Emitt Rhodes


Band members                             Related acts

- Emitt Rhodes - vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums 

 

 

The Merry-Go-Round

- The Palace Guard

 

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: ***** (5 stars)

Title:  Emitt Rhodes

Company: ABC Dunhill

Catalog: DS 50089

Year: 1969

Country/State: Hawthorne, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 3

Catalog ID: 2583

Price: $15.00

 

Music is such a difficult business; the quest for success leaving so many victims behind. One of the saddest stories has to be that of California's Emitt Rhodes. For a brief moment in the mid-1960s, singer/multi-instrumentalist Rhodes seemed poised on the brink of massive stardom. A former member of The Palace Guards and The Merry-Go-Round (see separate entries), Rhodes was blessed with movie star good looks and musical talent to burn. Sadly with a matter of years, it was all a memory.

 

 

By 1968 Rhodes had decided to disband The Merry-Go-Round in favor of a solo career. Retiring to his parents' garage, Rhodes rigged up a rough recording studio, spending the next several months recording material on a four track Ampex tape recorder. The results were enough for ABC Dunhill to sign him to a contract. 1970's cleverly-titled "Emitt Rhodes" was a true tour-de-force. In addition to co-producing with Harvey Bruce, Rhodes wrote all twelve tracks, played all of the instruments and handled the arrangements. As on the debut, tracks such as 'With My Face On the Floor', 'Promises I've Made' and 'You Must Have' were exceptionally commercial (Badfinger would've killed to have written something as catchy as 'Fresh As a Daisy' (a modest radio hit), or the slide guitar-propelled 'Somebody Made for Me'). Whether he intended it or not, Rhodes voice and performance mannerisms bore an uncanny resemblance to "White Album" era-Paul McCartney - I can't be the only folks who thought "She's Such a Beauty" bore at least a passing resemblance to 'Rocky Raccoon'. Having listened to this album for some thirty years I still find it hard to believe Rhodes wasn't from Liverpool - how could anyone from Southern California sound so English?   Propelled by the single in 'Fresh As a Daisy' the album proved a strong seller peaking at # 29.   The collection probably would have done even better if not for A&M's decision to release a competing album - "The American Dream".   

 

In spite of the album's commercial success, Rhodes' suddenly found himself embroiled in a nasty and prolonged legal battle with ABC-Dunhill. Having signed a contract that called for a new album every six months (!!!), Rhodes found himself in breach of the contract given the debut had taken nine months to record.   Supposedly Rhodes was paid $5,000 for the debut album !!! 

  

"Emitt Rhodes" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) With My Face On the Floor   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:06   rating: ***** stars

Complete with a stunning guitar solo that is impossible to stop humming, what else is there to say other than "pop perfection" ...   If this couldn't hit the top of the charts you have to wonder about the buying public's tastes ...  Dunhill tapped it as the album's sophomore single:

- 1970's 'With My Face On the Floor' b/w 'Somebody Made for Me' (ABC Dunhill catalog number D-4280)

2.) Someone Made for Me   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:23   rating: ****** stars

And as good as the leadoff tune was, 'Someone Made for Me' managed to up the pop quotient even further, adding fuzz bass, and the kind of sparkling harmony vocals that bands like Badfinger and The Raspberries could only dream of creating.   
3.) She's Such a Beauty   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:21
   rating: ***** stars

As mentioned, 'She's Such a Beauty' was one of the songs where it was impossible to overlook the McCartney/Beatles influences  - maybe a touch twee, but to my ears it sounded like a mash-up of 'Ob la di, Ob la da' and 'Martha My Dear'.  Not a bad set of songs to be compared against.  

