Fred Hughes – 1969 – Baby Boy
A soaring full length debut from Fred Hughes, a singer who cut some key singles for Brunswick Records in the late 60s, and more than lives up to their strength here on an album! The set’s got some very in-the-pocket backings for Fred to work with – arrangements from Sonny Sanders, Tom Tom, and Willie Henderson, all in that brilliantly bouncy blend of Chicago soul modes that Brunswick was putting forth at the time! The style’s a great blend with the rootsier modes of Hughes’ vocals – a style that might have been more blues in another setting, but which works here with a great sense of righteous presence and power.
A1 Ooh Wee Baby I Love You 4:02
A2 The Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp 2:27
A3 In My Time of Need 2:17
A4 Georgia on My Mind 4:49
A5 Baby Boy 2:51
B1 I Understand 2:41
B2 San Francisco Is a Lonely Town 3:02
B3 Don’t Let This Happen to Us 2:26
B4 Who You Really Are 2:23
B5 People 6:14
Review by Soulmakossa
Fred Hughes’ main claim to fame naturally are his classic Vee-Jay singles, of which the smash hit “Ooh Wee Baby I Love You” (1966) is the most notorious. Less known, however, is the quality piece of work the singer-songwriter-guitarist churned out for Brunswick Records in 1970, the album ‘Baby Boy’.
Aside a truly magnificent, late night jazzy rendition of Ray Charles’ “George on My Mind” and a somewhat less spectacular, totally out of place if not admirably executed version of the chestnut “People“, ‘Baby Boy’ brims with that typical late ’60s/early ’70s Chi-Town soul sound that was the staple of artists of the day such as Jackie Wilson, Tyrone Davis and the early Chi-Lites.
The title-track is a ferocious groove monster, a funk-ridden anthem with some to-the-point, sloganeering lyrics: “I’m a Baby Boy, part of a new generation!” Hughes sings with self-confidence and grit. Just as funky, sporting an incessant beat, is the Stagger Lee-styled “The Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp”, a busy beater layered in brass.
Brunswick house drummer Quinton Joseph starts off “In My Time of Need” with another one of his classic fills and sets the stage for a frantic, mid-tempo groovathon perked with snazzy horn bursts. The beat is even thicker on “I Understand“, a delightful stomper with a bouncing, heavy chorus, plunking piano parts, Joseph’s crashing drums and those omnipresent, blaring horns.
More subdued is the wistful, breezy work-out “San Francisco Is a Lonely Town“. A truly heartbreaking bit of smooth, mid-tempo Chi-Soul, heavenly arranged and showcasing Hughes’ often underrated, pleasantly dry, soothing tenor.
There’s some more smokin’ horn heavy funk with the feverish “Don’t Let This Happen to Us” and much in the same vein is a brilliant re-recording of Hughes’ biggest hit, a Willie Henderson arranged, funked up rendition of “Ooh Wee Baby I Love You“.
Finally, there’s the blissful wah wah rocker “Who You Really Are” with its poignant, un-preachy lyrics, tons of brass, a haunting, beefy bass lick and some mean congas.
A great, groove-based LP filled with Chi-Town soul nuggets by a very underrated soul man, who STILL is very much active today. Fred Hughes, y’all!