With the notable exception of Bill Withers, the short-lived Sussex Records label hosted a number of overlooked talent in the early to mid-’70s. Artists like Eddy Senay, Creative Source, and the Soul Searchers live on primarily in crate-digging circles and the periodic sample, but the label’s lack of commercial break-outs makes its history both attention-worthy yet understandably buried. So, kudos again to Light in the Attic, for digging into Sussex’s catalog to retrieve the forgotten sophomore album by singer-songwriter Rodriguez, Coming From Reality.
While Rodriguez’s 1970 debut Cold Fact (also reissued by Light in the Attic less than a year ago) often received comparisons with Dylan’s surreal political work, Coming From Reality receives associations with another ’60s icon: Donovan. Period reviews of the record mentioned Jose Feliciano. Because of the ubiquity of these icons, it is difficult to dissociate this record from their influence. The album’s aloof and breezy tone understandably draws these connections. However, the first three songs alone cover a wide swath of ground: groovy psychedelic sunshine (“Climb up on My Music”), strangely timeless spoken-word critiques of hipsterdom (“A Most Disgusting Song”), and conventional ballads (“I Think of You”). The checkered sounds are anchored by Rodriguez’ matter-of-fact yet ambiguous voice. This gentle push-and-pull makes for ideal adolescent dormroom jam sessions or middle-aged campfire anthems, but has little to do with hippie or MOR aesthetics. Subsequently, beatheads especially should not expect a bevy of snippets to sample, but more of a Sunday afternoon Terry Callier smoke break.
The reissue includes another information-packed liner-notes booklet, and three non-album cuts previously available only on a best-of collection. The songs are special treats that date back to 1972 and feature Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore, who also contributed to Rodriguez’s first album. And for those still moved by these past sounds, Rodriguez has begun touring again; information can be found at the thorough official site, Sugarman.org.