Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Ah, 1970! Right in the middle of the golden age of rock music, amidst such epically successful records like Paranoid, After the Gold Rush, Led Zeppelin III or Cosmo’s Factory, comes this effort by initially little-known singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez. Who is this Detroit-born Mexican-American with cool shades and a weird first name (given to him because he was the sixth child in his family)? Is he another Dylan-Donovan-Cat Stevens rip-off or the great forgotten hero of the hippie generation, overlooked in every country but South Africa and Australia? Yeah I’m serious, look it up if you don’t believe me – in South Africa they even thought he was dead at some point, with his fans considering him a great tragic artist akin to Morrison or Hendrix. Then a couple of decades later they found out he was alive and revived his career, but that’s another story… So who is this Sugar Man of rock music after all?
It turns out that he is just a very good songwriter and a pretty idiosyncratic singer who was merely unlucky to finish his recording career too early (after exactly two albums). Cold Fact is his debut and frankly it doesn’t feel much like a debut album – Rodriguez appears here already as an accomplished musician who has enough great material for a brilliant 30+ minutes LP.
And it is partly true as well – he polished his songs by performing them in bars and clubs for several years before releasing this album, so Cold Fact is a result of a lot of hard work that somehow still feels almost effortless. Of course, “Sugar Man” is his calling card, his most famous and memorable song, but this is not the case of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” at all, because the other tracks are in fact worthy of your attention as well. My particular favourites include the raunchy guitar-driven “Only Good for Conversation”, the lyrically bitter “Hate Street Dialogue” and the light-heartedly melodic “I Wonder”. I would also love to praise the hell out of playing and singing but I’m afraid this review will get overlong and boring if I start describing it in too much detail. So I’ll just say that the eclectic instrumentation is a delight to my ears, and Sixto’s singing breathes personality and gives off a shining charisma – I mean you can actually FEEL what kind of a man he is merely from the way he delivers these verses. He’s obviously a swell guy, this Rodriguez, though slightly disillusioned by the world around him. And have I already mentioned his cool shades? Well they are cool enough to mention them twice, and when you hear these songs you can almost see them in front of your eyes. And that calm and collected fella behind them, too.
So, long story short, this album rules, it might actually become one of my favourite albums of 1970. That’s a cold fact for you. Take care.