“Searching for Sugar Man”
Sony Legacy / Light in the Attic Records
3 stars (out of 4)
Singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez was an obscure name on American soil, but he unknowingly became a major pop star in South Africa when his psychedelic soul recordings made their way out of 1970s Detroit and were later adopted as protest anthems by anti-apartheid youths. Now, he and his work are the subject of a hit film-festival documentary, “Searching for Sugar Man,” and the movie’s soundtrack.
The recordings, off two albums and a few track sessions, prove Rodriguez to be a gifted songwriter with a penchant for lyrical flourishes influenced by Bob Dylan, and echoing Van Morrison’s jazz-rock-soul masterpiece, “Astral Weeks.” Recited in spoken-word form, many of his sociopolitical songs would make potent rap tracks today -- it’s tantalizing to imagine Eminem taking on “Sandrevan Lullaby-Lifestyles.” Motown session musician Dennis Coffey’s production adds strings, horns and percussion in with Rodriguez’s acoustic guitar and voice. At times, it recalls another great Latin soul singer-songwriter of the period, Jose Feliciano.