I was playing the new Emitt Rhodes album, Rainbow Ends, in my bookshop last week and a female customer asked me what was playing. When I told her that it was Emitt Rhodes, the predictable response was: “I never heard of him before!” Such a reaction is not surprising. Emitt Rhodes is hardly a household name and this album is the first thing he’s recorded in over forty years. You heard that right: the last time Emitt Rhodes released an album was back in 1973!
Rhodes started his musical career as a teenager, forming a fantastic band called the Merry-Go-Round. After that band disbanded in 1969, Rhodes recorded a self-titled debut album in 1970, one that ranks with the finest recordings of that decade. Rhodes songs exuded a classic shimmering pop sensibility, sounding very McCartney-esque at times. After two more very impressive solo albums, Rhodes released Farewell To Paradise in 1973 and then … nothing more. His reputation as one of the finest singer-songwriters of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s only increased over the years, but Rhodes himself became somewhat of a musical recluse.
But thanks to the encouragement of producer Chris Price, Rhodes — who had never stopped writing songs over the years — was inspired to go back into the studio last year, and the result is the wonderful Rainbow Ends. Backed by devoted fans such as Aimee Mann and members of the Bangles, Jellyfish, and Wilco, Rhodes sounds sharp and assured on these new songs. No, it’s not the best thing he’s ever done, but the album has a couple of songs that certainly do rank with the best of his early output. Welcome back, Emitt Rhodes, and don’t wait so long for the next album!
In addition to Emitt Rhodes, here are the other CDs that I’ve been playing repeatedly in recent weeks. Cool music to combat the intense heatwave we are experiencing in Thailand lately. I like warm weather and have lived in hot climates (Florida, Thailand, Cambodia) all of my life, but the heat and humidity this past month has truly been uncomfortable. Bring on the rains!
Carl Carlton – The Best of Carl Carlton
Considered by many critics as a one-hit wonder (or maybe a two-hit wonder: both “Everlasting Love” and “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” charted) this compilation shows that Carl Carlton had a much deeper reservoir of quality songs than you would imagine. His late ‘60s and early ‘70s material is particularly impressive.
Deerhunter – Fading Frontier
Carole King – The Legendary Demos
Chris Stapleton – Traveller
Various Artists – Kent’s Cellar of Soul: Volume 2
Cait Brennan – Debutante
This talented singer-songwriter makes her recording debut in her mid-forties with an outstanding set of songs: pure pop-rock with hooks galore, much in the vein of artists such as Badfinger and Todd Rundgren. As great as this album is, I was somewhat puzzled by the vocals: Brennan sounded like a man! But after doing some online reading, I discovered that Brennan is a trans-woman, thus the deeper timbre of her vocals. But the bottom line: these are terrific songs, the sort that will stick in your head for days.
Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are
Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (Deluxe Edition)
Various Artists – Happy Lovin’ Time: Sunshine Pop From the Garpax Vaults
Beachwood Sparks – Beachwood Sparks
Omar Souleyman – Bahdeni Nami
This popular Syrian wedding singer has recently found an international audience thanks to dance remixes of some of his very vibrant music. Indeed, this new collection of songs could be the dance album of the year. Play this at a high decibel level and then let your body do the rest. I guarantee you will NOT sit still. Exotic grooves galore!
Gary Bartz – I’ve Known Rivers
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style
Spirogyra – St. Radigunds
Curtis Mayfield – Live in Europe
Gospelbeach – Pacific Surf Line
Boasting a talented lineup that includes Neal Casal and members of Beachwood Sparks, this is a breezy, feel-good collection of songs, not unlike those of other semi-supergroups such as Golden Smog or the Minus Five. The song “Sunshine Skyway” will strike a chord with anyone who has spent time on the West Coast of Florida.
P.F. Sloan – Here’s Where I Belong: The Best of the Dunhill Years
Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down
Various Artists – Pain Goes Deep: More Deep Soul Gems
The Beginning of the End – Funky Nassau
The O’Jays – Survival
The O’Jays were one of the more popular soul vocal groups in the 1970s, enjoying a long run of hit singles. Digging deeper beneath the radio hits, however, their albums all consisted of very strong songs. Survival is another truly great album with many socially conscious songs and those distinctive vocals, in the same vein as other classic O’Jays albums such as Ship Ahoy, Back Stabbers, and Family Reunion.
Bob Welch – Three Hearts
Kimberley Rew – Healing Broadway
Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars
Rezillos – Can’t Stand the Rezillos: The (Almost) Complete Rezillos
Junior Murvin – Police & Thieves (Deluxe Edition)
This 1970s reggae classic, produced by the legendary Lee Perry, has been repackaged as a 2-CD deluxe condition, complete with remixes, dub versions, and unreleased material. Many listeners know the version of Police & Thieves that the Clash recorded, but Murvin’s original is still the best. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg on this truly excellent album.
Bill Evans – The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy
Papa Wemba – Emotion
David Porter – Gritty, Groovy & Gettin’ It
The Disciplines – Smoking Kills
Sam Dees – The Heritage of a Black Man
Dees was one of the finest and most underrated songwriters of the 1970s and 1980s, and also an excellent vocalist in his own right. This compilation from Kent and Ace Records collects some demos and unreleased recordings he had in the vault. Essential soul music!
Smithereens – From Jersey It Came: The Smithereens Anthology
Gene Clark – The Complete Ebbets Field Broadcast
Elton John – Wonderful Crazy Night
Crack the Sky – Live at Recher Theatre
Bembeya Jazz National – The Syliphone Years
Hailing from the West African country of Guinea, Bembeya Jazz National produced a bunch of terrific records during 1960s and 1970s. This 2-CD set covers the years 1967-1977. The music is somewhat similar to the great Congolese music of the same period, combining Cuban and African sounds, reminiscent of Franco and Tabu Ley.
Jesse Malin – The Fine Art of Self Destruction
Sutherland Brothers & Quiver – The Very Best of
The Main Ingredient – L.T.D./Black Seeds
The Ides of March – Vehicle