Lydia Jenkin

Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Rodriguez, Cold Fact

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Album cover for Cold Fact by Rodriguez. Photo / Supplied
Album cover for Cold Fact by Rodriguez. Photo / Supplied

Like a young Bob Dylan crossed with Jose Feliciano, with the poetic story-telling skills of Don McLean or Paul Simon, imparting the cold facts with a sly attitude, Sixto Rodriguez is an unsung hero of 70s counter-culture.

A true rock 'n' roll star. Born and raised in Detroit to Mexican parents, and discovered by a couple of producers who saw him playing in a dive bar, Rodriguez is a rare songwriter, who can encapsulate a whole world of emotion in two potent lyrical lines. He has a knack for winding wry observations into a melody that produces elusive musical magic. That magic should've made him a big name when Cold Fact was released in 1970, the songwriting matched by skilful production, which leaves his world-weary American drawl to the fore, and builds up beautiful classic instrumental layers, along with the odd scorching guitar lick.

The tenderness of Crucify Your Mind contrasts with the jaunty cheek of I Wonder, the cheerful resignation of Establishment Blues with wistful-on-reflection Jane S Piddy. Oddly, it was ignored in America, as was his second album Coming From Reality. Despite the songs full of insight into American urban life, they didn't connect with the wider public.

But there were thousands of liberal young groovers in South Africa, Australia and even a few in New Zealand who regarded him as highly as The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix.

Forty years on, a brilliant documentary called Searching For Sugar Man, which details his remarkable story, is being released (it's playing at the NZ International Film Festival) and there's been a resurgence of interest in Rodriguez, hence the re-release of both albums. Discovering this album now is like finding buried treasure - a gem you you never expected to hear, and as perceptive and rich in wisdom now as it was in the 70s.

Stars: 5/5

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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