Bowie’s gone, Lenny Cohen’s gone but never fear — here’s Scott Fagan, the best sixties folk/soul singer you never heard of.
Play this without knowing the backstory and it’s attention-grabbing: one assumes it’s a young dude channeling the sixties, but confidently: he makes no concessions to modern tastes and his voice is powerful in the mode of full-bore Bowie. There’s jangly sixties guitar but then there’s a clarinet parping low down in the mix and later a pooting sax (or oboe). It’s so rooted in the sixties that it’s a shock. You think: “Here’s a guy who’s out on his own” and you’re rooting for yourself to like it.
The reality is even more interesting. He grew up in the US Virgin Islands — which explains the kettle drums — and at 19, caught a boat to Florida, hitchhiked to New York and, as you do, landed himself a job in the Brill Building. Despite working with Neil Diamond, playing with Jimi Hendrix and signing to the Beatles Apple label, he never saw success; this album came out in 1968, the same week as Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, and disappeared without trace.
As if all that’s not fascinating, a holiday romance led to him siring Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt, who writes the entertaining sleeve notes. Fans of Donovan, Bowie and the sound of the sixties should pay attention, as should people who liked the whole Sugarman thing.
Buy this groovy thang: