Emitt Rhodes, "Rainbow Ends" (Omnivore Recordings)
A prodigy who recorded mostly on his own, Emitt Rhodes' early '70s albums drew comparisons to Paul McCartney and Harry Nilsson for their effortless melodies and soaring vocals. Music industry shenanigans and illnesses, however, kept him from releasing material for decades, but "Rainbow Ends" sounds like time has hardly passed.
Expertly backed by members of bands like Jellyfish, Wilco and New Pornographers, as well as Aimee Mann, Jon Brion and Susanna Hoffs — among his longtime fans — the 11 tracks on the album benefit greatly from the newer talents while keeping Rhodes in the lead.
There are shades of Charlie Rich and Warren Zevon on some tunes, softer rockers and overdriven guitars — Fernando Perdomo's bass excels throughout — as Rhodes sticks to vocals and acoustic guitars.
No longer reaching the falsetto he once used habitually, the slight gruffness in Rhodes' voice after the 43-year layoff suits themes like regrets, divorce and jealous minds just fine.
Producer Chris Price, who coaxed Rhodes back into the studio, deserves kudos for the sympathetic sounds which in a better world would have topped the charts in 1978 or so.
Rich and Zevon are gone but Rhodes rolls on. Here's hoping there's more to come.