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Roger Rodier - Upon Velveatur CD (album) cover

UPON VELVEATUR

Roger Rodier

 

Prog Folk

3.98 | 13 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars 'Upon Velveatur' is another interesting and tastefully remastered record courtesy Sunbeam Records whose originator Roger Rodier was lucky to find issued once, let alone twice. Not that the music isn't worthy of vinyl (or polycarbonate for that matter), but it is a bit odd that he managed to get himself signed and recorded by a major label (Columbia) and even promoted considering his relative obscurity.

Imagine a guy who looks like the half-brother of Geddy Lee and Roger Hodgson, sounds an awful lot like a young Al Stewart, and apparently had the social demeanor of the late Nick Drake and you have a decent picture of Mr. Rodier. Like I said, interesting album.

Rodier seems to have gotten his forgettable start with the just as obscure Mike Jones Group in the mid-sixties, Mike Jones aka Michel Lachance (producer of Harmonium's first album, not the hockey player). I say forgettable because apparently fellow Jones Group member George Legrady (interviewed in 2009) didn't even remember Rodier being in the band. No matter, Rodier managed to land himself a solo record deal anyway after releasing a couple singles with music partner Germain Gauthier in the late sixties. This is the only album to result from that deal; a second studio effort would be abandoned the following year before Rodier slipped away into permanent obscurity.

The sounds here are more varied than most of the reviews I've read would suggest. The opening tracks "Listen to these Chords I Play (Celeste)" and "My Spirit's Calling" are deceptively pastoral folk tunes with some gentle acoustic guitar fingering and ethereal, dreamy vocals. Deceptive because most of the rest of the album veers away from this sound, rather abruptly in the case of the third song "Am I Supposed to let it by Again (Above the Covers)" which is a jilted-lover tale complete with polyphonic backing vocals and some excellent acid-tinged electric guitar soloing by Rodier's former duet partner Gauthier.

I should mention several of the acoustic tracks also feature a couple of studio tricks-of-the- trade that were fairly common with solo singer-songwriter recordings of the late sixties and early seventies, namely lush orchestral strings and subtly evocative female harmonizing. The strings serve to fill out what would be an otherwise fairly sparse sound, while the female vocals give depth and contrast to Rodier's wispy tenor. Both of these are present on "The Key", which is also the most Al Stewart-sounding folksy track on the album although the theme is an abstractly introspective Jesus-freak sort of thing quite in keeping with the times in which it was recorded.

A lot of the uncredited backing was probably the work of various studio musicians, most impressive of which is guitarist Red Mitchell, who is actually credited in the reissue liner notes. Rodier gets into the spirit of this strident number with some tense and biting vocals that result in a song that sounds like something more in the vein of post-grunge early nineties ala Oasis or Blur. In fact I doubt if anyone would have been the wiser had this one appeared on FM radio around 1993 or so, save for the fact there wouldn't have been any music videos or tabloid headlines to accompany it.

"You Don't Know What it's Like" is another pop-folk crooner, but once again producer Gary Muth spices it up with female backing vocals, piano and a bit of languid French horn, while "Just Fine" is very much in the vein of the most introverted Nick Drake songs but again with (synthesized) strings, and "Let's See Some Happyness" borders on a CS&N song circa "Wooden Ships" but with a jazzy bit of piano work and plucky electric guitar.

The CD reissue includes five bonus tracks, the first of which ("Easy Song") was actually recorded along with the rest of the album, released as a single and intended to be part of the original tracklist. This one is quite poppy with rolling snare drums and flower-power doo-wop backing singers and lyrics to match ("if you're down and out, well there's nothing here to worry about").

There are also a pair of French-language songs from the first Gauthier-Rodier single, both of which are pop-psych in construction and decent but unremarkable in any way. And the final two tracks are also from the Gauthier pairing, similar though more folksy and with English vocals.

A review can't do justice to the experience of enjoying this album, particularly since Rodier's sappy but sincere vocals and acoustic fingering style can be appreciated on a quiet evening alone much more easily than they can be praised in sterile typed text. Too bad the man left music behind and, as he explains in the CD liner notes, abandoned guitar playing altogether many years ago. Perhaps in this age of easy internet access to prospective fans he should give it another go. In any case I don't have any qualms giving this one four out of five stars and a hearty recommendation to anyone who has a soft spot for folk-leaning music.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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