires's departure when news of Sullivan's solo career began to spread across the socials. I had an inkling that something was brewing from just knowing Bill over the best part of ten years. From the ashes of The Spitfires "Paper Dreams" Billy's debut solo record was born and once again it's propelled the Watford wordsmith into a whole new direction...

"Paper Dreams" doesn't hold back, it throws it all at you with album opener, "Running Out Of Time" almost a metaphor for Sullivan's desire and urgency to get his solo career off to a flyer, this tune wallops you from the off with its surging chords, keys and sharp vocal. It's a stomper that isn't fucking about! The production is boss here and compliments the musicianship of the set of talented geezers Bill has backing him on this venture. The record is a kaleidoscope of sound and influence and "Don't Look Back" is a real groover that keeps the pace of the record moving forward nicely. "You find it far too hard to say, but no-one's listening anyway.." echoes across the choruses and has you foot-tapping in solidarity against the clueless puppets of the music biz and the A & R men who don't know their arses from their elbows. "Overcome" takes the record in another direction and sheds a light of positivity that shows a side to Sullivan that may wouldn't have heard before. "Hold my hand just start to run, disappear into the setting sun, coz there is nothing we can't overcome.." this really hits you and makes you want to drop everything and join Billy and co on their voyage, you'd go fucking anywhere with them after hearing this! 

One thing that really hits home about this record is the space-age production, it's magnificent and brings out all the craftsmanship in Sullivan's ever-maturing songwriting. Producer Simon Dine has worked wonders and his and Sullivan's partnership is blossoming more as each studio session reaches its conclusion. I feel "Paper Dreams" has given Billy another lease of life and his songwriting is continuing to go from strength to strength. The melancholy war cry of "Old Familiar Ways" shows Sullivan in a more reflective light and brings to the floor the hidden beauty in his songwriting which may have bee overshadowed in this past by clueless media men and A & R bods alike. The band Billy's assembled here hit all the right notes and bring out the beauty and progression in every track on the record and they're a force which I feel will continue to go from strength to strength. 

Tracks like, "The Fear" and "Carry On Like This" take you on a supersonic, psych pop journey which shows another side to Sullivan and just how many influences he's piled into this incredibly diverse, yet incredibly listenable record. "Paper Dreams" is a joy from the first note to the last and is vastly becoming one of my favourite releases along with last year's "Play For Today". "I Will Follow" is the love song most mature artists couldn't write but is expertly crafted and executed by Sullivan in the form of his life. Songs like, "I Don't Wanna Hear" are prime examples of that the guitar wielding commanding frontman you all know and love is still in there just in a new era, pushing it all forward. Billy's taken this record by the scruff of the neck and made it one that you just have to hear! It's only March and this is giving me record of the fucking year vibes just as Sir Mick Head did with last year's, "Dear Scott" 

I was lucky enough to catch Billy and the band at Sunderland's "Independent" where they, along with superb support band The Thieves, put on a gig that will live long in the memory. The songs stand up so well in a live setting and take on a whole new live sound that will propel this band and Sullivan into that category of bands and artists that you just can't ignore! It was a lump in the throat sorta moment to hear The Spitfire's "Tower Above Me" where the tones and harmonies still give me the chills. Fan favourite "4 AM" makes an appearance in the set too which is a tune which is still relevant today, hitting home that life ain't all that peachy from time to time. "Paper Dreams" is a record you have to hear, Sullivan and co have smashed it out the park, beyond the gates and knocking on the doors of the music "elite" like never before. Go and fucking buy it here! 


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In loving memory of Denise Pottinger