The Roches, sisters Maggie & Terre & Suzzy Roche are one of the great undefinable, oddball musical acts of the 1970/'80s folk scene, a trio that gained recognition outside of the coffeehouse circuit, recording several major label albums that crossed the divide between confessional folk and novelty pop. Their unusual harmonies and innovative arrangements make their early albums a singular experience (and acquired taste), while later recordings show a depth and maturity that may surprise older fans. Here's a quick look at their work...
Maggie & Terre Roche "Seductive Reasoning" (Columbia, 1975)
Majorly out-of-print, this LP was their first recording other than session work, including a gig backing Paul Simon on his landmark Rhymin' Simon album.
The Roches "The Roches" (Warner, 1979)
The Roches "Nurds" (Warner, 1980)
The Roches "Keep On Doing" (Warner, 1982)
The Roches "Another World" (Warner, 1985)
The Roches "No Trespassing" (Real Live Records, 1986)
A 4-song EP...
The Roches "Speak" (MCA, 1989)
The Roches "We Three Kings" (MCA, 1990)
The Roches "A Dove" (MCA, 1992)
The Roches "Will You Be My Friend?" (Baby Boom, 1994)
The Roches "Can We Go Home Now?" (Rykodisc, 1995)
Suzzy Roche "Holy Smokes" (Red House, 1997)
Terre Roche "The Sound Of A Tree Falling" (Earth Rock Wreckerds, 1998)
Suzzy Roche "Songs From An Unmarried Housewife And Mother, Greenwich Village, USA" (Red House, 2000)
A new album by Suzzy Roche is usually a cause for celebration, and this one's no exception. Back in the late '70s, the Roches (Maggie and Terry, and Suzzy) almost singlehandedly saved adult folk music from the dreary pop-crossover hegemony of James Taylor, Harry Chapin and their demon familiars. Belly-flopping into the deep end along with the pioneers of new wave and punk rock, the Roches injected playfulness and big city sass into the acoustic music scene, offering some of the most original and outright oddball songs the genre has ever heard. Decades later, Suzzy keeps the faith on a bluegrass-tinged album that explores middle-aged spirituality and childlike frivolity with equal abandon. The album's most obvious highlight is the hilarious "G Chord Song," which sums up the anguish so many beginning artists feel: "Everybody writes a war song/Everybody writes a G chord song/Everybody wants to record some day.../What can you say?" The trick, of course, is to make that same old song yours, and to have a good time singing it. No problem for Suz!
Maggie & Suzzy Roche "Zero Church" (Red House, 2002)
When the Roches hit the folkie scene in the 1970s, their style was a bit keening and odd; now the harmonies are smoother and the voices mellowed into simple beauty. Of course, the difference may also have something to do with the nature of the material -- this is an album entirely devoted to spiritual questing, running Judeo-Christian religiousity through the filter of liberal New Yorker culture. Naturally, there's some September 11th-related material as well, although the religious nature of this album was already in the work before the attacks. Anyway, this is a slightly different Roches than you may remember -- musically it's pretty solid, though if you're not into the whole God thing, this might not be for you.
Maggie & Suzzy Roche "Why The Long Face?" (Red House, 2004)
As on all their recent records -- and well, on all their records, really -- this disc has a few songs that will stand out and charm you immensely, and a whole slew of other tunes that might simply get on your nerves. These gals have always had an unusual harmonic sensibility, and the odd tones and dense melodies they delve into are probably not for your average folkie or pop fan... But in terms of their lyrics, they sure have a lot to talk about, and a distinctive way to say it... Highlights include "Who Cares," which looks mournfully at 9/11 and its global aftermath (still a high priority and an ethical muddle for these New Yorkers) and Suzzy's "Long Lonely Road To Nowhere," which skewers the self-help scene, holding it up to the cold, calm light of self-acceptance and embrace of the imperfect. There's a real maturity and absurdism at play here that you simply don't hear in much of our glib modern art... Whether the folks who will appreciate the message will also be able to put up with the atonalities and dissonant melodies of the Roche sibs is another matter altogether... But if you like folk music with substance to it, this is worth checking out...
The Roches "Moonswept" (429 Records, 2007)
The Roches "The Collected Works Of The Roches" (Rhino/Warner, 2003)
The Roches "Rhino HiFive: The Roches" (Rhino/Warner, 2007)
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