Album no. 62/1001
According to wikipedia, Fred Neil did not achieve commercial success as a performer, and is mainly known through other people’s recordings of his material. The poor bloke. Still, he wrote ‘Everybody’s Talkin’, so he probably picked up some sweet cash.
Fred also gets called a ‘pioneer’ folk musician, though he also wrote songs for early rock’n’rollers like Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison. He’s cited as an influence on Crosby Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell, Tim Buckley and a number of other names among the folk-rock brigade. His voice is better than this introduction might lead you to believe, and if you like tremolo on your guitar you’ll eat this up.
Have you listened to this album before?
CL: No. Sounds dodgy though. Maybe that’s because I keep associating him with Fred Nile – that Christian Democratic Party guy. I’m SURE there’s no relation. Sorry Fred, I’ll try to go in with an open mind.
NK: Never heard of the bloke. Track one is called ‘The Dolphins’, so I’m not full of confidence.
CL: I’m getting a bit of a Nick Cave vibe on ‘The Dolphins’ – which is certainly not a bad thing. Unfortunately it then turns into a bit of a country-vibe, which absolutely is a bad thing. I think the standout has to be ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ – I HATE the Harry Nilsson cover, like I really do not like that song AT ALL, but I tell you what though, this absolutely shits on that version. This is the original and the best, clearly.
NK: Some of the tracks are more country than others, but that influence is definitely there. I like his voice a lot! I agree that ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ is probably the best song, but I also like ‘Sweet Cocaine’ and ‘Green Rocky Road’. My favourite? ‘I’ve Got A Secret (Didn’t We Shake Sugaree)’. Couldn’t tell you why, but it’s really fun. Do I prefer the songs that are less country than some of the others? Maybe I do, what of it? Something I found really interesting that probably nobody else will: Fred is credited as the writer of ‘Sweet Cocaine’ even though it’s just a different version of the same song old mate Jack Elliot sang. Jack Elliot was credited as the writer there, so I AM SUSPICIOUS.
When would be the best time to listen to this?
CL: This album really reminded me a lot of Ray Price’s only decent song ‘Night Life’ – it might’ve been because of Fred’s booming baritone, but I think the guitar sounds pretty similar too.
NK: I can see the comparison with Ray for sure, and I would repeat my comparison with Richard Hawley here as well, in the arrangements as well as the voice. Fred has a great voice, have I mentioned that? If he was singing sadder songs I think he might have really made it. Obviously they sang different songs, but on a first listen he’s not too far from Johnny Cash.
Why has this album been included on the list?
CL: It’s an interesting combination of different things I suppose. But, I wouldn’t say it’s anything outrageously innovative.
NK: I’m guessing it’s his influence on folk rock, and I’m not sure we should be handing out any awards for giving that genre a leg-up. His voice is great and I really like the guitar sound, but his songs don’t stack up to some of the stuff we’ve been listening to recently. Sorry Fred.
Will you be listening again?
CL: Nah, I don’t think so. It’s just not my jams.
NK: Yes. I am intrigued and I am not quite sure why.