The Many Sides of Fred Neil

Fred Neil

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The Many Sides of Fred Neil Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

For many, the name Fred Neil will be familiar only as that belonging to the songwriter of the modern classic "Everybody's Talkin'," or perhaps "Candyman," "The Dolphins," or "Other Side of This Life," songs that Roy Orbison, Tim Buckley, and the Jefferson Airplane, respectively, recorded. However, Neil's influence extends much farther. John Sebastian, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Bob Dylan all claimed him as an influence, since he blended traditional and contemporary folk, blues, rock, gospel, Indian, and pop influences into a distinctive, idiosyncratic style. His music was not only influential, it was quite rich on its own terms and some of the best music of its era. Unfortunately, since Neil chose a life of seclusion in 1971, disappearing from both recording and performing, his work was neglected. Remedying the situation, The Many Sides bypasses his Elektra material, instead offering a complete summary of his Capitol recordings, including his three albums for the label (Fred Neil, Sessions, Other Side of This Life), both sides of a non-LP single with the Nashville Street Singers, and six unreleased cuts. It's a long overdue compilation and one that certainly stands as a definitive portrait of an influential and criminally underappreciated folk-rock figure. After listening to The Many Sides of Fred Neil, it makes sense that Neil turned into a recluse -- this is moody, haunting music, unlike much of the work of his contemporaries. In particular, his eponymous album boasts challenging, innovative arrangments that remain fresh and startling to this day. The rest of his work may be a little uneven in comparison, but it's frequently compelling and often matches its heights. Most importantly, The Many Sides of Fred Neil grants Neil his proper place in folk-rock history, confirming his unique vision and talent.

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