Saturday, 23 August 2008

Rodrigeuz - Cold Fact

There was genuine excitement here at Scratchy Towers, upon hearing of the imminent re-issue of Cold Fact by Rodriguez. He is bone-a-fide cult singer songwriter, from the cusp of the sixties/Seventies, who fully merits the hype and plaudits now being heaped upon him. His debut album is one of those golden nuggets that slipped through the fingers of the industry first time around and his music deserves to reach a wider audience today.

I say ‘wider audience’ but Rodriguez already has a huge following in Australia, New Zealand and especially in South Africa, where his anti establishment lyrics stuck a chord with the youth, during the apartheid era. He has also become a staple soundtrack of certain alternative communities, particularly in the surfing crowd, where his popularity has spread largely through word of mouth and this is the route by which this album crossed my path. Now usually, I’d approach any recommendation from a shark dodging wave monkey, with severe trepidation, mainly because the track record of surfer approved artists is littered with second rate grunge rockers and sensitive dread locked white dudes strumming about soul surfing. However, this is very much the exception to the rule and so I consigned a copy of the C.D to tape ‘HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC’ It got played very regularly until it was nearly worn out, eventually the tape somehow got lost in transit. Now, I can finally get a replacement and make up for past illegal taping activities!

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez born in Detroit in 1942, the sixthsixto child of a middle class immigrant Mexican family. He picked up the guitar, when he was sixteen and Sixto soon became adept at playing and writing songs with a folk/blues style.

In 1967 he released a single ‘I'll Slip Away’ under the moniker of Rod Riguez, though the small label ‘Impact’ Unfortunately, it didn’t make an impact, but by 1969 he had come to the attention of Dennis Coffey from Motown Record's legendary session group ‘The Funk Brothers’ Coffey enlisted fellow 'Brother' Mike Theodore and together they produced Sixto's debut record at the Tera-Shirma Studio in Detroit, fleshing out his acoustic guitar, with fellow Funk Brother Bob Babbet contributing on bass, Bob Pangborn on percussion and Andrew Smith on drums. ‘Cold Fact’ was released in March 1970 on Sussex Records, a subsidiary of the famous Buddah label.

Cold Fact is a blend of psychedelic folk, rock and blues but what was extraordinary, is that beneath the hippie folk veneer, lurked a hauntingly downbeat vibe. The soul of this record is deeply troubled with cynical lyrics, that speak of inner-city bitterness, paranoia and angst set to a disintegrating urban backdrop. A comparison can be drawn with Arthur Lee’s band Love. The legendary 'Forever Changes' has a mellow pastoral beauty on the surface, but if you listen closely, there’s a similar despondent paranoid air just like on Cold Fact. The ‘Sugar Man’ track has a drug dealing/addiction theme and ‘I Wonder’ is an exercise in sexual suspicion. These were fractious times in America and perhaps it wasn’t ready for a musical mirror being held up to reflect some unpalatable truths. Whatever the reason, the reality was, that commercially speaking, Cold Fact bombed in the U.S.A .

The follow up album ‘Coming From Reality’ was recorded in London with producer Steve Rowland who had previously worked with The Pretty Things and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich Rodrigeuz was backed by a pack of top British session studio players. It was released in November 1971 through Sussex Records but despite the input of this quality, the record fared even worse than it's predecessor, Sixto parted company from the label and from the wider music scene.

This is where the story like Sixto's would usually end as a mere footnote in pop history, but the remarkable rise in his popularity outside of the States and the U.K, that happened in his absence, meant that his music didn't fade into obscurity. Blue Goose Music bought the Australian rights to his back catalogue and re-issued the albums for an eager new fanbase. By the late Seventies, the cult of Rodiguez had grown to the extent, that he toured Australia and went back for a final tour in 1981 supporting Midnight Oil.

He dropped off the radar once more and speculation was rife about his whereabouts. Wild rumours spread: he had died of a heroin overdose, been committed to an asylum or even that he had been killed on stage. The reality was that he was living in his native Detroit with his two daughters, working as a gas station attendant, construction worker, school teacher, social worker and even involved in politics, running independently, but unsuccessfully for mayor (twice) senator and city council.

In 1998, his daughter Regan learnt of his fame in South Africa, through a fan site and so Sixto was persuaded to perform again for a sold-out tour and he also toured Sweden in June 1998.
Interest was further rekindled, when rapper Nas sampled the track 'Sugar Man' on 'You're Da Man' in 2001 and David Holmes used 'Sugar Man' track as part of his 'Presents The Free Association' compilation in 2003.

Light in The Attic are due to re-issue Cold Fact on C.D on September 8th 2008 in the U.K
and 19th August 2008 in North America, the rest of the world it's 1st September 2008.
They have produced a limited edition vinyl LP (1,000 copies) using 180 gram wax, hand-numbered old school tip-on jacket, bonus 45, full color liner notes insert and fifty of the thousand LPs 'WILL CONTAIN SIGNED POSTERS AUTOGRAPHED BY RODRIGUEZ' Three cheers for putting some effort into this kind of packaging for the plastic lovers.

Sugar Man

Official Site:

Buy the album: + free 'Sugar Man' mp3

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