Emitt Rhodes: Rainbow Ends

emittEmitt Rhodes
Rainbow Ends
(Omnivore Recordings)

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It’s been 43 years between albums for Emitt Rhodes, who spent his time trying to extricate himself from the ludicrous contract he signed demanding six albums in three years. Since it took him over a year to record his albums, he wound up getting fleeced, frustrated and forgotten after his record company drubbed him in court. Rhodes can never hope to equal the brilliance of his self-titled second album, which contained the bouncy, but melancholy “Somebody Made for Me” and the tear-jerking closer “You Must Have,” but Rainbow Ends marks the return of his long lost creative spark. Rhodes no longer sounds like he did in the ’70s, and why should he? He’s no longer the same genius critics said looked and sounded like Paul McCartney. He now sings like a lived-in, later-day Harry Nilsson, world-weary but wiser, which helps give his songs character. Rhodes’ private life demons are fodder for “Dog on a Chain,” a deceptively somber track wrapped up in a bright pop arrangement: “You ain’t no good, I hear her say/Under her breath as she turns away/I’ll take the car/I’ll take the house/I’ll take the kids and turn you out.” What makes Rainbow Ends work is Rhodes’ gift for making his original tracks sound like songs you’ve heard before. Echoes of Nilsson, McCartney, Badfinger, even the Sanford-Townsend Band (“I Can’t Tell My Heart”) abound. A sprightly vibraphone and Susanna Hoffs girlish warble highlight “Someone Else” and Chris Price’s angelic effects add a dream-like quality to the coming-of-old-age epic “What’s a Man to Do.” Rhodes saves the best for last as the album closer with the title track, which features optimistic marching drums and warm, regal horns. On the album’s cover, Rhodes (who’s gone from dark-haired McCartney-cute to white-haired and Santa-esque) looks like he’s either crying or laughing. Based on Rainbow Ends’ brilliance, I’d say it’s the later.

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