4.) Long Time No See   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:14   rating: ***** stars

On an album packed with extraordinary songs 'Long Time No See' was a simply amazing way to close out the LP  Fantastic melody; killer vocals, and the instrumentation on this one was simply stunning; great fuzz guitar; stunning McCartney-styled bass, and rock steady drumming.  This was the kind of solo tune McCartney could only dream of recording.  
5.) Lullaby   (Emitt Rhodes) - 1:05
   rating: ***** stars

Just Rhodes and acoustic guitar - super pretty ballad and sounds like something that could have come off of McCartney's solo debut.  Shame it was so short.  
6.) Fresh As a Daisy   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:46
   rating: ***** stars

Another tune that must have made Badfinger and Eric Carmen want to scream in envy.  The hook on this one is worse than crack - when it gets its hooks in you, it simply won't let go.   A wonderful choice as a single that should have been an even bigger hit for Rhodes.

- 1969's  'Fresh As a Daisy' b/w 'You Take the Dark Out of the Night' (ABC Dunhill catalog number 45-D-4267)      

 

(side 2)

1.) Live Till You Die   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:44   rating: ***** stars

Okay the lyrics were a bit clumsy, but when pondering them I really couldn't argue with the sentiments.  Besides, given such a beautiful melody, it seemed unlikely many folks were paying all that much attention to the words. The sound and video quality aren't great, but YouTube has an interesting clip of Rhodes & Ray Paul: playing the tune at the 1987 Poptopia Festival in Santa Monica, California.  Tapped as the leadoff single you had to wonder how Dunhill's marketing department managed to not make this one a massive hit:

- 1969's 'Promises I've Made' b/w - 'Live Till You Die' (Dunhill catalog number D-4274)   (For anyone interested, Jackie DeShannon did a nice cover of the tune.)    

2.) Promises I Made   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:21   rating: ***** stars

Okay, I know the McCartney comparison gets old, but the bouncy, slightly Vaudevillian 'Promise I Made' was the kind of tune McCartney excelled at, except for the fact Rhodes managed to avoid the cloying aspects that marred so many of the formers work.  The multi-tracked vocals on this one were simply to-die-for.      

3.) You Take the Dark Out of the Night  (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:54   rating: **** stars

Overlooking the fact this has a top-ten melody that drills into you head, 'You Take the Dark Out of the Night' is interesting for sporting one of the most Beatles-esque guitar sounds you'll ever hear outside of a Fab Four album.   I'm not a guitar fan but I've always wondered how he got the sound - playing through a Leslie with a built in rotating speaker; a phase shifter stomp-box; or some other effect ...  killer sound that would have made George Harrison proud and another album highlight.   
4.) You Should Be Ashamed   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:38   rating: ***** stars

One of the sweetest melodies he ever wrote with some of those sterling multi-track harmonies and some surprisingly accomplished drumming.   

5.) Ever Find Yourself Running?   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:34   rating: *** stars

Pretty enough tune with some wonderful multi-tracked vocals, but ultimately a bit too cutesy for Rhodes' own good ... probably the only slight misstep on the album.   
6.) You Must Have   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:04
   rating: *** stars

A short and sweet acoustic ballad and though the lyrics were kind of banal, you couldn't help but feel Rhodes was being sincere.    

 

 

So how good is this album ?  Over my life I've  listened to thousands of albums (it comes with owning 30,000 LPs).  Anyhow, friends and acquaintances occasionally ask me what's my favorite album.  It's a tough question to answer and I'm not sure I can answer it, but I can tell you that if I had to drive across the States and could only take ten albums with me, "Emitt Rhodes" would be one of those ten.

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  The American Dream

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP-4254

Year: 1971

Country/State: Hawthorne, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear; cut out hole

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4501

Price: $20.00

Cost: $66.00

 

Simply said, Emitt Rhodes' "The American Dream" has the distinction of being the best 'contractual obligation' album you'll ever have the pleasure of hearing. 

