The most I can tell you about Rodriguez is what I can quote from the eMusic page where I found the re-release of his 1970 album, Cold Fact, which I needle dropped and dowloaded immediately.
History is a funny thing. While for us in the States the pinnacle of ’60s music remains Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, it’s not necessarily so elsewhere. A Hispanic Detroit folk-rock singer by the name of Sixtoo (Sees-toe) Rodriguez might be the best example of such mutability. The album Rodriguez cut with guitarist Dennis Coffey (he of “Scorpio” fame), Cold Fact, was received with indifference stateside, yet inexplicably crossed oceans to become a smash hit in Australia and South Africa (even going platinum in the midst of Apartheid). In those countries, Rodriguez verges on legend, a songwriter who contains the sneer and outrage of Dylan, the folk lyricism of Donovan and the rhythmic sensibility of fellow Detroit resident Marvin Gaye (he even has a song called “Inner City Blues”). As Cold Fact makes abundantly clear, while his voice does contain such strands of these icons, Sixtoo stands as his own man. He’s gritty and hard-nosed on “Hate Street Dialogue,” sly, macho, and slightly possessive on “I Wonder.” Opener “Sugar Man” is retroactively considered a dusty-fingered classic of soul/ rock, so that you wonder how history might have been rewritten.
Richie Unterberger of AllMusicGuide offered this review:
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 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 it goes with folk-rock-psych singer/songwriters possessing captivating non sequitur turns of the phrase, he’s just behind Arthur Lee and Skip Spence, but still worth your consideration.
What do you think?
Artwork: Bits and Toes (35mm – 200) by Tara Jones