Friday, February 5, 2016

Emitt Rhodes: “Rainbow Ends” (2016) CD Review

Emitt Rhodes released his first solo album in 1970, on which he wrote, sang, performed and produced every track. That album reached #29 on the Billboard chart (years later that album’s “Lullaby” would be featured in The Royal Tenenbaums, one of my favorite films). He followed that self-titled record with a few more over the next couple of years. But after 1973’s (perhaps appropriately titled) Farewell To Paradise, he stopped releasing albums and stopped performing. But he continued writing and recording (he has a track on the Bee Gees tribute, To Love The Bee Gees). And now, after forty-three years, we are treated to a new full-length album by Emitt Rhodes, Rainbow Ends. This album features all original material, written or co-written by Emitt Rhodes. There are some excellent guest artists on this release, including Aimee Mann, Jon Brion and Susannah Hoffs. The album was produced by Chris Price, who also plays guitar and organ, and provides some harmony vocals. The band also includes Jason Falkner on guitar, Taylor Locke on guitar, Fernando Perdomo on bass, Joseph Seiders on drums, and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. on piano and vibraphone.

“Dog On A Chain,” the lead-off track, begins as folk (reminding me a bit of Brooks Williams), then kicks in with a kind of mellow rock vibe. This song relates a less-than-ideal look at love and relationships, and it’s a really good track. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I was led along like a dog on a chain/Out in the cold/Out in the rain/I was led along like a dog on a leash/I did as told while she did as she pleased.” And I love these lines: “Once she praised me/Now she hates me/I can’t see how I have changed.” Excellent, right? Aimee Mann provides some harmony vocals on this track, and Jon Brion plays guitar.

That is followed by “If I Knew Then,” an excellent song with an interesting bluesy hook. This one too takes a look at the darker and lesser side of love. “Wouldn’t give my heart/To just anyone/If I knew then/What was to come/I gave my trust/An act of faith/How could I be so dumb.” I really like the piano work by Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. This is one of my favorite tracks.

“Isn’t It So” has some 1970s soft rock vibes. It’s a sweet song of loss and longing. “I’m still trying to please you/Even though you’re not here/Still talking to you/Even though you can’t hear/And the more I deny it/The more that it’s true/There’s hardly a moment/I’m not thinking of you.” “Someone Else” is another strong track about vulnerability in love. It opens with the lines, “When you tell someone you care a lot/Prepare yourself for a broken heart.” Those lines are so wonderfully depressing. And check out these lines: “I like her so much it makes me ill/And it makes no sense/And it never will.” “Someone Else” was written by Emitt Rhodes and Chris Price. Susannah Hoffs provides harmony vocals on this track. And then Nels Cline (from Wilco) plays guitar on “I Can’t Tell My Heart.”

“Put Some Rhythm To It” is a fun song taking us back to those awkward days of learning to dance and seeking romance. The song has a kind of nostalgic sound, which works so well, transporting us to the 1970s, and it also has a good sense of humor. “At every school dance/I would not strut nor prance/And I seldom left my seat.” Susannah Hoffs provides harmony vocals on this track. That one is followed by “It’s All Behind Us Now,” which has a good groove. It’s about trying to let things from the past remain in the past, while we move on. “Let’s forget those things we said/Say the things we wish we had/Let’s forget those things we did/Do thing right this time instead/It’s all behind us now.” Pat Sansone plays acoustic guitar on this track.

The CD ends with its title track, “Rainbow Ends.” “Always chasing rainbow ends/Head up in the clouds/Thought my dreams would never end/But my eyes, they’re open now.”

CD Track List
  1. Dog On A Chain
  2. If I Knew Then
  3. Isn’t It So
  4. This Wall Between Us
  5. Someone Else
  6. I Can’t Tell My Heart
  7. Put Some Rhythm To It
  8. It’s All Behind Us Now
  9. What’s A Man To Do
  10. Friday’s Love
  11. Rainbow Ends 
Rainbow Ends is scheduled to be released on February 26, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.

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