Fred Neil is probably most familiar as the writer of Everybody’s Talkin’, the song from Midnight Cowboy which was a smash hit for Harry Nilsson. Some folk might recall other songs from his heyday as perhaps the premier singer/songwriter of Greenwich village in the wake of Dylan while some might know that Neil just about retired from music in the seventies to spend his time on dolphin conservation in Florida, playing live occasionally in Coconut Grove. Neil died in 2001 but his reputation grows and this tribute album, featuring many who knew him, is a fine salute to the man.
The album was initially conceived by Jim Wurster who first saw Neil playing in Coconut Grove with Eric Anderson and Rick Danko and was smitten by Neil’s songs and presence. He’s gathered a fine assembly of artists from Florida and also managed to get the likes of Rodney Crowell, Eric Anderson, John Sebastian and Arlan Feiles to pitch in and the result is a finely varied collection of Neil songs, all worth hearing and hopefully an invite to listen to the man himself.
The artists delve into all the corners of Neil’s music. Blues on Crowell’s sly delivery of Candyman, the hard stomping Everything Happens from Diane Ward and Jack Shawde and the stripped back acoustic ramble of Vince Martin’s Handful Of Gimme. There’s the Village folk troubadour on Valerie C Firecracker’s excellent rendition of Bleeker & MacDougal and Bobby Ingram gives us a grand rendition of A Little Bit Of Rain while Arlan Feiles’ Be-De-Da shares an umbilical connection with Neil’s original giving one a true intimation of Neil’s delivery. Charlie Pickett rocks out on The Other Side Of This Life recalling the Jefferson Airplane version and Neil’s influence on Tim Buckley is plain to hear on I’ve Got A Secret, performed here by The 18 Wheelers.
Keith Sykes gets the flagship title song and he goes more for the Nilsson version and very nice it is too. Meanwhile, Neil’s other major song, Dolphins, is offered two slots opening and closing the disc. The first is from Eric Anderson (with John Sebastian on guitars and harmonica) and it’s a suitably respectful performance imbued with a sixties sounding delivery while Anderson’s baritone voice recalls that of Neil’s. The closing version, from Matthew Sabatella and Diane Ward, sounds more contemporary, the pair swapping verses and harmonising as the band come across somewhat like Mazzy Star.
As tribute albums go this is a fine affair which gives you a whiff of the main man’s work. On a nice note, net proceeds from sales are going to Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, a project founded back in 1970 by O’Barry, Stephen Stills and Fred Neil. On a more intriguing note, Neil first befriended O’Barry when the latter was a trainer for the dolphins used in the television show Flipper. It’s weird to think that a show we watched as kids might have led to a song as awesome as Dolphins but then it’s a funny old world.
No Depression have a fine article about the album you can read here.