on 16 October 2003
Emitt Rhodes was nothing more than a name to me until a few months ago. Friends said I should give him a listen. So I did. What I found was a treasure-trove of utterly fantastic pop music. The usual reference points are the Beatles, Badfinger and Big Star, and they are all present and correct. But there are folky influences too, on tracks like Lullaby, Better Side of Life, Love Will Stone You and Mother Earth. The better elements of James Taylor spring to mind, and there's even a touch of Nick Drake. Rhodes' voice is often very like Macca. However, while the songs are often fairly joyous, the Pollyanna-ish elements you often get with McCartney are absent.
Emitt Rhodes packs more ideas into three minutes than some people do in a double album. Melodically, some of this is just breathtaking. Also, the harmonies and arrangements are wonderfully clever and really do the material justice. The sounds and textures (particularly the guitar and bass) owe a lot to Abbey Road, and to a lesser extent, the white album. Some of this stuff is good enough to have appeared on a Beatles album. Really.
The first half of the CD is taken up with all of the tracks from Emitt Rhodes' first solo album. No complaints on that score, because it's a tremendous, and tremendously consistent, piece of work. Initially, some of this stuff may feel a bit too lightweight for its own good, but it really gets under your skin. The later stuff is every bit as good, although I could have done without Let's All Sing and Warm Self Sacrifice, and perhaps have had some of his earlier stuff instead, like You're A Very Lovely Woman or Time Will Show The Wiser (both fab, and dating from his days with the Merry-Go-Round).
Very difficult to pick highlights, but Somebody Made For Me, Promises I've Made, Fresh As A Daisy, Better Side Of Life, Love Will Stone You and Only Lovers Decide are particular faves.
Seriously, this is some of the most life-affirming stuff you'll ever hear. It may be 30 years old, but like the man says it's "fresh as a daisy".
on 29 June 2007
His debut self-titled album (the first 12 tracks in this compilation) was very nearly a perfect record. Along with Paul Williams' "Someday Man" one of the best records of 1970 no-one you know has ever heard. Emitt's voice and his music is like early solo McCartney meeting Raspberries-era Eric Carmen. Wow!
The rest of the CD, culled from his other two early '70s albums, isn't nearly as good, though. More Elton than Badfinger, unfortunately.
AND he's from Hawthorne, CA. Suppose there's something in the water there?
In truth, there was a time when you couldn’t give away Emitt Rhodes albums here in the UK, but something of a rediscovery of his music has taken place in the last two decades that has brought his LPs out of the bargain bins and into the eBay lists. A quick scan of the alarmingly high CD prices on his reissues will also quickly confirm this.
Hailing from Hawthorne (a suburb in Los Angeles) - Rhodes first came to prominence with the US sixties group “The Merry-Go-Round” who made one album for A&M in 1967, their self-titled debut “The Merry-Go-Round”. Around the album, they issued a wad of singles, but neither bothered the charts. These releases are quite sought after now. Even this July 1998 UK-only CD compilation on Edsel EDCD 569 (Barcode 740155156923) is now quite rare. But is it worth the money?
Vocally Rhodes is a cross between Nilsson on “Nilsson Schmilsson”, Todd Rundgren on “Something/Anything?” and Ron Mael of Sparks on “Kimono My House”. But there is also the Beach Boys and Dennis Wilson vibe too. With all these cool influences bounding around, his songs and their arrangements have aroused a lot of interest in those who like their Seventies tunes melodic and layered. His first album is probably his most popular and fans will be glad to see it represented here in its entirety. Impressively, all 22 songs on here are written, played and arranged by Emitt Rhodes.
The 12-page booklet has informative liner notes by ALAN ROBINSON, but there is no mention of mastering or remastering - and unfortunately the sound varies wildly – I’d say most of it is ok rather than great. A lot of the tracks are hissy, but they’re also punchy enough to be acceptable.
While I like the 1st LP, for me the song writing improved immeasurably on “Mirror”. I especially love “Better Side Of Life” and “Really Wanted You” (lyrics above) – very Dennis Wilson – and in a really good way.
There was an album called “The American Dream” issued in the USA in April 1971, but it contained the Merry-Go-Round tracks and other unreleased stuff from 1967 to 1968. It is not represented on this comp…
Here’s a detailed breakdown of the tracks that are (78:25 minutes):
1. With My Face On The Floor
2. Somebody Made For Me
3. She’s Such A Beauty
4. Long Time No See
6. Fresh As A Daisy
7. Live Till You Die
8. Promises I’ve Made
9. You Take The Dark Out Of The Night
10. You Should Be Ashamed
11. Ever Find Yourself Running
12. You Must Have
Tracks 1 to 12 are the entire debut album “Emitt Rhodes” first issued December 1970 in the USA on ABC/Dunhill DS 50089 and then on Probe Records SPBA 6256 in the UK in February 1971
13. Birthday Lady
14. Better Side Of Life
16. Really Wanted You
17. Golden Child Of God
Tracks 13 to 17 are 5 of the 10 tracks on his 2nd album “Mirror” issued on ABC/Dunhill DSX 50111 in the USA in November 1971 and on Probe Records SPBA 6262 in the UK in December 1971
18. Warm Self Sacrifice
19. Blue Horizon
20. Shoot The Moon
21. Only Lovers Decide
Tracks 18 to 21 are 4 of the 12 tracks on his 3rd album “Farewell To Paradise” issued September 1972 on Probe Records SPBA 6266 and ABC/Dunhill DSX 50122 in the USA.
22. Tame The Lion
Track 22 is a non-album A-side. In the UK it was on Probe Records PRO 565 and in the USA on A&M 4315, both issued in 1972. “Golden Child Of God” - an album track off “Mirror” - is its B-side in both countries.
“Daisy-Fresh…” was a good compilation for its time - but the American Hip-O Select double "The Emitt Rhodes Recordings (1969-1973)“ from 2009 makes mincemeat of it - especially regarding the Audio (see my separate review)…