Posted by: willenvelope | July 7, 2008

Rodriguez

Rodriguez

Cold Fact ( 1970; Light in the Attic, 2008 )

Unslushed because: Light in the Attic has put together some cool reissues. Didn’t they do that compilation of Canadian reggae a while ago? This time, we have a funky-sounding title by the funky-sounding Rodriguez, recorded in the funky year of 1969 in the funky town of Detroit.

Factors not initially considered: Not actually a funk album. Also, I’m not sure if Rodriguez is a guy, or a group, or both. I’ll just proceed as if he’s a guy.

Upon further review: Cold Fact is a singer-songwriter record that’s been elevated, through smart engineering, to an eclectic rock collection with a lot to recommend it musically. If it came out today, its limber feel and experimental arrangements (horns, strings, weird electronic effects) would put many ProTools productions in their place, especially since this was all pulled off with actual instruments—not infinite overdubs and samples—using cranky analog effects and reel-to-reel tape. The coolly orchestrated opening track, “Sugar Man,” calls to mind a darker Donovan; it segues into a heavy fuzz rocker, “Only Good for Conversation,” that rides a hard beat and an Edgar Winter-like central riff. Other strong songs include “Hate Street Dialogue,” which has the feel of Bang-era Neil Diamond, and, with its silky-smooth horns-and-marimba motif, a little number Rodriguez likes to call “Crucify Your Mind.”

You know, as in, “Soon you know I’ll leave you, and I’ll never look behind/Because I was born for the purpose that crucifies your mind.”

Where Cold Fact suffers is in its dated lyrics, which are mostly addressed to a square, un-with-it chick whom Rodriguez appears to be preemptively dumping because she’s about to call him out on his cockamamie poetry. It’s not that I actively disagree with the spirit of songs like “This Is Not a Song” (he’s “got the Establishment blues”) or “Like Janis” (“Because emotionally you’re the same basic trip/And you know that I know of the times that you slipped”). But Rodriguez can only rail against boring girls and Nixon patsies for two or three lines before something really goofy comes out of his mouth and throws everything off. You can nod along with the cool horns while he collects himself, but it draws a line between Rodriguez and the Dylans and Cohens he so clearly admired—and it goes a long way toward explaining why Cold Fact is getting a handsome reissue nearly 40 years after its release. If the whole package had been just a little bit better, it probably wouldn’t have gone away in the first place.

Sugar Man: The official Rodriguez Web site

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Responses

  1. Excellent review. This is the sort of thing I’d download once and then wonder why I didn’t play it more. Maybe when they reissue these things they should put out a vocal-free instrumental mix alongside the original album?

  2. Most definitely, the instrumentals would be good. As it is, I’m sure this record has been a long-time ace up savvy DJs’ sleeves — there’s no telling how many great snippets you can draw from it. It would be a sampler’s holiday. But listening to it all the way through, paying attention to the lyrics? Not quite as much fun.


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