Freddie North

What Are You Doing to Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings Plus

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Freddie North belongs to a group of singers who perhaps never got the break they deserved. A native of Nashville, he made his living as a demo singer in the '60s, singing as many country tunes as soul, eventually working his way into a staff job as a promoter at Nashboro Records. By 1967, that turned into a recording deal for A-Bet, a soul subsidiary of Nashboro. Ace's 2017 compilation What Are You Doing to Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings Plus gathers all of the singles he cut for the label between 1967 and 1970, adding a clutch of recordings he made between 1973 and 1975 for the Mankind label. What's missing are his hit singles, "She's All I Got" and "You and Me Together Forever," an odd choice considering there has been no previous North comp until this point. Despite these omissions, What Are You Doing to Me does an effective job of illustrating North's gossamer skills. The supple Southern grooves -- always simmering, even when the tempos escalate (which they rarely do) -- provide an effective bed for North's warm, unhurried delivery. As a former demo singer, he knows how to sell a song, always keeping both the melody and lyric at the forefront. The only drawback to this approach is sometimes North can come across as a bit generic, a Brook Benton or Jerry Butler without as strong a charisma -- a deficiency brought into sharp relief by his perfectly fine but not especially memorable version of Tony Joe White's "Rainy Night in Georgia." Still, his voice is rich and welcoming and the 23 tracks on the compilation have some period charms, right on down to how the post-A-Bet sides carry some flair borrowed from Al Green's smooth Hi rhythms.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:18
2 3:42
3 4:34
4 4:22
5 3:02
6 2:53
7 2:42
8 3:06
9 3:10
10 2:51
11 2:06
12 2:40
13 2:53
14 3:20
15 2:56
16 2:56
17 3:43
18 2:14
19 2:38
20 3:40
21 3:06
22 4:08
23 3:25
blue highlight denotes track pick