Sixto Rodriguez - Cold Fact (1970)

"Mexican by descent, American protest singer-songwriter Rodriguez is the man the Woodstock generation forgot. He should by right share the same virtual immortality enjoyed by Bob Dylan, Neil Young and others of their ilk. Instead, if you were to ask the most studious of American music-writers what they know of him you would get nothing but quizzical shrugs and blank expressions in return. On the other hand, take yourself to far away South Africa and ask the same question to pretty much any old Joe Bloggs you see walking down the street… “Rodriguez, yaw! He's an American dude, I grew up to his album 'Cold Fact', he's dead now, he killed himself on stage…” Well that's what you would've been told a few years ago anyway. 'Cold Fact' was the album that caused all the fuss. It was an album so incredibly mainstream in appeal despite being anything but mainstream in content and for a quarter of a century it was all people had to go on. Never before had there been such an air of wonderment and mystery about an artist. It was not known who he was, where he was from, how the album got to South Africa, it wasn't even known if he was dead or alive. Rumours of suicide, drug overdose and countless others did the rounds. One man even reported seeing him shoot himself on stage. The only thing that was known, as his songs were passed from generation to generation, was the music and the quality that lay therein. 'Cold Fact' consists chiefly of beautifully brief, straight-to-the-point numbers with his incredibly poetic lyrics providing the focal point throughout.

Opening track “Sugar Man” is as drug-induced a song as you're ever likely to hear and when the song reaches it's eerie finale you'd be forgiven for thinking that you were the one who'd been doing the indulging. All of his work seems to be as much philosophical as musical and you'll find his verses popping into your head at the most opportune times. When I was asked to sign the book of remembrance for the victims of Omagh the opening lines of “Crucify Your Mind” came out. “Was it a huntsman or a player that made you pay the cost / Who now assumes relaxed position and prostitutes your loss.” With his words and his mind-blowing use of imagery he truly can paint a song as he covers most social topics from drug-abuse and government inadequacies to self-pity and heartbreak. On “Establishment Blues : This Is Not A Song It's An Outburst” he shares the same 'clean the scum off the streets' attitude as psychopath Travis Bickle from the classic flick Taxi Driver when he sings “Woke I this morning with an ache in my head / Splashed on my clothes as I spilled out of bed / Opened the window to listen to the news / But all I heard was the establishment blues.”

For years there had been rumours abound about the existence of a prior album which had vanished before Cold Fact even saw the light of day. In late 1996 a copy of this 'holy-grail' was finally uncovered. It sparked renewed interest and intrigue in the Rodriguez saga and prompted a worldwide search Rodriguez nowfor 'the messiah' involving web-sites, musicologists and private investigators. Within a year the new album, ”Coming From Reality” was released and adored by his followers. Once again it was a collection of songs with writing so touching and thought provoking you could slap a dusty cover on it and call it The Bible. Within weeks of that a response came through on the 'Great Rodriguez Hunt' web-site from Eva Alicia Rodriguez Koller stating “Rodriguez is my Father.” Through his daughter, contact was finally made with the man himself and at last, after 25 years, all those questions could be answered. It was no surprise to find him completely overwhelmed by the fact that people not only listened to his music but found inspiration in it. In keeping with his songs it was revealed that not only had he done extensive social work in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan but had also run for public-office on four occasions."


"There was a mini-genre of singer/songwriters in the late '60s and early '70s that has never gotten a name. They were folky but not exactly folk-rock and certainly not laid-back; sometimes pissed off but not full of rage; alienated but not incoherent; psychedelic-tinged but not that weird; not averse to using orchestration in some cases but not that elaborately produced. And they sold very few records, eluding to a large degree even rediscovery by collectors. Jeff Monn, Paul Martin, John Braheny, and Billy Joe Becoat were some of them, and Sixto Rodriguez was another on his 1970 LP, Cold Fact. Imagine an above-average Dylanesque street busker managing to record an album with fairly full and imaginative arrangements, and you're somewhat close to the atmosphere. Rodriguez projected the image of the aloof, alienated folk-rock songwriter, his songs jammed with gentle, stream-of-consciousness, indirect putdowns of straight society and its tensions. Likewise, he had his problems with romance, simultaneously putting down (again gently) women for their hang-ups and intimating that he could get along without them anyway ("I wonder how many times you had sex, and I wonder do you know who'll be next" he chides in the lilting "I Wonder"). At the same time, the songs were reasonably catchy and concise, with dabs of inventive backup: a dancing string section here, odd electronic yelps there, tinkling steel drums elsewhere. It's an album whose lyrics are evocative yet hard to get a handle on even after repeated listenings, with song titles like "Hate Street Dialogue," "Inner City Blues" (not the Marvin Gaye tune), and "Crucify Your Mind" representative of his eccentric, slightly troubled mindset. As folk-rock-psych singer/songwriters with captivating non sequitur turns of the phrase go, he's far behind Arthur Lee and Skip Spence, but he's worth your consideration if you go for that thing." (buy it)


Sixto Rodriguez - Only Good for Conversation

1 comment:

Emilio44 said...

Hey Dude

Yep here on Australia Rodriguez was a superstar and I understand he had the same following in New Zealand and South Africa. Shame Americans didn't give him is due. This guys simple chord structure and amazingly intelligent lyrics really hit the spot for me as did Dylan and Young etc being a hack guitarist myself it was stuff I could play and make money with. I hear that Rod is living in Southern California and is 60+ and works as a school janitor. Read this online. I spoke with a heap of US based people, but noone knows this legend. I only saw him live once in outside of Newcastle. He was pretty smashed and couldn't do the job, I forgave hime though - what a legend.