Fred Neil

Echoes of My Mind: The Best of 1963-1971

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The reclusive and enigmatic Fred Neil really didn't care one hoot about the machinations of the music business, and while it is tempting to compare him to someone like Nick Drake, whose bouts with depression kept him away from the limelight, it would appear Neil suffered instead from a severe case of personal and creative sanity, an ailment extremely rare in the industry. His recorded output really only spanned eight years, from 1963 to 1971, the period covered by this fine single-disc anthology from Raven Records, and although he did occasional live shows thereafter, for all practical purposes Neil dropped off the face of the earth after the release of the piecemeal Other Side of This Life album in 1971. While it is difficult to look at Neil's self-abbreviated recording legacy and not have a strong sense that things are incomplete, the quality of his output, particularly as a songwriter, is extremely high. He wrote "Candy Man," a B-side hit in 1961 for Roy Orbison, and "Everybody's Talkin'," a huge success in 1969 for Harry Nilsson, and penned such gorgeous songs as "The Dolphins," "Little Bit of Rain," and the brutally straight-eyed and honest "Other Side of This Life." Neil's versions of all of these are included in this compilation, which wisely draws most of its material from 1965's Bleecker & MacDougal and 1967's Fred Neil, with a handful of tracks from his 1964 album with Vince Martin, Tear Down the Walls; 1968's Sessions; and 1971's Other Side of This Life; plus the live take of Neil and Gram Parsons performing "Ya Don't Miss Your Water" that closes the set. The result is a career-spanning retrospective that is remarkable for its consistency of tone, and while 1998's double-disc The Many Sides of Fred Neil on Collectors' Choice gets the nod for quantity, it lacks any tracks from Neil's fine Elektra debut, Bleecker & MacDougal, which means Echoes of My Mind tells a more complete story. Everything you really need is here.

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