Alive

A live album recorded during the 1979 Australian Tour

Tracks | Releases | Sleeve notes | Musicians |
Reviews | Comments | Tour info

Alive Alive
Cassette Vinyl

Side One:
1. Can't Get Away (4.41)
2. Street Boy (4.33)
3. Like Janis (2.50)
4. I Think of You (3.40)
5. I'll Slip Away (3.58)

Side Two:
1. A Most Disgusting Song (4.24)
2. Forget It (2.12)
3. Inner City Blues (3.40)
4. Halfway Up The Stairs (1.50)
5. To Whom It May Concern (8.07)

Total time: 40.44 (Individual track timings measured using my tape deck's counter)

Releases:

Recorded live at The Regent Theatre, Sydney, Australia, 17th & 18th March 1979.

To coincide with the 1981 Australian tour Blue Goose Music released this live album with catalogue numbers: BGM 003 (LP) & BGMC 003 (Cassette)

In 1986 Powderworks records re-issued this album with these numbers: POWX 6119 (LP) & POWC 6119 (Cassette)

Philip Birnbaum, Blue Goose Music, and Rodriguez authorized a one year only release of the "Alive" album in Australia and New Zealand only.

Rodriguez Alive (Australian version) was a limited 1 year release and won't be re-released. The only one I have is an old cassette.
- Eva Rodriguez, April 1998

Musicians:
Rodriguez: Vocals, Acoustic guitar
Steve Cooney: Guitar, mandolin (from Australia)
Doug McDonald: Drums (from New Zealand)
Jake Salazar: Bass
José Guadiana (or Guadiama): Flute

Jake and José were Americans who left three-quarters of the way through the tour and were replaced by an Australian Joe Creighton on bass. The local boys all came from the Mark Gillespie Band who were the support act.

Gil Matthews: Producer and remixing engineer
Michael Coppel: Recording engineer
Phillip Ellett: Cover artwork
Zev Eizik: Front cover photo
Phil Birnbaum: Executive producer

Rodriguez    Rodriguez

 

Reviews:

"Ladies and Gentlemen... Rodriguez". These few simple words form the introduction to this rare live album. It seems almost understated. Did he just say Rodriguez? The guy who brought out the sublime 'Cold Fact' and then blew his brains out on stage while working behind a deli in a New York jail, dying of a drug overdose from battering his wife or something like that. No it's the other Rodriguez, the guy who brought out the sublime 'Cold Fact', then disappeared into a life of obscurity only to re-emerge years later, alive, well, and rocking.

In 1979 the man, the myth and his guitar took a trip to Australia where he drew larger crowds than Rod Stewart and mesmerised audiences in a way few artists can do. The resultant live album simply entitled 'Alive' captures the magic in a raw, stripped down way. The production seems almost non-existent which means what you hear is what that audience heard that evening. Sit too close to your speakers and you may find yourself reaching out to touch the man, it's that intimate.

As each song is recognised, the audience offers up respectful applause, but quickly quieten to listen. The songs are mellower than on the studio albums, this is thanks largely to some prominant flute work of José Guadiana and mandolin strumming from Steve Cooney, but still maintain their edge, thanks to the biting lyrics that we know and love, and also the familiar rough, yet somehow smooth vocal tones.

At times it sounds as though this was recorded in a small, smokey jazz joint on a night where everything slots perfectly into place, the band tightly knit and all focussed on producing an exceptional sound, the audience enraptured, and at the centre, this Mexican looking dude, relaxed and totally in command.

Strangely there's no 'Sugarman' or 'I Wonder', but they are not missed. There is 'Like Janis', 'A Most Disgusting Song' and a slow burning version of 'Inner City Blues' to keep the audience enthralled. And enthrall it does. As the sleeve notes say, "while some followers of the unlikely Messiah were obviously transported into the realms of ecstacy". Listening to 'Alive' this feeling is quite tangible, you breathe the audience's breath, you feel with the audiences senses, you hear with their ears, you share their heartbeats.

Rodriguez's albums are special, and this gem that captures the rare moment of the man in concert is no exception. It's mellow rock at it's biting best. It's everything you'd expect and more. Armed only with a guitar and a bunch of ten year old songs, Rodriguez strolled onto the stages of Australia, handed out some of the most precious memories rock fans could dream of then floated back to the safe haven of obscurity. Fortunately someone had the foresight to record the moment so those who weren't there could experience something of what happened there. One listen to 'Alive' and you will realise that Rodriguez was the one who put the awe in audience.

