Fred Neil - Bleecker & MacDougal (1965)
192 kbps mp3 | 50 mb zip-file | covers included
192 kbps mp3 | 50 mb zip-file | covers included
Moody, bluesy, and melodic, Fred Neil was one of the most compelling folk-rockers to emerge from Greenwich Village in the mid-'60s. His albums showcased his extraordinarily low, rich voice on intensely personal and reflective compositions, sounding like a cross between Tim Buckley and Tim Hardin. His influence was subtle but significant; before forming the Lovin' Spoonful, John Sebastian played harmonica on Neil's first album, which also featured guitarist Felix Pappalardi, who went on to produce Cream. The Jefferson Airplane featured Neil's "Other Side of This Life" prominently in their concerts, and dedicated a couple of songs ("Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" and "House at Pooneil Corner") to him. On the B-side of "Crying" is Neil's "Candy Man," one of Roy Orbison's bluesiest efforts. Stephen Stills has mentioned Neil as an influence on his guitar playing. Most famously, Harry Nilsson took Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" into the Top Ten as the theme to the movie Midnight Cowboy.
For all his tangential influence, Neil himself remained an enigmatic, mysterious figure. His recorded output was formidable but sparse. During 1964 he recorded as a duo with Vince Martin, which yielded an album for Elektra, Tear Down the Walls. His drumless solo debut, Bleecker & MacDougal (which did have additional instruments), ranked as one of the best efforts from the era in which folk was just beginning its transition to folk-rock. The
bluesiest of his albums, it contained some of his best songs, including "Little Bit of Rain," "Other Side of This Life," and "Candy Man." His true peak was his follow-up, Fred Neil, which made a full transition to electric instruments. Less bluesy in tenor, it featured "Everybody's Talkin'," as well as an equal gem in "The Dolphins."
Neil's subsequent slide into obscurity was strange and quick. Sessions, from 1968, was a much more casual and slapdash affair that included some instrumental jamming. Always a recluse, he retreated to his home in Coconut Grove, FL, after achieving cult success, and didn't release anything after a live album in 1971. His obscurity was enforced by an absence of domestic compact-disc reissues of his best work, a situation rectified with a superb best-of compilation by Collectors' Choice and the 2001 reissue of Tear Down the Walls/Bleecker & MacDougal by Elektra. He continued to play, but only for those close to him. Neil, ill with cancer, unexpectedly passed on July 7, 2001, at his home in Florida.
Bleecker and MacDougal
Given the late Fred Neil's near mythic reputation as a songwriter, singer, environmentalist, and recluse, the reissue of his 1965 album Bleecker & MacDougal is of historic importance. But rather than being an artifact of the man who wrote "Everybody's Talkin'," "Other Side to This Life" (which appears here), and "Dolphins," this album is made of the material that gave Neil his enigmatic presence. This is a highly evocative and emotionally charged set of material, nearly all of which Neil composed. The lineup on the album was similar to his previous outing with Vince Martin, and featured John Sebastian on harmonica, Felix Pappalardi on bass, and guitarist Pete Childs (who also played dobro and electric on the date – the latter was heresy for a folk record), with Neil playing 12-string. The pace of the set is devastating, from the greasy blues of the title track to the strolling darkness of "Blues on the Ceiling," the jug band stomp of "Sweet Mama," and the balladic heraldry of "Little Bit of Rain," a dynamic Tim Buckley would bring his own magic to as he emulated it a few years later. In addition, there's the tough Chicago blues meets California swagger of "Country Boy," which Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield would perfect two scant years later. "Other Side to This Life" is its own elegiac painting in sound, with glistening dirge-like textures caressed by Neil's baritone. The tough, battered "Travelin' Shoes" is an early example of folk-rock with a big accent on the word "rock." Yet, on the album's lone cover, a gorgeously wrought and multi-textured rendition of "The Water Is Wide," Neil added spare, haunting jazz overtones to the arrangements, transcending the folk coffeehouse prison the song had been encased in for a decade. In fact, if one listens to Bryter Layter by Nick Drake, it would be easy to hear the connection. The album closes with the winding dobro that sparks "Gone Again," underlining the album's feeling of rambling transience and willful acceptance of both the graces and hardships life offers. In 13 songs, Neil transformed the folk genre into something wholly other yet not unfamiliar to itself, and helped pave the way for an entire generation of singer/songwriters who cared as much for the blues as they did for folk revival traditions. This is – more so than his fine compilation The Many Sides of Fred Neil (also on Collector's Choice) or his debut Capitol album, Tear Down the Walls – the Fred Neil record to have.