 

As you'd expect, the album has a rather tortuous history.  When the Merry-Go-Round collapsed in 1969, under their recording contract they still owed their label A&M Records another album.  As de facto band leader, it was left up to singer/songwriter/guitarist Rhodes to go back into the studio in an effort to cobble together a second album.  The end result consisted of a mix of previously completed Merry-Go-Round tracks, polished up demos and some new studio tracks.  Rhodes completed the project in mid-1969, but A&M management simply shelved the project.

 

Jump ahead and 1970 saw Rhodes solo career beginning to attract  considerable attention via his self-titled 1970 ABC/Dunhill debut.  More than willing to cash-in on Rhodes sudden commercial recognition, A&M wasted no time dusting off the earlier material.  Packaged as an Emitt Rhodes solo effort, the album had the misfortune of being released at the same time Rhodes' second Dunhill album hit the streets.

 

In spite of the fact it was a product of corporate indifference and greed, the album was simply great.  Easily as good as Rhodes' first two Dunhill solo effort, the collection effortlessly showcased Rhodes' knack for penning highly commercial, radio-friendly pop.  Tracks such as 'Mother Earth', ' Pardon Me', 'Holly Park' and 'In Days of Old' were full of Beatles influences (or at least McCartney influences), but in a good way ...  as opposed to being the product of a slavish imitator.  The album's also impressive for simply sounding so go.  Rhodes may have stitched the results together,  but you're hard pressed to tell.  Merry-Go-Round demos such as 'You're a Very Lonely Woman', 'Come Ride, Come Ride' and ''Till the Day After' sound right at home with his new studio material.  Elsewhere, A&M tapped 'You're a Very Lonely Woman' b/w ''Til the Day After' as a single (A&M catalog number 1254).  That drew the ire of former members of Merry-Go-Round who apparently muttered lawsuit under their collective breathes leading concerned A&M executives to stand their ground (ha) reissuing subsequent pressings of the LP without the song.  The company also elected to slap a new cover on subsequent releases (see below).  While hundreds of albums are labeled as 'lost classics', this one's truly deserving of that label.  

 

replacement LP cover 

 

"American Dream" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Mother Earth   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:29

2.) Pardon Me   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:46

3.) Textile Factory   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:05

4.) Someone Died   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:04

5.) Come Ride, Come Ride   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:53

6.) Let's All Sing   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:40

 

(side 2)

1.) Holly Park   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:59

2.) You're a Very Lonely Woman   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:45

3.) Mary Will You Take Me Hand   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:21

4.) The Man He Was   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:58

5.) In Days of Old   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:13

6.) 'Til the Day After   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:38

 

 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Mirror

Company: Dunhill

Catalog: DSX 50111

Year: 1971

Country/State: Hawthorne, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; bullet hole

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1088

Price: $20.00

With Dunhill demanding another LP, Emmit Rhodes found himself forced back into the recording studio without a lot of time to prepare new material. . Like the debut, "Mirror" was another true solo effort with Rhodes writing, producing and handling all of the instrumentation. Given the intense pressure he was under, Rhodes actually acquitted himself withhonors. While the McCartney comparison remained apt (check out 'Side We Seldom Show'), the set was actually more varied than the debut. While ballads such as 'Love Will Stone You' and the title track boasted wonderful melodies, 'Birthday Lady', 'Really Wanted You', and 'My Love Is Strong' demonstrated Rhodes was just as accomplished  when it came to churning out rockers. Truth be told, this one was every bit as good as the debut, though peaking at # 182 it was a disappointing seller.   You were left to wonder what he could have done given the time and resources to record a quality sophomore album.


