(Light in the Attic)
And so Seattle's Light in the Attic rescues yet another holy-grail LP from oblivion, doing the philanthropic deed once more with a lavishly packaged reissue of Rodriguez's 1970 debut LP, Cold Fact.
"Who?" you ask. The Mexican-American Sixto Diaz Rodriguez was born in Detroit in 1942 to blue-collar stock and clambered through the Motor City's fertile music scene before recording Cold Fact in 1969. Produced by badass Motown session guitarist Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore and featuring Funk Brothers bassist Bob Babbitt and drummer Andrew Smith, the 12 songs here deserve the sort of reverence Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home and Phil Ochs's All the News That's Fit to Sing have inspired.
Like Dylan and Ochs's, Rodriguez's voice isn't technically "good," but it's distinctive enough to pierce the anodyne clutter of pop culture and rivet your attention. Actually, the content of Rodriguez's songs—mind fucks stemming from drugs, inequality, loose sex, street hassles, etc.—would sound ridiculous if sung by someone with perfect pitch and pleasant timbre. Which may explain why the technically dazzling Tim Buckley's "protest" songs on Goodbye and Hello sound unconvincing as a conduit for social commentary and lyrical agitation.
While obscure in America, Rodriguez garnered a large cult following in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa in the '70s. His profile rose in 2002 when DJ David Holmes placed Rodriguez's "Sugar Man" on his Come Get It, I Got It mix album.
A standout on Cold Fact, "Sugar Man" is a folk-soul ballad augmented by a killer descending bass line and psychedelic effects (echoed backward violin, astral analog-synth bleeps, reverbed vocals on the fadeout) from the Theo-Coff production team. The disc's next track, "Only Good for Conversation," barges in on an ornery fuzz-toned bass riff and Coffey's acidic electric guitar. After this devastating one-two punch, Cold Fact shifts into more conventional troubadour tropes, but Detroit street funk still courses through the lyrically bold compositions like faint muscle spasms. Imagine José Feliciano covering Forever Changes' folkier numbers, and you're close to grasping Cold Fact's unique sabor.