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Monday, 26 April 2021

"Cold Fact" by RODRIGUEZ [Sixto] – March 1970 US Debut LP on Sussex Records Featuring Dennis Coffey, Mike Theodor, Bob Babbitt and Andrew Smith (August 2008 US Light in The Attic Records CD Reissue and Remaster In A Card Digipak With Large Booklet – Itself Reissued August 2019 in the UK on Universal/Sussex – Using The Light in The Attic Records 2008 Remaster but in a Jewel Case with Reduced Booklet) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Searching For Sugar Man…"

Sometimes in a lifetime of scouring through racks for musical thrills - you stumble on something just a little bit special that it seems no one has noticed (including myself). 

Back in the Nineties when I was upstairs in the grotty and cramped Cheapo Cheapo Records of London's Rupert Street on one of my twice-weekly forages - Vincent (who worked that floor) would stand behind his tiny counter space and smile, because he knew I always spent money and would take chances.

So there I am - flicking through manky reused plastics - once again raiding the soundtrack section to add to my 40 or so John Barry vinyl albums. And if the mood took me (and it always did) - I'd then move over and mosey through the nearby Easy Listening Section where Phil Cording (the cantankerous old geezer who owned the place and worked downstairs) would lump all sorts - Labi Siffre, Nick Jameson (of Foghat) and (usually American copies) Rodriguez. 

I'd see the sleeve of what Phil clearly thought was some Jose Feliciano lookalike and think naught of it. "Cold Fact" would in fact sit there for months on end at £2.50 - and no one but no one - would pay any attention to it all (even the Soul Boys who would be scouring the basement area for Kent compilations on Ace Records). 

But then years later came the American reissue label Light in The Attic Records quickly followed by the sensational 2012 movie "Searching For Sugar Man" (see separate review for the BLU RAY) and Rodriguez LPs stopped being sold for £2.50 'real fast'...

Back in the 2000's "Light In The Attic" was a relatively unknown reissue label in the mainstream - but their quality was on par with Bear Family of Germany and Ace Records of the UK - names that speak volumes to collectors all over the world. And while the two reissued albums raised eyebrows with their musical quality and sumptuous presentations (for a relative unknown) - the film busted the music open like a floodgate.

Sixto's debut American album "Cold Fact" was released March 1970 on Sussex SXBS 7000; followed the next year by "Coming From Reality" in November 1971 on Sussex SXBS 7012 – effectively his last studio effort. But despite their musical quality - few noticed locally. Legend in fact has it that "Coming From Reality" sold less than 20 copies. Then our American Reissue heroes step in - "Cold Fact" released on Light in The Attic LITA 036 (Barcode 826853003629) in August 2008 while "Coming From Reality" followed in May 2009 on LITA 038 (Barcode 826853003827). Light In The Attic also issued VINYL variants too. Fans of Rodriguez and the film "Searching For Sugar Man" have been purchasing those American releases ever since. 

Cut to summer of 2019. What you have here is a reissue of a reissue – Universal UK (or UM abbreviated) finally giving both of his Sussex albums CD and Vinyl Reissues in August 2019. To the cold facts...

UK released Friday, 30 August 2019 - "Cold Fact" by RODRIGUEZ on Universal/Sussex 00602577896255 (Barcode 602577896255) is a straightforward CD Reissue and Remaster (based on the August 2008 Light in The Attic Records Remaster) that plays out as follows (30:26 minutes): 

1. Sugar Man [Side 1]
2. Only Good For Conversation
3. Crucify Your Mind
4. This Is Not A Song, It's An Outburst: Or, The Establishment Blues
5. Hate Street Dialogue
6. Forget It
7. Inner City Blues [Side 2]
8. I Wonder
9. Like Janis
10. Gommorah (A Nursery Rhyme)
11. Rich Folks Hoax
12. Jane S. Piddy
Tracks 1 to 12 are his debut album "Cold Fact" – released March 1970 in the USA on Sussex Records Sussex SXBS 7000. Produced by DENNIS COFFEY and MIKE THEODORE – it didn’t chart (no UK release either). 

Musicians were:
SIXTO RODRIGUEZ – Lead Vocals and Acoustic Guitar 
DENNIS COFFEY – Electric Guitar 
MIKE THEODORE – Keyboards and Brass/String Arrangements 
BOB PANGBORN – Percussion 
Guests – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Gordon Staples 

The 12-page booklet of the 2019 reissue offers all the lyrics and basic reissue credits – the Remaster used is the 2008 LITA version. For sure there is hiss evident on many of these 1969 recordings, but the clarity and air around them is wonderfully evocative. This is real music played with real heart and I for one think that in this case, warmth is better than Audiophile. It's delicate Folk-Soul Music and it needed a deft touch - LITA and Universal have done that. 

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez (pronounced Sees-Toe) was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1942 to recently emigrated Mexican parents. From the early to late Sixties - Motown had put the Motor City on the musical map - so emerging singer-songwriters cut their teeth in bars and cafes, soaked up the campus and street politics and hoped to get noticed. After an early 7" single in 1967 on Impact that folded without trace - enter Producer Dennis Coffey and Sussex Records (home of Bill Withers). 

Opening with acoustic chords and clever Mike Theodore keyboard jabs - "Sugar Man" talks of "silver magic ships" bringing "colours to my dreams..." and as his voice fades out in a deathly echo - the drug references are no longer cool. It then goes all Psych Rock in the fuzzed-up "Only Good For Conversation" (doesn't really suit him) but things so stratospheric for me in the gorgeous "Crucify Your Mind" - a track I'm always playing. It has a brill melody - clever vibes after each set of lines and a fabulous brass backing that makes it feel like Jose Feliciano doing Soul.

"The Establishment Blues" struck a chord with kids in South Africa because of its lyrics - words like "I opened the window to listen to the news...but all I heard was the Establishment Blues..." The same applied to the superb Side 2 opener "Inner City Blues" where Rodriguez echoed their young yet restricted existence - "papa don't allow no new ideas around here..." The bass and guitars are harshly separated on "I Wonder" but it doesn't stop it from a being a great song - and when the organ kicks in as he sings, "I wonder does hatred ever end..." - it sounds like "Blonde On Blonde" Dylan - Sixto making social comments that are astute and matter. 

"Like Janis" feels like Dylan circa "New Morning" where he sings, "I know you're lonely..." Both it and "Gommorah" are very hissy - but the tunes feature slick guitar playing and "Gomorrah" some ill-advised kiddies singing. The albums other great song "Rich Folks Hoax" slams greed in all kinds of high places - "the priest is preaching from a shallow grave..." and some music industry type "don't tell me your recipes for my happiness..." It ends on the attacking "Jane P. Diddy" where he accuses someone of being "pimp and paint" - nice. And the "Coming From Reality" album that followed "Cold Fact" in November 1971 is even better in my opinion – see separate review. 

"Cold Fact" was a forgotten classic, now no longer forgotten because people cared enough to see it resurrected. Nice to know that minor miracles such as this can still actually happen in the real world as well as on the silver screen...

PS: this review is dedicated to Phil Cording and his Staff at Cheapo Cheapo Records in London’s Rupert Street - Vincent and Jack. ‘Uncle’ Phil sadly passed away a few years back...RIP and thanks for all the records...

PPS: 30 August 2019 also saw a VINYL LP Reissue of "Cold Fact" on Universal/Sussex 00602577077371 (Barcode 602577077371)

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