Thursday, July 29, 2010

July's "Forgotten" Music: Maggie and Terre Roche, SEDUCTIVE REASONING

The initial 1975 and the 1981 reissue LP sleeves...the CD package crops the latter.

Margaret A./Maggie and Terre Roche started performing professionally in the late '60s, just a little late for the folkie boom but also a bit too distinctive to blend easily with the singer-songwriters of the early '70s, even when they became acolytes of Paul Simon and recorded backup vocals on There Goes Rhymin' Simon. By 1975, they had their own album on CBS, with tracks produced by Simon (and backed by the Oak Ridge Boys and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section) and ex-Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith, but record buyers were more interested in the Bay City Rollers in 1975. A rather uninspired appearance on Saturday Night Live, then a pretty miserable showcase for music (and not much better since) even with Simon being a friend of the show, didn't help much (that was where I first saw them--and I see that memory has played me false...they didn't appear on SNL in '76, as a duo, as I'd thought, but in their early days as a trio, in 1979), but the record remains, and it's brilliant. One Dwight Garner, in Salon, notes that these are the songs that Jayne Anne Phillips's characters might sing if they were of a mind to, and that's fair.

Seductive Reasoning is not completely a folk nor a country album, which no doubt hurt its commercial potential, and yet had too much from those scenes to appeal to the AOR radio programmers or to "underground" FM stations of the time (then still likely to prefer long jams to well-crafted pop/art songs). Songs such as "West Virginia," "Down the Dream," and "The Mountain People" touch on early joy and disillusionment/disappointment, while "Jill of All Trades" and "The Burden of Proof" reflect a few more years of life under one's belt and the smoothing out that can come with them. "Underneath the Moon" and "Wigglin' Man" (the latter the first Terre Roche co-composition they would record) are more straightforward getting-laid songs, funny as hell, much as is the woman-spurned "If You Emptied Out Your Pockets You Could Not Make the Change." If "Telephone Bill" is like several of the songs here in not Quite being fully-formed, it and "The Burden of Proof" nonetheless also triumph by just how much talent and energy they carry, how much pinpoint observation in the lyrics and emotional charge in the vocal performances. When they came back with younger sister "Suzzy" in the latest '70s as the Roches, they were ready, and found more sustained success...but while several of their albums have been as good as Seductive Reasoning, none were better. Nor did they have to be.

For more "forgotten" music, see Scott Parker's blog.


George said...

Once again, you've stumped me, Todd. I did not know about the Roches, but now I'll be seeking out SEDUCTIVE REASONING (great album title!).

Richard R. said...

I can't place them either, and would love to hear some cuts. I also will go a-seeking.

C. Margery Kempe said...

I only knew them from THE ROCHES onward, though that's still my fave; loved their introduction song ("We are Maggie and Terre and Suzzy...") and of course "The Married Men". Fun stuff. I remember Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow singing the latter on SNL, too. They did the soundtrack for Crossing Delancey as well as Suzzy taking a small role. I remember disagreeing with Betty Friedan at Harvard Med because she saw it as an anti-feminist film (can't recall why Friedan was there, what kind of event).

LOL: my word verification the oh, so appropriate "yawnses:

Todd Mason said...

Unfortunately, it seems that Columbia Special Products' cd is out of print, and the Amazon speculators have moved in, at least (considering I picked up the cd for $3-4 five years ago, after having had the LP for a coupla decades, I guess I struck while the iron was cool). Sadly, they've been tussling with some online music sources, so you can't hear too much more than clips from this album...though there are videos of later performances.

Terre's writing effloresced in the '80s, and Maggie grew more assured (and Suzzy got to contribute after having joined the band, as did their brother and various other folks including Suzzy's eventual husband Loudon Wainwright III), but reading the lyrics at the hotlink will give you a sense of the wit at play.

Kate, I'd go for the all the first five albums they did, including SEDUCTIVE, and then pick and choose...though "Everyone is Good," a Terre Roche song from A DOVE, is a delight.

Todd Mason said...

Or even, from SPEAK, the album before A DOVE.

"Everyone is Good" by The Roches said...