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The Roches

Discussion in 'Folk & Celtic' started by Craig in Indy, Jun 3, 2010.

  1. Craig in Indy

    Craig in Indy Your cool Uncle

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    The Roches were/are three sisters, Maggie, Terre and Suzzy (yes, those spellings are correct), who have performed and recorded in various combinations of solos, duos and trio (and occasionally as a foursome with the addition of their brother David) since the 1960s. Their music is known for its quirkiness, stream-of-consciousness compositions, and exquisite sibling harmonies, though there are times when they deliberately choose dissonance in their arrangements, causing the occasional critic to suggest they really can’t sing that well after all. All I can say is there is abundant evidence to the contrary in most of their recordings. And having heard them live twice, I will never doubt their vocal abilities, ever.

    Maggie and Terre came to Paul Simon’s attention in 1970, when he recruited them to perform backing vocal work on his seminal There Goes Rhymin’ Simon album. You can find their names in the credits, and their picture in the liner notes (along with Paul’s guitar-playing near-double of a younger brother, Eddie). Simon assisted them in getting a contract with Columbia, which released their first album Seductive Reasoning. The album got critical raves but failed to sell, a situation that would ultimately become a pattern throughout their career. The two elder sisters considered quitting the music business, but eventually decided against it when their younger sister Suzzy joined in.

    The trio became something of a staple of the Greenwich Village folk circuit for many years (giving them experiences that would surface in their later song “Face Down at Folk City”). That club exposure led them to sign with Warner Brothers, who had Robert Fripp produce their first trio album, eponymously titled The Roches. Fripp’s mostly acoustic guitar-based, bare-bones “audio verite” production technique suited the music perfectly, as did his occasional electric guitar work and “Frippertronics.” The album is a bona fide classic, with songs covering subjects from the banal to the sophisticated. “Married Men” was covered by Phoebe Snow, and was in fact performed as a duet on Saturday Night Live by Snow and Linda Ronstadt, the pair of them jointly expressing the wish that they had been the ones to first think of writing the song. There are more drop-dead gorgeous harmonies on this album than on any of their others, IMO.

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    When the first album failed to sell well, the sisters switched tacks slightly and recorded their second album, Nurds, with a more fully fleshed-out pop/rock sound, utilizing a rhythm section comprised of alums from Television and the Patti Smith Group. Again, it was critically acclaimed, and while it charted, it failed to find a substantial, sustainable audience. I think most members of the listening public just didn’t quite know what to make of them, a situation that was probably not helped at all by their deliberate choice to sing flatted fifth harmonies in one verse of one of the songs.

    Fripp returned to produce their third album, Keep On Doing, which was very much a return to form from the first album, if not quite as pristine a production. As an interesting side note, it included some cameo turns from members of his own band, King Crimson.

    Subsequent years found them recording and releasing a handful of other albums, all greatly praised by critics, but finding few buyers beyond their corps of loyal fans. In 1990 they revisited their youth by recording a Christmas album, We Three Kings, which recalled their earlier years spent performing carols on the streets of New York City. The warm-hearted and occasionally humorous album is a perennial best seller, and was featured on NPR several years ago during the holidays. I highly recommend it, if you aren't put off by the idea of a couple of the songs being deliberately sung in a very heavy "Joisey" accent.

    Other solo and duet projects followed, and sporadic touring. Suzzy has also had some success acting, and had a featured part in the Amy Irving film Crossing Delancey which also included some Roches music. Terre formed a sometime group of her own called Terre Roche and Her Moodswings, though most of her time is now spent teaching guitar in NYC.

    If anyone wants recommendations, I heartily suggest the first album, followed by A Dove and Speak. Here are a few live performances of songs from the first album. Please forgive the audio quality – these were obviously old videotapes.







    And a performance of the song that opens the third album:

     
  2. Soot and Stars

    Soot and Stars I AM SOOT! Staff Member

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    Such an ugly name for a group that does such nice harmonies! :heheh:
     
  3. Craig in Indy

    Craig in Indy Your cool Uncle

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    ^^ One of the downfalls of family (ugly names, that is). ;)
     
  4. recgord27

    recgord27 Walking down a dusty road

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    Loved the first roches album. :)
    Sweet melodies with the unexpected lyrics. Especially like 'The Married Man'
     
  5. OldSchool47

    OldSchool47 Member

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    The Roches are an often underappreciated girl group. I love Suzzy's nose. Celtic with a touch of English.

    Mr. Sellack

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  6. Sharp Dressed Man

    Sharp Dressed Man Down South Jukin' Staff Member

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    One of my favourites:

     
  7. OldSchool47

    OldSchool47 Member

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