Rodriguez Album Review: Cold Fact (1970)

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Cold Fact, the first studio album from Sixto Rodriguez.

In green is my opinion. I have watched the documentary ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ and I am very interested in this man’s story and music. I am excited to review this iconic album.

In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He hasn’t seen the documentary and is not familiar with Rodriguez. He will be listening to this album for the first time. 

Let’s start our track-by-track review! Sugar Man

Sugar Man’s easy acoustics paired with psychedelic distortions establish a feeling of mystery. Horns and bass give this song some rhythmic flavor. Sugar Man, while its story is straightforward, manages to illustrate vivid pictures in the mind of the listener. This was the best way for Rodriguez to introduce himself on Cold Fact. Sugar Man is a cool song.

Awesome! We start off the album with a song title that perfectly fits my dad! He is the king of sweets in my family! On a serious note, Sugar Man is a song that is filled with many different instruments working in unison, and that is what makes me love it. I also like the bass groove. Rodriguez’s vocals are sweet! (The pun was totally necessary).

Only Good for Conversation

Only Good for Conversation is a song that oozes Jimi Hendrix. The electric guitar, especially in the grinding riff, could be something from Jimi himself.  The angry lyrics are amusing and interesting. This track is an enjoyable one with a nice kick to it.

Right away, the guitar riff hooked me to this song. Once again, the bass is groovy, and Rodriguez’s vocals emulate a Black Keys or Arctic Monkeys song. I wish the song was longer, but it is still a solid track.

Crucify Your Mind

This song is poetry. Crucify Your Mind is defined by the hefty lyrics that are simultaneously both straightforward and cryptic. The nifty guitar is complemented quite well by what sounds like a xylophone. This track has some great lyrics and some standout music. Crucify Your Mind is a pleasant success.

Crucify Your Mind reminds me of a Bob Dylan song, though Rodriguez has a better voice. I love the xylophones that can be heard throughout the song, as well as the brass instruments. What I really wonder is what the lyrics are about. They are very poetic to me.

This Is Not a Song, It’s an Outburst (The Establishment Blues)

Despite the fact that this track was recorded in 1970, it is just as applicable to society as it stands today. This tune doesn’t fluctuate very much, but I can’t knock it because of that fact. Rodriguez does tell us, after all, that The Establishment Blues isn’t a song. This track is a nice little window into the mind of Rodriguez and how he perceives city life. It’s truth. 

If this is not a song, and not an outburst (because he is not screaming), then what is this? This “song,” seems to be Rodriguez listing out a bunch of problems with society that, strangely enough, occur in the world today. It is an interesting track, as you will find when you sit down and contemplate its lyrics.

Hate Street Dialogue

Rodriguez’s moody guitar gives this song an edge that is entirely fitting. The lyrics, once again, are not entirely obscure, but they do retain some mystery, providing some clear substance along with muddied waters that must be filtered to get to the gold. Hate Street Dialogue is an intriguing song that is acoustic success. 

Once again, it is the guitar that hooks me to this song. At first, I thought Hate Street Dialogue was a break-up song. After further listening, however, I feel this song is about growing up on the streets and, judging by the vocals, it is clear that Rodriguez does not like it.

Forget It

The brass returns! Forget It is a simple breakup song that is both honest and sarcastic. The melody has an air of Elton John to it, which is rarely a bad thing, musically. I wonder why Rodriguez decided to put this track smack-dab right in the middle of the album, as it is a parting song, but I admire the decision to stray from the cliched “ending tune” to close out the album. This is yet another great display of lyrics put to tight music.

Okay, now we finally get the breakup song. This track length is perfect for a breakup tune, which should typically be short and to the point. Thankfully I have never gone through a relationship yet, but damn, Rodriguez. You just made one powerful breakup song.

Inner City Blues

Inner City Blues is more rhythmic and more challenging than his same-veined cousin, Hate Street Dialogue. This is a rebellious song, complete with soulful guitar and a great woodwind section (at least I think it’s woodwind). The chorus is edgy, backed by rocking bass and heavy brass. The lyrics are stellar yet again. Inner City Blues is a cool, bluesy song.

