SessionsCapitol (1967)

Fred Neil – Vocals, Guitar
Cyrus Faryar – Guitar
Bruce Langhorn – Guitar
Peter D. Childs – Guitar
James E. Bond Jr. – Standup Bass

Producer: Nik Venet

Liner Notes by Pete Johnson
Eight transcripts of Fred Neil’s life rise from a grey-crinkled formica counter, plastic on plastic, half-inch dun highways which had whispered through the antiseptic jaws of a tape recorder. The tapes should have been cigaret butts, empty bottles, shaggy maps, sea-worn pebbles, aspnalt, trees, warm creatures, almost anything other than rust-red synthetic stuff coiled in a synthetic shell resting on a synthetic table top. But you cannot replay a pebble or a cigaret and Neil is mortal and never again will be the person he is on this warm cloudy Los Angeles night and might not even exist next week and the plastic ribbons can remember his voice long after he has evolved past this night.

Reality begins in a large dim room beyond the glassed off daylight of the control booth: Neil huddled over his 12-string guitar, his voice pouring pain, placid acceptance, love and hate into a remote ear of the tape recorder. A red light blazes in a small optical fire on the floor, a white light angles up the acoustically panelled wall, both coexisting with the darkness. A dozen or so people, some of them famous, sit, lie and stand in the comfortable anonymous gloom of the studio, lured by the knowledge that Neil’s presence is always an Event. It is an unorthodox session because the singer cannot ignore his friends to please a mindlessly spinning machine and record royalties have nothing to do with love. Before the session, asked by producer Nick Venet, he ticked off a score or so of songs he might do that night, depending on how he felt and (unspoken) depending on what would please his friends.the most. So on this particular night he will not do any original songs because he is afraid they are not good enough for his friends and he is more worried about wasting their time than his.

During a long break between songs. Venet frets, paces and talks about ulcers until Neil’s fingers again begin a guitar discussion with histhree studio accompanists. Pushed by spearing notes, Neil leans toward the microphone, mouth open to a line from chin to upper lip; the yawning exit of the well of his voice, which rises with the ease of dust motes from adeep, dark shaft, floating into sunlight and dipping back to the under- world blackness. Lyrics melt across compositional boundaries. He sings about black girls, pine trees, merry go rounds, death, life, lies and truth, fleshing the images into reality as his voice curves and cracks words into the microphone.

His voice and his songs betray him as a folk singer despite his clever disguise: his hair really is not long enough and he lacks the regulation folk singing blue work shirt, jeans and boots. Instead, he wears a nondescript shirt and pants borrowed from Papa Denny Dougherty (who is considerably more robust than Neil), which fit him as snugly as potato bags. His feet are shoed in mere sneakers, no socks.

However. his audience came ress to watch than to listen to him spend his experience into a microphone, to hear him drop words, phrasings, tones, the coins he has earned in a life of few tangible rewards, into machines which pay others millions for counterfeit donations. His are real and because they are real and he is real and there is little market for reality, Neil probably never will earn a requisite reward for his born-of-pain tarent. But if .he were paid justly, the transaction would rob him of what he has. Those eight transcripts and their brothers from successive evenings are distilled into this album, which is much more alive and exciting than anyone can indicate through two-dimensional permutations of the alphabet. Listen to it.