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A blog by Scott E. Shepherd · A continuing look at popular music, past, present and future.
Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Emitt Rhodes Still "Fresh As A Daisy"
Pop singer's auspicious debut still resonates a lost genius

Filed under: Album Reviews

The fact that the name Emitt Rhodes isn't more widely known is one of the great mysteries of pop music. During a brief four-year career, he released some of the brightest and best power pop of the early seventies. However, due to a poor record contract, Rhodes ultimately burned out and disappeared from the music industry after only three albums.

Rhodes was a mere 20-years-old when he recorded his first solo album, simply titled Emitt Rhodes. Immediately it drew comparisons to another artist's solo debut, Paul McCartney. Indeed, Rhodes does seem emulate the Beatles and McCartney, even singing with a faux-English accent (Rhodes is from Hawthorne, California). But those who would write him off as just another McCartney imitator, miss Rhodes ability to craft brilliant songs.

Like McCartney, Rhodes chose to make his first album a "home-grown" experience, playing every instrument himself. His songs are very McCartney-esque, most similar (in style if not content) to songs like "Martha My Dear" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." As one reviewer said of Rhodes' solo debut, "It's the Paul McCartney album McCartney fans wish he made."

"With My Face on the Floor" opens the album - it is a great bouncy tune about the end of a relationship, "Well I'm down with my face on the floor/ Yes I got what I asked for and more," This should have been a sizeable hit and should be on every oldies stations' playlists.

Other pop gems like "Somebody Made for Me" and "She's Such a Beauty" follow and the whole album is a pleasant listen. "Fresh as a Daisy," another standout, was the only hit single for this album. Rhodes closes the album with "You Must Have" a reflective song that could have easily fit on to any of the Beatles' later albums.

Part of the reason Emitt Rhodes didn't do better was because Rhodes' old record company released an album of earlier material and demos he recorded when his band, the Merry-Go-Round, fell apart in 1969. That album, American Dream, wasn't as good, and record buyers confused the two.

Still, Rhodes had undeniable talent, and while perhaps not quite up to par as McCartney (and who was?), his material compares favorably to other Beatlesque bands of the time, even to the Beatles' proteges Badfinger. Sadly, all of Rhodes' music is now out of print, though it can be found on CD through eBay, mainly via Japanese imports.

One classic from Emitt Rhodes can be found as part of the "Royal Tennenbaums" soundtrack, the acoustic "Lullabye." While not necessarily the best example of Rhodes' work, it is still a beautiful piece and the only song currently commercially available by Rhodes.

Rhodes went on to record two more great pop/rock albums, but unfortunately like many other naive musicians of that time he signed a contract that required him to produce another album every six months. After Mirror, the follow-up to Emitt Rhodes, took more than a year to make, his record company sued him. Rhodes made one more ablum, 1974's aptly named Farewell to Paradise, but by age 24 he resigned as a recording artist.

Since then, Rhodes continues to work as a producer/recording engineer and even occasionally performs back-up musician duties. According to EmittRhodes.net, Rhodes is still sitting on over 30 years of songs, waiting for an interested record company to pick him up. Let's hope someone does and re-releases all his older material as well.

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