Emitt Rhodes | Rainbow Ends (Omnivore, 2016)
A review by Alan Haber
Emitt Rhodes released three tremendous and influential solo albums during the first four years of the 1970s and then, as quick as that, withdrew from the pop music scene he helped to create and grow after the pressures of writing and recording more music than was realistically possible in a short period of time wore him down.
Now, 43 years after Emitt’s third album, Farewell to Paradise, was released, the artist has recorded a brand-new record, Rainbow Ends, lovingly produced by musician Chris Price. To say that this is another tremendous release by one of pop music’s favorite sons is hardly doing the project justice. It is an incontrovertible fact that this is one of those albums that not only fits into the current pop milieu, it transcends it; put simply, it is as perfect as it is possible to be.
Delivering his buoyant melodies with a rich and emotive vocal timbre, somewhat deeper and more resonant than before, Hawthorne, California’s other favorite son’s songs are played to perfection by a core group consisting of top-flight musicians including Price, Jellyfish’s Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Jason Falkner, Rooney’s Taylor Locke, Fernando Perdomo, the New Pornographers’ Joseph Seiders, and guests such as the Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs, Bleu, and ace utility player Probyn Gregory. To say that this is the collective musical dream team is quite simply putting it mildly.
The songs on Rainbow Ends are closer in approach and feel to those on Emitt’s Farewell to Paradise album than they are those on his self-titled debut and Mirror, but they are no less powerful and catchy. They may not be played by Emitt in his storied one-man-band mode, but it all sounds like it is as it should be, as if he were behind the kit or standing with a guitar draped over his shoulder (he does play acoustic guitar and piano on some songs).
Alternately playful and emotional, these songs feature all of the hallmarks that fans have come to expect and revere: beautiful, catchy melodies; inventive chord changes; and those velvety, smooth, sturdy and emotive vocals. Perhaps this is no more evident than on the emotional ballad “I Can’t Tell My Heart.” The song is somewhat reminiscent of Mirror‘s “Love Will Stone You,” and a showcase for Emitt’s committed, vocal delivery; the gorgeous melody and emotional lyrics combine to sketch the breakup of a relationship and a considered plea for the other party to embrace the option to heal.
The bluesy pop vibe of the playful and standout track “If I Knew Then” is a showcase for the core players’ talents: Roger Joseph Manning Jr.’s percussive, bass clef-heavy piano; Fernando Perdomo’s deep-voiced bass; Taylor Locke’s Paul McCartney-esque electric guitar riffs, sounding as if they were borrowed from McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It”; and Joseph Seider’s demolition derby drumming are all top-notch.
“Friday’s Love” paints an emotional picture of a weekend romantic encounter that, against all odds, sparks the hope that the connection will roll on into the next week and beyond. Strong harmony vocals, sung by a grouping that includes Bleu, are especially affecting. The closing, title song finds all musical hands on deck for a plea for hope for peace in one’s life in the here-and-now and in the coming days. “I wanna be with the ones I love/Hold them close, give them hugs,” Emitt sings. It’s the universal wish, hopefully come true.
Rainbow Ends is the sweet payoff realized after more than four decades of hope for more music from a true, legendary artist, but really it’s more than that; it’s the passage of dreams into the real, the realization of what was wanted becoming true. Welcome back, Emitt Rhodes.
Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Beatles to the Spongetones, the Nines, Kurt Baker, the Connection and the New Trocaderos, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Tune in by clicking on one of the listen links below.
(Emitt Rhodes photo by Greg Allen)
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