"Mirror" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Birthday Lady   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:46   rating: **** stars

Opening the album with one of the set's most commercial offerings, 'Birthday Lady' had a distinctive Paul McCartney vibe.  Neither the sound, not video quality are very good, but YouTybe has a promotional video for the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUDi4wCzG0A
2.) Better Side of Love   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:34
   rating: **** stars

'Better Side of Love' was simply one of the prettiest songs Rhodes ever wrote.  With a glistening melody, nice guitar, and multi-tracked vocals, it was also one of the album highlights.  
3.) My Love Is Strong   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:17
   rating: **** stars

Folks tend to forget Rhodes was an accomplished guitarist., though a quick listen to the rollicking 'My Love Is Strong' should set the record clear.  
4.) Side We Seldom Show   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:26
   rating: *** stars

Surprisingly enjoyable country-blues tinged number.
5.) Mirror   (Emitt Rhodes) - 
   rating: **** stars

Folks tend to forget Rhodes was an accomplished bass player, though a quick listen to the title track should set the record clear ...  seeing a pattern here ?    

(side 2)

1.) Really Wanted You   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:49   rating: **** stars

'Really Wanted You' was an out-and-out rocker with a melody and vocal that would have made Badfinger proud.   Released as a single it should have provided Rhodes with a massive radio hit, but was completely overlooked by the buying public and radio.  If I were ever in a cover band, this would be one of the tunes I'd include in the line-up.  Again, neither the sound, or video quality are very good, but YouTube has a clip of the British promotional video that was recorded to support the song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypoMlWQ9xwU

2.) Medley 

     a.) Bubble Gum the Blues   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:42   rating: ** stars

Kind of a rockin' Vaudevillian tune that really didn't do much for me.

.    b. ) I'm a Cruiser   (Emitt Rhodes) - 4:39   rating: ** stars

Bland blues-tinged number.  Forgettable.  
3.) Love Will Stone You   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:20
   rating: **** stars

Another album highlight, 'Love Will Stone You' had one of the album's most complex arrangements, but showcased a wonderful melody with more hooks than you'd find on a complete Eric Carmen LP.   The song also  aptly displayed Rhodes' wonderful multi-tracked voice.
4.) Golden Child of God   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:42
  rating: *** stars

Pretty acoustic ballad that may have been a bit too far into the sensitive singer/songwriter genre for his own good. 
5.) Take You Far Away   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:02
   rating: **** stars

Full of multi-tracked vocals and guitar, 'Take You Far Away' was one of the most commercial performances and would have made a nice FM single.  

The album was tapped for a pair of singles:

 

 

- 'Really Wanted You' b/w 'Love Will Stone You' (ABC Dunhill catalog number D-4295)

- 'Golden Child of God' b/w 'Take You Far Away' (ABC Dunhill catalog number D-4303)

 

 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Farewell To Paradise

Company: Dunhill

Catalog: DSX-51022

Year: 1973

Country/State: Hawthorne, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; minor ring wear

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4538

Price: $40.00

 

Curiously, 1973's "Farewell To Paradise" tends to get written off by the critics and was largely ignored by radio and the buying public.  That's unfortunate since to my ears it's every bit as good as his earlier work.  In fact, I'd argue it's even more impressive given it was written and recorded while under intense personal and professional pressure from his record label (I wonder if that had anything to do with the album title).  Looking at the results strictly on technical terms the album's amazing, standing as a true example of one man virtuosity - Rhodes wrote all of the material, produced, arranged and played all of the instruments.  The first set to be recorded in a professional studio (remember most of his earlier work had been recoded in a home studio located in this mother's garage), this time around the album sported a much cleaner sound.  Tracks such as 'Warm Self Sacrifice', 'See No Evil' and 'Only Lovers Decide' (the latter being one of his prettiest ballads), aptly displayed Rhodes' endearing strengths; highly commercial melodies, mesmerizing harmonies and an endearing sense of enthusiasm for the music.  At the same time, on songs like 'Blue Horizon' many of the lyrics seemed to betray a growing sense of sadness and resignation.  Virtually every one of the twelve tracks would have made a dandy single making it hard to pick the standout tracks.  Personal favorites include 'Drawn To You', the country-influence 'Blue Horizon' and the funky 'Shoot the Moon'.   

 

You just had to wonder how such a talented guy could be consigned to cult status for the next forty-plus years ...

