Needle Drop: Emitt Rhodes, Rainbow Ends

Nearly half a century has passed since fans have had a chance to hear new music from Emitt Rhodes, but Rainbow Ends has made it worth the wait.

Backed by a crack group of in-demand musicians, Emitt returns to lay down new compositions and sings with a surprisingly spry and smooth voice. Chris Price turns in a solid production job—he stays out of the performer’s way and helps to provide thick drums and meaty guitar parts.

Price explains his take on the project in a press release saying, “I view this as a continuation album, meaning it isn’t meant to be recreating the sound from his first record, but instead what he might have sounded like after his third album, Farewell To Paradise, if he kept making music in the mid-to-late ’70s.” In that vein, both Price and Rhodes succeed in doing so both sonically and compositionally.

As with Rhodes’ other albums, there isn’t a bad song in the bunch. This reviewer surveyed the clear vinyl release from Omnivore—the pressing was flat and quiet. There are hints of Zevon, Steely Dan, moments of coziness and measured professionalism, but mostly what we’ve got here is unique, prime, Emitt Rhodes—he’s pulled some true gems out of his bag of tricks which, as usual, feature lyrics of desperation and yearning paired with infectiously dreamy chord progressions that refuse to allow the listener the luxury of knowing which way is up—he remains a deft composer. These compositions invite the listener to play them and then play them again.

The reviewer’s adage regarding Mr. Rhodes is that he sounds more like Paul McCartney than Paul McCartney, but here, he sounds firmly like Emitt Rhodes. Rhodes was an important, beautiful, and unique voice during the crowded 1970s singer-songwriter scene—it’s a shame that he didn’t achieve more success in his heyday.

That being said, Rainbow Ends is a strong album capable of holding its own with the rest of his fabled catalog. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 40 years for him to release more material.

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