This song is filled with the blues. Rodriguez mixes the blues with soul, and that combination works well, surprisingly. In this song, the vocals steal the show. I am also a fan of the acoustic guitar. Inner City Blues is another solid song that showcases Rodriguez’s considerable lyricism.

I Wonder

That bass is off the hook. The keyboard and grooving drums give backbone to Rodriguez’s words. Despite the negative lyrics, this is an uplifting song. I Wonder can lift anyone’s mood. There isn’t anything to dislike about I Wonder. I dig it wholeheartedly.

This song completely caught me off guard, since it is about sex. The world is filled with wonders, and this song reminds us that is it is okay to wonder about certain things in life. For all of our younger viewers out there, do not worry or wonder about sex. Trust me, you do not want to know about it until you have matured. For of all the mature viewers out there, please do not overdo it with the sex, like the Game of Thrones, and enjoy it responsibly.

Like Janis

Just as is the case with I Wonder, Like Janis is an uplifting song despite its negative lyrics. The lyric of the album has to be “A monkey in silk is a monkey no less.” It’s amazing how simplicity can be just as eloquent as extensiveness. Like Janis is a powerful song, guided by outstanding lyrics and frantic strings. I like Like Janis.

The beginning of this song reminded me of Ramble On by Led Zeppelin because of the guitar. Like Janis is another song that I like because of all of the different instruments in it. The guitar doesn’t steal the show, which is a nice change of pace. Like Janis is a sad song, though it does not sound sad in regards to the music and the vocals. I truly appreciate the song’s simplicity.

Gomorrah (A Nursery Rhyme)

‘Yeah, let’s throw kids into the chorus of a song. That’s original.’ That was my initial impression of this song. But then I realized that I was poorly mistaken. This song was released almost ten years before The Wall. Wow. Gomorrah is a dark song, as it essentially antagonizes American society. It is no secret that Rodriguez is critical of society, as can be gathered from listening to this album in its entirety. This song is an inventive one, as it is based up America the Beautiful, making Gomorrah a song full of irony and full of intrigue. 

I love the bass and rhyme in this song. Rodriguez’ rhyming skill makes the genre of rap seem like a joke! I also love the kids singing in the background. It was nice to hear part of America the Beautiful in the song. Gomorrah is a very creative, and has a different sound, which is why it is one of my favorites!

Rich Folks Hoax

What a song. This time around, the music was simply a canvas for Rodriguez to paint on. There is nothing dynamic happening with the music, and I am grateful for it, because the lyrics deserve both of your ears’ full attention. There are plenty of songs out there about the corrupt high-class, but nobody has written one with as much class as Rodriguez has. Rich Folks Hoax is a well thought-out, smart track.

Rich Folks’ Hoax is another song that really showcases Rodriguez’s songwriting skills. This song is pure poetry. Honestly, someone should give this guy a Nobel Prize or something. It is amazing how he can blend his lyrics with the music.

Jane S. Piddy

The acoustic guitar in this song reminds me of Dave Matthews’ Up and Away, which, although released in 2003, sounds very similar. Just thought I’d throw it out there. Jane S. Piddy has a predominant feeling of loneliness. It’s a very sad song. What is truly amazing about Rodriguez is that, on Cold Fact, many of his lyrics are hard to make out. But they aren’t difficult to understand in their entirety. Bits and pieces are left uncovered while long stretches remain to be fleshed out by the listener. Jane S. Piddy is another intriguing song, and it has perhaps the most cryptic lyrics of the album.

Jane S. Piddy is a great way to bring this album to a close. The lyrics keep us guessing and wondering, just like other songs on the album. I always love it when musicians do that. Since this is the first time that I have listened to this guy, I will go and watch the documentary about him, which I hear is amazing. If this is your first listen to Rodriguez as well, I recommend that you watch it too!

My Top 3

Only Good for Conversation

Hate Street Dialogue

I Wonder

Rob’ Top 3

Inner City Blues

I Wonder

Gomorrah

It is clear that we feel that this album deserves the attention that it has gotten, if not more. Rodriguez’s solid acoustics and deep lyrics combine in 12 outstanding songs. Each one sounds great, contains stellar lyrics, and harbors individual music. This Filet is a fantastic listen. I’ll leave you with some wise words from Rodriguez.

“Get your hugs, stay off drugs.”

~Juck

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