 

"Farewell To Paradise" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Warm Self Sacrifice   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:42   rating: **** stars

'Warm Self Sacrifice' captured Rhodes doing his best Paul McCartney impersonation.  Sporting a beautiful, multi-segmented melody this one could have been an FM staple.  

2.) See No Evil   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:48     rating: *** stars

His voice sounding thicker than usual, 'See No Evil' was a somber, reflective ballad that had another memorable melody, kicked along by a nice bass line and some tasty lead guitar.  How could one guy be so damn talented ???

3.) Drawn To You   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:17   rating: **** stars

Rhodes has always had a talent for simple, but insidiously catchy hooks and 'Drawn To You' served as a perfect example of that skill.  Other than a killer bass line, musically there wasn't a lot to this one, but the title refrain just wouldn't let go of you.  The song would have been even better without the chirping female backing singers. 

4.) Blue Horizon   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:18   rating: *** stars 

Give Rhodes credit for writing a song that opening with a banjo and mandolin.  The funny thing about 'Shoot the Moon' was that it worked.  A breezy and easy going folk flavored number, the results were charming, though I probably wouldn't want to hear a full album of this stuff..

5.) Shoot the Moon    (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:37   rating: **** stars

The keyboard powered 'Shoot the Moon' was probably as close to a funk number as Rhodes was ever going to come.  Nice horn charts didn't hurt the song either.     

6.) Only Lovers Decide   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:02   rating: **** stars

'Only Lovers Decide' was simply one of Rhodes' prettiest ballads.  Radio stations should have hung their collective heads for not latching on to it.  Nothing more to say about this one ...    

 

(side 2)

1.) Trust One More   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:41  rating: *** stars 

'Trust One More' was another pretty ballad, but coming on the heels of ''Only Lovers Decide' didn't have the same impact. 

2.) Nights Are Lonely   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:36     rating: **** stars

Starting out with some of Rhodes overlooked lead guitar, 'Nights Are Lonely' aptly demonstrated that he could easily handle a harder rock track.  One of my favorite songs on the album.

3.) Bad Man   (Emitt Rhodes) - 2:53  rating: *** stars 

The catchy up-tempo 'Bad Man' returned to McCartney territory.  Only complaint on this one were the irritating horns     

4.) In Desperate Need   (Emitt Rhodes) - 3:15      rating: **** stars

The album's standout performance, 'In Desperate Need' blended a funky Curtis Mayfield-styled groove with a nice rock backing.  Great showcase for Rhodes' classy voice and his tasteful lead guitar.    

5.) Those That Die (from "Tame the Lion")   (Emitt Rhodes) - 1:49    rating: *** stars

Sporting some unexpectedly activist anit-war lyrics (which guaranteed radio stations wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole,, the stark acoustic guitar-propelled ballad 'Those That Die' was a real curiosity.  Clocking in at just over a minute, to my ears it sounded like something that had been scored for a film.  That contention was underscored by the song's subtitle  "Tame the Lion".  I thought it might have been a film, but no luck running it down.  Under the subtitle the song was tapped as an instantly obscure single:

- 1972's 'Tame the Lion' b/w 'Golden Child of God' (Dunhill catalog number D-4315)

6.) Farewell To Paradise   (Emitt Rhodes) -  3:58     rating: **** stars

The breezy, but melancholy title track was another keeper.  Nice strumming guitars ...  

 

 

Unfortunately, by the time the album was released Dunhill had all but lost interest in Rhodes.  The album was released with little promotion (why support an artist you'd recently brought suit against) and quickly vanished into cutout bins.  Dunhill subsequently dropped him from its recording roster and Rhodes' recording career effectively came to an end.  (Always wondered who the attractive young lady shown on the inner sleeve photos was.)

 

For anyone interested, it hasn't been updated in a couple of years, but there's a fantastic Rhodes website at: http://www.emittrhodesmusic.net/

 

 

SRB 10/2009

 

 

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