John Samson, London, UK

RODRIGUEZ: A LIVE FACT

I've been to a couple of Rodriguez concerts lately. Much to my regret, I wasn't in Cape Town and I won't be at Woodstock 3. Instead, I've been listening to two live concert recordings: 'Rodriguez Alive' from Australia in 1979, and 'Live Fact' (South Africa 1998).

On 'Live Fact' not only is the audience perfectly happy to be there, but he is in perfect rapport with his audience. This helps me create the illusion that I'm about fifth row center. The crystal clear fidelity of the recording helps. I imagine this is a true-to-life representation of a Rodriguez concert, and a worthy substitute if one can't make an actual performance.

The ten tracks on the Australian 'Rodriguez Alive' are all on 'Live Fact', but as with 'To Whom It May Concern', one gets different versions of the songs. On both sets the bands, whoever played in Australia {The Mark Gillespie Band - ed} and Big Sky in South Africa, stretch out instrumentally and jam. One doesn't need to be a completist collector to want both live recordings.

Both backing bands are excellent, no matter on what continent Rodriguez finds his pick-up bands. The SA live recording has the excellent Willem Möller on guitar.

As well as pretending to actually attend some Rodriguez shows, I've also been dropping in on him at work in the studio (all right, I've been listening to 'Cold Fact' and 'After the Fact'). My conclusion is that y'all in SA have discerning musical taste and sound musical judgment. Thanks for keeping him alive, as he says.

Last week, when talking about 'The Best of Rodriguez' I thought of him as a folk singer with a band, but now I think of him as a particularly fine intelligent rock singer -- witness the hard-rocking 'Only Good for Conversation' and 'Climb Up On My Music'. Rodriguez the writer and performer is an all-round talent, from pop to folk to rock.

Since one human quality is our need to categorize, I've met that need and come up with a concise phrase that neatly pigeonholes Rodriguez's talents. How about: "Rodriguez is a lyric-oriented, social-commentating, urban-consciousness performer who is at times a rhymester, is frequently a melodist, and a folk, pop, and rock singer, as well as a songwriter of the first water"? Unwieldy, it's the shortest I can say it all in. His work is music to live with.

Speaking of his music, is it dated? To some ears perhaps, but not to mine. The problems and hopes sung of in my well-intentioned youth are still with us in the on-going processes of life.

Timely? Good Lord, yes. His message for the 21st Century is to end the violence and "accept peace".

Timeless? As long as the civilization I live in, with all its urban environments and street urbanity, still exists it is timeless. Rodriguez sings astute social commentary and clever human observations in soundly-written thinking-person lyrics. And his music is fun to listen to. There is both intellectual and emotional range here.

After steeping myself in Rodriguez's songs this week ('Cold Fact', 'After the Fact', 'Rodriguez Alive', and 'Live Fact'), I can only say, "Thanks, Sixto, for the time well spent." Forget it? Not likely.

Kurt Shoemaker, Blanco, Texas, September 2001

Comments:

  • Cassette cover scan from pre-recorded cassette borrowed from Eva Rodriguez March 1998. Vinyl cover scan from John Samson, November 2000. Alive has a very similar picture to the cover of The Best of Rodriguez.

  • To Whom It May Concern is done in a wonderful, almost progressive rock version with jazz-blues flute and even a bass solo. The band is introduced on this song. Great version.

  • Radio Broadcast
    Rodriguez Alive was broadcast on Australian radio. It was played one Sunday evening (many years ago) on a Brisbane radio station FM104. Until reading your web page I was not sure whether it was from an official release as I was fairly sure that a live album existed. Unfortunately this is the only information I have about the broadcast. Needless to say FM104 plays classic rock so at that time Rodriguez must have been considered to be fairly popular in Australia for the show to be broadcast.
    - Lonnie , Australia, April 1998
  • I have heard from several different people that Rodriguez performed in Brisbane in 1988.  I don't know if this was a tour of Australia, or whether it was only in Queensland.  As far as I can find out, this was the last time Rodriguez played here, so I think it's about time he came back...
    - Anna Gerber, Australia, March 1998

    Rodriguez says he never toured Australia in 1988. I suspect that this was actually a reference to the Brisbane radio broadcast mentioned by Lonnie.

Sleeve notes from back cover of album:

Rodriguez Alive

In March, 1979, Sixto Rodriguez played before almost 15,000 enraptured devotees in the city of Sydney. In the same month, Rod Stewart drew barely 18,000 in the same city. Stewart strutted his stuff amid a sea of film clips, hit singles and press revelations of his love life. Rodriguez, on the other hand, slid into the country with just his guitar, a file of songs mostly ten years old and a fierce cult following which both delighted and frightened him. There was not even a recent photograph of the man available to publicise his arrival.

