That’s the Bag I’m In

I’ve been on a major Fred Neil kick lately. Should make sense to anyone who knows me that I’d be into Mr. Neil, but I’ve only recently (i.e. within the past year) really made a point of looking for his music. First I found a vinyl copy of The Other Side of This Life in Milwaukee last year, which pleased me greatly. This disc was recorded live in Woodstock, New York, and features nice acoustic run-throughs of most of Neil’s best known songs (“The Dolphins,” “Everybody’s Talkin’,” “That’s the Bag I’m In,” etc.). Vince Martin, one of Neil’s long-time collaborators and a great songwriter/performer in his own right (saw him last Fall with Black Dice, oddly enough), guests, as does the late Gram Parsons.

The other day, after listening to this and most of the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack (which features Harry Nilsson’s more famous take on “Everybody’s Talkin'”), I decided I needed more Neil in my life. So I was at Mondo Kim’s, and they basically had two choices: Bleecker & MacDougal and a two-disc set called The Many Sides of Fred Neil (which includes the entirety of The Other Side of This Life on one of the discs). Remembering that my friend Josh said something once about not being so into the former, I opted for the two-disc set even though I already had some of the tunes.

So, it turns out the purchase was an excellent choice. Disc One has the entirety of the self-titled album on Capitol, which is pretty difficult to find for a good price, as well as Sessions. The self-titled starts with “The Dolphins,” which is one of my all-time favorite songs by anybody, much less a favorite by Neil. It’s kind of an amazing feat in that it manages to speak about the weariness of the world on both a macro and micro level. That is, the voice of the song goes from the extra-personal to the personal and back, shifting many times. And there’s something about this voice that seems both experienced/wary and yet longing for innocence. And hey, who doesn’t like dolphins? Eeeep!

I don’t want to get “too heavy” in all this, or over-analyze or whatever, but damn Fred Neil’s good to listen to. Anytime works, but when the chips are down and you’re feeling low, Fred’s baritone seems to just really hit you in this sweet spot. At least, that’s what it does for me.


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