Rodriguez: Coming from Reality (Light in the Attic)

Rodriguez: Climb Up On My Music
Rodriguez: Coming from Reality (Light in the Attic)

Seventies cult singer-songwriter Rodriguez appeared at Elsewhere when his terrific debut Cold Fact got a long overdue reissue. He's the kind of person you know and love, or simply don't get at all.

Oddly enough he was "got" in South Africa and Australia back in the day, although his two albums -- Cold Fact and Coming From Reality -- virtually died in the States.

After the stoned groover and cynical mood of Cold Fact, Sixto Rodriguez from Detroit went to London to record the follow-up with producer/fan Steve Rowland who'd recorded the Pretty Things, the Herd which featured a young Peter Frampton, and a few others.

Rowland called up star guitarist Chris Spedding and other top session players who could provide the different and sometimes slightly jazzy, loose but stinging context for Rodriguez's lyrics which were mostly straight out of Dylan in his allusive and alliterated, slightly sneering Blonde on Blonde period: "playboy Ralph whose always been shorter than himself . . . a teacher that will kiss you in French"; "hospitals for flowers, the matron ladies cry, itchy trigger fingers as our caravan walks by . . ."; "Volume left Bohemia, a triangle for his thumb, questions fell but no one stopped to listen, that eternity was just a dawn away . . ."

You get the picture: archly poetic, sometimes iron-hard images which are memorable, at other times just nonsense. 

There's also a large stab at MOR acceptance on the acoustic, string-coloured I Think of You which could have come from the soundtrack to a romantic-weeper movie if it had been sung by Andy Williams. The also-orchestrated Silver Words ("if only you could see, the change you've made in me") could be vapid Don McLean, unfortunately.

Sandrevan Lullaby-Lifestyles opens as an almost pastoral piece with cello before Rodriguez takes into his typically acoustic folk style ("judges with metermaid hearts, order supermarket justice starts"). 

Nice, but they hardly fit with A Most Disgusting Song which opens with the weary, spoken word lines "I've played every kind of gig there is to play now, I've played faggot bars, hooker bars, motorcycle funerals, in opera house, concert halls, halfway houses . . ."  Or the blistering opener Climb Up On My Music which is propelled by Spedding who fires staccato electric guitar across it.

There are moments when this almost reaches the heights of Cold Fact, but you sense that producer Rowland, who rightly took Rodriguez seriously, perhaps over-embellished the music (in an attempt to get it accepted perhaps?) but it ended up in an area where the artist sounded constrained.

Rodriguez had a socio-political agenda behind the slightly addled poetics, and that is lost too often.

Anyone who loved Cold Fact (and really, you just gotta love it) would find something in this -- but Rod's softer side is too sweetened and this really only hits its stride in the more rocking and jazzist arrangements.

Still, he is Rodriguez -- and there is no other.

PS: The three "previously unreleased" tracks Can't Get Away, Street Boy and I'll Slip Away appear on my battered vinyl copy of Rodriguez: At His Best from 1977. Sorry to be picky.  

Your Comments

Martin - Jun 22, 2009

Mr Rodriguez as G. points out is a one off.How great Sugarman still sounds even on my dated laptop.His sultry accent turns a stunning lyrical song into something kinda wondrous.I read recently about his also cool backstory.Apparently he was a humble labourer working on a site in the U.S. when tracked down by a nice journalist who told him of a decent royalty cheque waiting to be picked up due to his notoriety in a couple of countries following debut Cold Fact.As I should, I'm waiting on a copy of said album now.Something good going to Rodriguez after maybe a lapse of 15 years ,must make his next patch in the sun that much warmer.

Mick Gentilli - Jul 19, 2009

Just took a gander of Climb Up On My Music. All I can think to say is that it cleansed my palate in a surprising way, somehow. I like it. Lately this is the kind of relaxing groove I crave, I guess. (omg am I a 60's/70's wannabe?)

post a comment

More from this section

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women: Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women (YepRoc/Southbound)

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women: Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women (YepRoc/Southbound)

Dave Alvin appeared at Elsewhere recently as the man behind the all-star tribute to his friend and accordionist in his band The Guilty Men, Chris Gaffney. This album owes its origins to the... > Read more

Iron and Wine: Around the Well (SubPop/Rhythmethod)

Iron and Wine: Around the Well (SubPop/Rhythmethod)

As a nom de disque/stage name Iron and Wine seems as inappropriate and unhelpful as a product description as Mojave 3. Don't know about you but Iron and Wine sounds a bit on the metal side of... > Read more

New Elsewhere

NATHAN HAINES INTERVIEWED (2014): A son for the return home

NATHAN HAINES INTERVIEWED (2014): A son for the return home

Nathan Haines sits on the deck at the back of The Long Room on Auckland's Ponsonby Rd and seems very relaxed over a beer. These are good days for multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer... > Read more

PAUL McCARTNEY WINGING IT IN THE SEVENTIES (2014): Venus and Mars, At The Speed Of Sound revisited

PAUL McCARTNEY WINGING IT IN THE SEVENTIES (2014): Venus and Mars, At The Speed Of Sound revisited

If you're going to celebrate the end of a recording session why not have the party aboard the Queen Mary which is permanently docked at Long Beach, California?And why not invite a couple of... > Read more