Fred Neil is not exactly a household name - but that's the way he wanted it. Fabulously talented, he gave up the bright lights and the lure of fame and fortune in New York for a simple life of swimming with dolphins in Florida. But among musicians he's something of a legend.
One of the early pioneers of the folk-blues revival of the 1960s, his songs are better known for their versions by other artists: Roy Orbison ('Candy man'), Jefferson Airplane ('The other side of this life') and most famously the beautifully atmospheric 'Everybody's talking at me', a huge hit for Nilsson in 1969.
Neil's influence on 60s music cannot be underestimated, which is why he was held in such high esteem by musicians of the period. He was also highly supportive on aspiring young musicians: people such as Bob Dylan (who backed Neil on harmonica at gigs), David Crosby of the Byrds and John Sebastian (the future Lovin' Spoonful frontman plays harmonica on this album).
This album, his first solo album (he had previously recorded one as a duo with Vince Martin), was released in 1965. It is mostly acoustic folk-blues, but is definitely not a 'folk-blues' album. It is authentically Fred Neil. He wrote all the songs (except one), and even those with a traditional blues theme feel autobiographical.
"I was standing at the corner of Bleecker & MacDougal wondering which way to go
I've got a woman down in Coconut Grove and I know she loves me so
I wanna go home"
In fact, it could be argued that this is the first ever singer-songwriter album.
There isn't a poor track on this album. Neil has a deep, rich and warm voice that doesn't need the music to carry it. The traditional 'The water is wide' with its sparse and slightly jazzy arrangement is one of the most exquisite songs in popular music. Even after all these years listening to it gives me goosebumps.
This is an essential album if you have any interest in folk, blues, or folk-rock (so many West Coast bands have their roots in folk-rock: the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, etc); if you love bands such as the Lovin Spoonful; also if you wonder where the singer-songerwriter genre started; and if you just love great music. Buy it, love it and keep the legend alive.