Oakland singer Freddie Hughes had just one taste of national success, the 1968 Top 20 R&B hit "Send My Baby Back," which naturally served as the title track for his LP that same year. The brief long player was dominated by material generated by Hughes and producer Lonnie Hewitt, also including a couple Motown covers and, as an oddball highlight, a reworking of Aretha Franklin's hit "Natural Woman" from the male perspective, here retitled "Natural Man." Though not particularly outstanding or original, it's a decent batch of relatively obscure but mainstream-sounding late-'60s soul. Hughes offers solid midtempo romantic songs, such as "Send My Baby Back," spotlighting his rich upper-register voice, which can slightly recall the Temptations' Eddie Kendricks or Eddie Holman. The full production often utilizes forceful background vocals, Hughes getting into a jazzier mood on "We Gotta Keep On" and a dark (for him) one on "He's No Good," which liberally borrows a horn riff from "Dancing in the Street." The 2010 CD reissue on Ace functions almost as a comprehensive overview of Hughes' '60s work, adding no less than 14 bonus tracks, including the 1968 single "Love Can't Be Understood"/"My Baby Came Back"; a couple earlier singles he did as part of the Casanova Two; yet earlier mid-'60s singles and outtakes he cut in as part of the Soul Brothers; and a 1964 single by the Music City All Stars on which he sang. These, too, largely echo the soul-pop sounds sweeping through the R&B world in those years, with Hughes' vocals contrasted in the Casanova Two by the deeper and gruffer ones of Wylie Trass, producing a sound not as sweet as Motown or as gritty as Stax (and quite reminiscent of the Impressions on "We Got to Keep On"). A slightly slicker, poppier approach is heard on the Soul Brothers sides, and the Music All Stars' "Do the Philly" gets into the dance craze style. Alec Palao's detailed liner notes, with plenty of memories from Hughes, ties the singer's complicated odyssey together.
Send My Baby Back Review
by Richie Unterberger