1) From www.popmatters.com
(by Daniel Spicer)
It can be a bit of a mystery why some artists develop successful careers and other equally talented individuals never make it off the ground, languishing instead in obscurity and penury. Take Roger Rodier, for example. A French-Canadian folk-singer-songwriter who recorded two singles in the late '60s before releasing the album Upon Velveatur
in 1972. This LP created the tiniest of ripples and promptly sank without a trace, leaving Rodier little choice but to leave the music business and get on with some other kind of life. Yet, on the strength of this album (released now on CD for the first time) he probably could have achieved a great deal more. For the most part, this is a collection of dreamy, introspective folk-rock tunes that sound very much aligned with the British early '70s folk boom. More specifically, the sound is reminiscent of Nick Drake's work circa Bryter Layter
: acoustic guitar, melancholy melodies, hushed vocals and lush orchestration combine to create a sense of space and unhurried purpose. Take, for example "My Spirit's Calling" and its evocation of the same mournful philosophising as Drakes "River Man", like a sigh and a shrug in the face of insurmountable cosmic sadness.. "While My Castle's Burning" is an angry, despairing cry with aggressive strumming, electric guitar breaks and unhinged, wordless shouts and snorts that almost make up for the unfocussed, impenetrable nature of the theme. It's kind of like a protest song sung to oneself. when no one else was meant to be listening.
To these ears, the most successful tracks are those that move away from the pastoral, tea-on-the-lawn aesthetic and embrace West-Coast American, electric folk-rock. "Am I Supposed to Let It By Again?" has an unmistakeable touch of Crosby Stills and Nash, all big harmonies in the chorus and electric fuzz guitar solos. Meanwhile "Just Fine"'s loping drums and soaring verses bring to mind some of Neil Young's most inspired moments. "Let's See Some Happyness", with it's bluesy riff and voluptuous, gospelised backing vocals, could be an outtake from Stephen Stills' first solo album.
Perhaps the comparisons are unfair. Rodier was clearly a very real talent on his own terms. Who knows - if he'd had the chance to make more records and develop his art, he could have done something really memorable. As it is, this remains an enjoyable and entertaining snapshot of early '70s songwriting and heartfelt attempts at musical expression.
2) From www.allmusic.com (by Richie Unterberger)
Roger Rodier put out an obscure album on Columbia in 1972, Upon Velveatur
, that was very much in line with the folk-rock-oriented singer/songwriter trends of the era. It was at least as much indebted to British sounds from that genre as North American ones, however, with its gentle breathy vocals, subdued melancholy, and combination of predominantly acoustic guitars with subtle strings and some female backup vocals. Prior to the LP, Rodier had issued a couple of singles on the local Montreal label Pax, the first of them sung in French. Despite getting praised in Rolling Stone by Lester Bangs for its "timeless grace," Upon Velveatur
got little exposure when it was issued in autumn 1972. Although he did start work on a second album for Columbia in early 1973, it wasn't finished, and Rodier left music a few years later without having released anything else.
Although Rodier is Canadian, this rare early-'70s singer/songwriter album sounds almost as if it could have been made in Britain, such is its similarity to folk-rock recordings of the time by the likes of Al Stewart . In fact Rodier faintly resembles Stewart vocally, and has an inclination toward gentle, slightly sad songs mixing acoustic guitar, orchestration, and female backup vocals (a combination used by Nick Drake on Bryter Layter
). But his voice, as a singer or composer, isn't nearly as distinctive as that of, say, Stewart or Drake . Upon Velveatur
is a passable effort in this tributary, Rodier's mildly lisping singing evoking both delicate sensitivity and a certain sense of detached observation. He and his songs are a little troubled, but not distraught, with the exception of "While My Castle's Burning," whose angrily strummed guitars, dramatic strings, and vitriolic vocals project muted rage, albeit of a fairly inarticulate kind. Its mixture of placidity and brooding reflection might casually recall Drake , but Rodier wasn't working on as high a level. [The 2006 CD reissue on Sunbeam adds five bonus tracks, four taken from 1969 singles, the other from the 1972 non-LP B-side "Easy Song." Generally speaking, these are less ornate than the material on Upon Velveatur
, though they have a similar light folk-rock base; "Have You?" sounds a little like George Harrison 's folkiest early solo material, and the two songs from the first 45, "L'Herbe"/"Tu Viendras," are sung in French.]
