Though revered as an influential singer-songwriter, Fred Neil is best known for other people’s recordings of his work, particularly Harry Nilsson’s 1969 Top-10 hit “Everybody’s Talkin’”. With that in mind, it makes sense that, before he gravitated to the Greenwich Village folk scene, Neil worked in the hits-for-hire hive the Brill Building. The Neil originals salvaged from these half-dozen hard-to-find 45s, cut between 1957 and 1961, and all in a pop/country/rockabilly vein, might just as easily (and more successfully) have gone to established stars. With its multi-tracked vocals, the peppy “Listen Kitten” seemed better suited to the Everly Brothers, while the syrupy “Secret Secret” yearns for placement in a Connie Francis flick. While consistently strong, Neil’s performances are likewise mercurial, failing to shed much light on his own aesthetic. Still, like Carol King’s pre-Tapestry solo sides for Dimension, these selections offer a nifty glimpse at how his pop craftsmanship would help pay greater dividends later on.
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