The Beatles & Barry White Were Both Influenced By This Underrated Singer (review)

Freddie Scott – The Very Best of (Playback Records)

Most comprehensive, multi-label compilation from an influential artist

Cited by both the Beatles and Barry White as a major influence, Freddie Scott is, nevertheless, still a relatively obscure soul artist.  Playback Records out of Australia has put together a 26-track set called The Very Best of, which grabs material from many different record labels, painting a clear picture of a powerhouse singer that needs to be heard.  

The disc opens with perhaps Scott’s most famous song.  “Hey Girl” has that undeniable, mid-Sixties soul sound, complete with echoed drums, fat bass, smooth strings, even the Cookies on background vocals.  Then, there’s Scott’s impassioned pleading for three minutes. It wedged its way into the US Top Ten in 1963.  As a followup, “I Got a Woman” is the Ray Charles’ standard, but slowed down and sweetened.  

There’s a pair of tracks that actually pre-date “Hey Girl,” released on the Joy label in 1961.  The fact is, the quality throughout this disc is unbelievable.  There’s a lot of diversity here, from the lush orchestration of  “Brand New World,” to the gritty “Lonely Man,” the Mariachi horns on “Forget Me If You Can,” and the unique percussion on “Mr. Heartache.”  

Scott signed onto Bert Berns’ label Shout in the mid Sixties and recorded some more fantastic tunes, including “Are You Lonely For Me,” which went to #1 on the R&B charts.  “(You) Got What I Need” charted on its own, and was later used by rapper Biz Markie for his 1989 hit, “Just a Friend.”  

I really like the pounding “I’ll Be Gone,” while “Am I Grooving You” has a slower beat and stinging electric guitar and horns.  He takes Solomon Burke’s “Cry to Me” and slows it way down to make it his own.

There’s even a previously unissued song, “Why Did I Lose You,” which is just as good as anything else here.

After Burns’ untimely death, Scott jumped to and from various small labels, but the quality here is still amazing – from his searing take on Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” to “Girl, I Love You,” where Scott stretches out a note on the chorus so far you think he’s got to run out of air!  There’s even a more recent track from 1997 called “Watermelon Man” (not the Herbie Hancock song).  

The accompanying booklet features a detailed essay going through Scott’s career, with quotes from the artist himself. 

Freddie Scott may not be a household name, but The Very Best of proves that he deserves a listen.  —Tony Peters