FREDDIE SCOTT: ‘Mr Heartache: The Best Of The Columbia Recordings Plus!’ (Label: Kent)

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FREDDIE SCOTT: 'Mr Heartache: The Best Of The Columbia Recordings Plus!'

In 1966, Rhode Island-born singer, Freddie Scott – then 33 years old – found himself in pole position in Billboard’s R&B charts with ‘Are You Lonely For Me,’ recorded for producer Bert Berns’ Shout label. It wasn’t his first taste of success, though – three years earlier in 1963, the velvet-voiced gospel-reared singer had scored a Top 10 pop smash for the Colpix label with ‘Hey Girl,’ penned by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. But, strangely, perhaps, collectors won’t find Scott’s two biggest hits on this new Kent compilation – rather, it focuses, on the singer’s mid-’60s tenure with Columbia, though the ‘plus’ in the title refers to the inclusion of four recordings for Shout from 1967. It’s clear from the first few songs of this collection that Columbia – who hooked the singer up with producer Clyde Otis – was hell bent on steering Scott in a pop/crossover direction and marketing him as a crooner in the vein of Nat King Cole, Jesse Belvin and Brook Benton. ‘One More Time Before I Go,’ for example, is a country-style easy listening number with cloying, sugary, backing vocals framing Scott’s soulful vocals. By contrast, ‘Sing, Girl’ sounds like the kind of song that Matt Monro or Scott Walker would embrace. One of the best cuts on the collection is ‘Blow, Wind,’ where Scott delivers an impassioned vocal that sends shivers down the spine.
Despite Columbia’s ambitions for Scott, he didn’t score any hits for the label. R&B fans ignored his music during Scott’s spell at Columbia, and it wasn’t until he joined producer Bert Berns at Shout that his chart fortunes improved. The detailed liner notes by Dennis Garvey, a friend of Scott’s, are particularly illuminating, shedding insight on the late singer’s life (he died in 2007). Just as you’d expect from Kent – an impeccable archival package.
(CW) 4/5