(Light In the Attic)
When Detroit’s Sixto
Rodriguez issued his debut album for the Sussex label in 1970 he wasn’t
planning on being a cult artist to be revered in later years by crate diggers
and collectors of outsider psychedelia, rock and folk. But like so many other
artists of his era, industry vicissitudes and an inability to properly promote himself deep-sixed Cold Fact and its 1971 successor Coming From Reality, and he retreated from the business to raise
and support a family.
Crate diggers and collectors, of course, usually know best,
as this handsome new reissue, complete with a massive 36-page booklet detailing
the man’s odd trajectory, demonstrates in spade. In just 12 songs and 32
minutes Rodriguez – singing in a slightly reedy but ultimately warm voice that
recalls, variously, Dylan, Arthur Lee, Donovan and even Neil Diamond – touches
on everything from proto-freak folk (“Sugar Man”) and fuzzed-out hard psych
(“Only Good for Conversation”) to modal-tinged folk-rock (“Hate Street
Dialogue”) and jaunty blues-rock (“Inner City Blues” – not the Marvin Gaye
song, more Dylanesque, but with subtle orchestration in the background).
Lyrically, too, the brother’s right on the money, pointing
in strikingly poetic terms an unwavering finger at assorted ills of the day,
including dope pushers, hedonism seekers, politicians and protesters alike, and
the illusion that the rich are somehow more significant than the rest of us.
Boasting innovative arrangements that serve the songs while giving them
repeated-listen heft and featuring the musical backing of a number of Detroit’s
who’s-who players (including Motown session guitarist Dennis Coffey, who
co-produced with Mike Theodore), Cold
Sweat‘s sonic charms linger just long enough in the mind to find their way
to your mainline.
Cold Fact has seen
CD (frequently bootleg) reissue numerous times in the past – Australia, 1986 and 1993; South Africa, 1991, 2002 and 2005; Europe, 1998 – and each time it’s sparked a Rodriguez
mini-revival of sorts. After a journalist tracked the songwriter down in the
mid ‘90s and he learned that the album had achieved significantly more than
cult status (it had gone platinum in South Africa), he found himself
touring those markets and was even the subject of a documentary. Will the
American buying public be similarly tweaked and treated to some of Rodriguez
concert magic? Stay tuned – but grab this aesthetically pure, sonically
compelling, lyrically arresting platter, because it’s a classic in every since.
And that’s a stone cold fact.
Standout Tracks: “Sugar Man,” “Crucify Your Mind” FRED MILLS