The Soul of Freddie Hughes
Let me say this first: Freddie Hughes is not a blues singer. He is, rather, a celebrated Bay Area soul singer. Hughes reached his greatest popularity in 1967 with "Send My Baby Back," a gorgeous ballad that was a big local hit. He also recorded with various groups in the area. He has performed off and on since the í60s but has never achieved success beyond his home base.
The Soul of Freddie Hughes represents his return to the studio. The good news is that he still has that same remarkable, elastic instrument from 30 years ago: a clear, passionate voice which loses none of its power in the high registers. Think of a cross between O.V. Wright and Curtis Mayfield. On ballads like "Save Our Love," he pours his heart into the lyrics and takes the vocals into falsetto like a great gospel singer. On the upbeat "Love Land," he explores the bottom registers of his range.
The problem is that the material is not up to the level of the singing. Many of the songs are run-of-the-mill contemporary soul numbers. The fact that Chris Burns produced, recorded, mixed, co-wrote and played most of the instruments resulted in a hermetic-sounding release. And two of the nine cuts are instrumentals! Itís great to hear Hughes sing, and he rises above much of the material, but he deserves another chance to show what he can do.
ó David Feld