What do you get when you combine Bob Dylan’s unmistakable vocal harmonies, James Taylor’s introspective lyrics, the unfaltering conviction to confront social injustice, and wrap it all up in powerful, harmonious guitar chords? Sixto Dias Rodriguez – or better known as simply, Rodriguez. Though popular in an apartheid torn South Africa during the 1970’s, Rodriguez never enjoyed the success in America that some of the aforementioned artists did. Coming From Reality is a thirteen-song album and is filled with his most convincing material, which begs the question of why he hasn’t launch into stardom here in the United States. Rodriguez slipped through the cracks decades ago, yet with special thanks to the recent film by Malik Bendjelloul entitled “Searching for Sugarman” he is now getting the recognition he deserves.
Coming from Reality confidently begins with a plea by Rodriguez to “Climb up on My Music.” The song is indicative of folk-rock of the 1970s, with easy to follow rhythms and brief side guitar solos. The song then flows into “A Most Disgusting Song” in which Rodriguez tells a story of the places in which he has played, describing in great detail the people he sees as he plays. This song – though more of an interlude – is a nice contrast to what comes after it, a rather mellow ballad titled “I Think of You,” in which Rodriguez longingly aches for a long lost lover.
Rodriguez’s Climb Up On My Music (live)
“Heikki’s Suburbia Bus Tour” comes back to focus on Rodriguez’s vocal harmonies and guitar riffs, which sound like he took great inspiration from brothers Gregg and Duane Allman. The low point of the album comes after this song though, with both “Silver Words” and “Sandrevan Lullaby-Lifestyles” – two ballads that have the basic elements of pain and longing, though in the end fall a bit short in terms of originality. The latter of the two incorporates a strings section, which adds a dramatic layer that we don’t previously hear in the album until now.
Eventually we come to the slow and somber “To Whom It May Concern”, which blends into “It Started Out So Nice” and “Halfway Up the Stairs” – all reminiscent of James Taylor again in terms of sweet vocal harmonies and folk-rock inspired guitar chords. The album ends with the anything but jovial “Cause.” Here, Rodriguez comes in with “Cause I lost my job / two weeks before Christmas.” Cheery, eh? This song begins slow, rattling with despair and dreariness. It almost feels like one of those rainy days where you’re stuck inside, with nothing to do but read and drink tea. There is redemption though, with the three bonus tracks of the album, “Can’t Get Away”, “Street Boy”, and “I’ll Slip Away.” The last of which is a humble return to the album’s beginning – with rhetorical questions of morality and foreshadowing Rodriguez’s imminent departure into obscurity.
Written by Charlie Greengoss
OurVinyl | Contributor