The strange and mesmerising held which this shy Mexican-American exerted over some 40,000 Australians, is a phenomenon quite without precedent. It began at the close of the sixties with an album on the small independent American label, Sussex Records.

"Cold Fact" was a stark, assertive collection of dark and intense songs of conscience from a concerned artist with a capacity for the lyrical imagery of Bob Dylan and the Mexicali vocal inflection of José Feliciano. The songs were simple in structure but compelling in their command of street language and emotions. Whores and hovels, drugs and disillusionment, sex and sinners, all took a starring role in Rodriguez's angry ghetto soundtrack.

This album was released in Australia to normal sales. A second album, "Coming From Reality", recorded in England was not released at all. One LP from the original small pressing was purchased by Sydney radio announcer Holger Brockman, who began dropping the track "Sugar Man" into his 2SM evening shift around 1972. Three years later, having moved over to the freeform 2JJ he was regularly playing the entire Rodriguez repertoire.

The buyer demand generated by this airplay simply could not be met. Sussex had long gone bankrupt and, after warehouse stocks in America and South Africa were exhausted, import stores were turning away hundreds of willing purchasers. As word of mouth enhanced the popularity of the singer/songwriter and his bleak observations of hopelessness, a giant cassette network sprang up with friends taping their taped copy for friends who then ...

In 1978, Blue Goose Music after a considerable search, tracked down the owner of Sussex and secured licence rights for a "Best Of" album. With no commercial airplay whatsoever and certainly no hit singles, the LP shot to platinum status. This feat was echoed by "Cold Fact", and in 1979 "Coming From Reality" helped to move Rodriguez past the collective double platinum mark, a seemingly impossible achievement for a non-chart entity.

The search for the recording rights was nowhere near as elusive as the problems in tracking down the elusive Rodriguez. Rumours had him dead of a heroin overdose in a New York gutter, but, as it eventuated, he had slipped from music into social work, participating in child development programs for the city of Detroit. "I saw some things I thought people should be made aware of" he explains, "but I was unable to do that with my music".

Having once declared "This system's gonna fall soon, to an angry young tune-and that's a concrete cold fact", Sixto had tempered his position a little to work within the system and run (unsuccessfully) for Michigan public office on four occasions. He had also undertaken a university degree in philosophy and sociology, explaining, "I struggle like an everyday person. I'm hard working and proud of it. I dig books and like to read, I'm into communication".

When contacted by Australian Concert Entertainment, the retired singer who had never performed before more than a few hundred people at a time, was understandably apprehensive at the thought of flying 12,000 miles for a concert tour. After lengthy contemplation he decided, "I owe it to those people who have taken time to find my music".

Rodriguez arrived in Australia with his family. He readily admitted his difficulty in relating to the press attention which surrounded him, and early interviews were awkward and unproductive. He did manage to make plain that his social conscience had not dimmed. "These are new times and there are different answers that we're are trying to seek out. There has to be an end to violence but the answers are not as easy as they were ten years ago".

Gradually his trepidation gave way to a realisation that the interest in his music was sincere but still he walked the streets late at night unable to sleep and he sat nervously shaking in a taxi for fifteen minutes before taking the stage at Melbourne's Dallas Brooks Hall for his first concert. Slim, in a conservative beige suit, he merely ventured on stage with a sheaf of lyrics to songs he had long since ceased to perform, and entered into a form of holy communion with the entranced audience; the majority of which was young and working class. The opening chords of most of his seventeen songs were greeted with whoops of recognition and joy, while some followers of this unlikely Messiah were obviously transported into the realms of ecstasy. Rarely has an audience been in such accord with a performer; never has the youth of one generation found such empathy and identification in the street poetry of an alien era of consciousness.

In all, Rodriguez played to sixteen sold-out concert halls in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Newcastle and Canberra. In the Queensland capital he filled the cavernous Festival Hall, a feat beyond many high profile rock acts. Having heard of the huge popularity of his music on the inmates' radio station, he asked to perform at Melbourne's Pentridge Prison, an event which had a profound effect upon him. By the end of the tour the man brimmed so full of confidence and excitement that he pleaded to be able to make record store autograph appearances. He left Australia, buoyed by the love and devotion of a following that neither his dreams or aspirations had prepared him for, pledging to return.

"Just climb up on my music and my songs will set you free"

Glen A Baker
Australian Editor

Thanks to Desmond from Australia for sending a scan of the back-cover of the original album.



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