3) From www.othermusic.com
Another fine discovery from the latest batch of Sunbeam reissues, Roger Rodier's 1972 album Upon Velveatur
is an exemplary psychedelic folk rarity. The LP originally came out on Columbia in Canada only, and has never been released on CD until now. Rodier's voice is lovely, breezy and gentle like Donovan's on some songs, and at moments specifically reminded me of the soft pop harmonies of Thomas and Richard Frost. Some of the darker tunes find his voice in a slightly lower register and with a much more venomous and biting tone, sharp like Kevin Coyne or Meic Stevens. Aside from the beautiful orchestration, strong acoustic guitar playing and surprisingly varied songwriting, there are plenty of nice touches including subtle analog synth parts and what sounds like a bit of Theremin on one track. If you liked last year's Gary Higgins reissue, this disc will probably be way up your alley.
4) From www.lefthip.com (by Gordon B. Isnor )
British label Sunbeam has released many incredible lost classics recently, and this is one of the finest - a French-Canadian psych-folk album that was first released on Columbia in 1972. Rodier will be meat and drink to fans of Nick Drake in particular, and the album also shares something with Vashti Bunyan and Donovan, or Tom Rapp's Pearls Before Swine. Acoustic guitars and soaring strings accompany Rodier's deep, gentle voice - a voice that has just enough rasp to not sound fey. Some of the best songs are haunting in the style of Nick Drake, while others have a 70's rock feel with drums, electric blues guitar, massive background vocals and phasers galore. A variety of other complementary styles unfold as the album progresses: some easy-breezy songs in the style of Belle & Sebastian, some songs that share something in common with James Taylor, one brilliant organ-driven song that sounds influenced by Dylan and just generally a nice mix of seventies sounds. It's incredible how many lost artists there are out there, and Rodier is yet another that deserves a listen. Highly recommended.
5) From www.aquariusrecords.org
Wow! Yet another amazing re-issue from this exciting new label Sunbeam. We haven't been this excited about a rediscovered psych-folk classic since Red Hash by Gary Higgins. Nobody knew what to expect from the cover photo of Rodier (looking a lot like Geddy Lee), staring out at us from a hazy meadow with the strange enigmatic title Upon Velveatur
. But by the second song, we had immediately snatched up the only two copies. So we knew we had to get more and share this with the rest of you. Upon Velveatur
is a dreamy French-Canadian psych-folk pop suite that varies from hushed mystical songs lushly orchestrated with strings and theremin to more rock-oriented numbers featuring stinging electric guitar. Lazy comparisons to Nick Drake are inevitable, and if we must go there, Upon Velveatur
is closest to Bryter Layter in terms of feel and production value. But Rodier can also sound like John Lennon with Cream as the band, Fleetwood Mac on backing vocals,and produced by Roger Nichols and his Small Circle of Friends all on one song! We get the feeling that maybe some folks like Neil Halstead were onto the sounds of Rodier as we were listening to some Mojave 3 and could totally hear Rodier's voice and stylings being transmitted by Mr. Halstead. Featuring bonus singles from an earlier psych folk project, Rodier-Gauthier, and liner notes from the man himself. Totally recommended!
6) From www.elpopolodelblues.com
Often compared to Nick Drake, the Canadian Roger Rodier shares both musical touches with the English songwriter, and a reserved character that at times heads towards outer space. Rodier's sole album, 1972's Upon Velveatur
, is a beautiful and mainly acoustic album. Some songs (like My Spirit's Calling) recall Nick Drake's Cello Song, while others are more elaborate, adding flourishes to the palette such as some synthesizer. The album is characterised by a delicate and charming atmosphere. It was released to good reviews (including one by Lester Bangs), but the limited interest of both his label and the music press meant that the disc remained, until this reissue, a shooting star in musical history.