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Rodriguez' Cold Fact

Posted by Miss Ess, August 28, 2008 12:13pm | Post a Comment
In 1970, Detroit native Rodriguez released his auspicious debut album, Cold Fact. It failed in the charts. His follow up album fared even worse, and he was subsequently dropped from his label, his music doomed to obscurity.

sixto rodriguez cold fact

Luckily for us, reissue label Light in the Attic has recently re-released Cold Fact, and it is a fantastic surprise, a cohesive, shrewd and confident record. Oh, and it sounds effing great cold fact rodrigueztoo! The album is awash in late 60s-era production touches, along with Forever Changes-like horns and overall orchestration that add to the complexity of the songs. Rodriguez' vocals are plaintive and his delivery style somewhat Dylanesque, although I think his voice is much more consistent than Dylan's. A few of my coworkers have said the album sounds much like Donovan, but I think it sounds much, much smarter than any Donovan record. The songs are clear eyed views of poverty, city life, sex, drugs and rock n roll-- views of the muddled '60s. I love how in the album's second song, "Only Good For Conversation," he calls a woman out as "the coldest bitch I know" by the second line! I think the album is pretty bold for 1970. It also still sounds fresh to these ears, even today.

Rodriguez was born Sixto Diaz Rodriguez in 1940s Detroit to Mexican immigrant parents. He was discovered playing guitar in bars by Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore. Coffey was a member of the Funk Brothers, the incredible crew of musicians that had played on countless Motown Hits. The two signed Rodriguez to the Sussex label, where he would record his two albums before being dropped. The label folded a few years later.

Over time, Rodriguez languished in construction, not knowing that his popularity was growing exponentially over the decades, first in Australia and New Zealand, and then in South Africa, due to radio play and word of mouth. In the late 70s he was alerted to his acclaim in Australia, and he toured there. Then, in 1998, his daughter discovered a web page plastered with photos. The page was based in South Africa and had been set up to find Rodriguez, milk-carton style. Through the site, she learned that there were multiple rumors of his death, that he was a star in South Africa and that his records' popularity hadsixto rodriguez mushroomed there for ages, particularly after their release on cd in 1991. Rodriguez finally traveled to South Africa and was embraced by young and old alike on his various tours there.

Here's hoping that now he catches on here in the U.S as well and tours here! The album is one of the best things I have heard in ages. It's truly a nearly-forgotten gem, one where every track is not just solid, but fantastic. Rodriguez lives in the Oldies section here at Amoeba.

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Rodriguez (4), Sixto Rodriguez (1), Cold Fact (1), Detroit (9)