Scott Fagan – South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows)

Scott Fagan – South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows)

“I’ve got a crystal ball5055869513302_T11
That I’ve been ‘fraid to use
Cos the thing might tell me
I’ve just started paying dues”

When Scott Fagan sang the opening lines to ‘Crystal Ball’ – a song taken from his debut album South Atlantic Blues – he really must have been looking right into the future.

An American by birth, as a young child Scott Fagan and his family had relocated to the Caribbean island of Saint Thomas. An upbringing surrounded by music was also imbued with chaos and in 1964 Fagan returned to the States in search of fame and fortune. In New York City he sought out Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman (a musical collaboration from the late-50s/early-60s who were then probably second only to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in terms of their songwriting importance).

They started writing together and Scott Fagan began to get noticed. Legendary manager Herb Gart (a man who had such a great impact in progressing the careers of many ‘60s folk artists including Tim Hardin, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Youngbloods, and Don McLean) genuinely believed that given Fagan’s abundant talent, charisma and good looks he could be even bigger than Elvis.

The songs Scott Fagan had been writing – including ‘Crystal Ball’, co-written with Schuman – became South Atlantic Blues. There was even talk of the album being released as the first non-Beatles record on the Apple label. It was 1968 and Scott Fagan was 20 years of age. And he was surely standing on the verge of greatness.

But for a whole host of reasons it just did not happen. One further album, Many Sunny Places appeared in 1975 but then Fagan just drifted off into musical obscurity. But now almost fifty years later South Atlantic Blues has been reissued and a wider world can finally discover what a remarkable record it is.

South Atlantic Blues provides us with a portal into a different time and place. Ten songs of quite beautiful baroque pop; a quintessential 60’s sound driven along by sparse, plangent horns and Fagan’s remarkable voice. For all of his American background, Fagan sounds more like a young David Bowie – the Deram-period Bowie of 1967 – or Scots singer-songwriter and peak-capped folkie Donovan. The aforementioned Hardin and Scott Walker are further vocal touchstones, though in truth Fagan is probably more of a soul singer than any of these comparable names might suggest.

For South Atlantic Blues is music of, and for the soul. Dealing in lyrical themes of love, loss and redemption – and with great prescience, fame and failure – Scott Fagan’s words come wrapped in glorious swathes of folk, blues, calypso, R&B and, most of all, pop. It is a magnificent record, full of sadness and of joy and one for which the often overused phrase “lost classic” is entirely accurate. It is just a shame that it has taken us almost half a century to realise this.

Rating: ★★★★½

South Atlantic Blues was reissued -with extensive liner notes, rare photos, and bonus audio material – via Saint Cecilia Knows/lil’fish records on 20 November 2015.




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