BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
At first glimpse, Ron Nagle’s Bad Rice might seem like an incidental piece of archival history or merely a short-lived curiosity that bore no lingering importance. In truth however it’s a source of fascination that continues to linger some 40 years after its original issue, one that sounds as insolent and insurgent as it was the day it was originally released. It was a shocker then and it’s still a shocker now, a stunning example of rock ‘n’ roll indulgence that paid no heed to convention, whether it was the gap toothed individual whose visage filled the back cover, to the sassy and defiant attitude immersed in its grooves. This Bad Rice was not only spicy, but saucy too.
Co-produced by Nagle, legendary producer Jack Nitzsche and the equally legendary San Francisco deejay Tom Donahue, Bad Rice was a musical summit of sorts, one in which each of the participants seemingly held free reign. And yet clearly, it wasn’t an album that would appeal to everybody. Nevertheless, in retrospect, shimmering ballads like “Frank’s Store” and “Dolores” (each of which won Nagle comparisons to Elton John) easily moot the effect of the swampy southern grit conveyed in rabid rockers like “61 Clay” and “Capricorn Queen.” Likewise, there’s a certain telling presence in standout track “Marijuana Hell” that today’s freewheeling, pro-legalization denizens of California and Colorado might indeed want to note of.
Being a bohemian at heart, Nagle refused to tour, thereby dooming the album to an ignominious fate in the bargain bins. However, he did gain further success later on in the Durocs, a punchy pop outfit, and as a writer and producer for artists as diverse as Barbara Streisand, John Hiatt and the Tubes. Nevertheless, Bad Rice remains his tour-de-force, and four decades on, bolstered by alternate mixes and an entire disc of demos of unreleased songs, the full extent of Nagle’s brilliance becomes clear. This …Rice still steams.
DOWNLOAD: “Marijuana Hell,” “Frank’s Store,” “61 Clay”