Maggie and Terre Roche's "Seductive Reasoning"
December 16, 2011 9:52 PM   Subscribe

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... Seductive Reasoning is not completely a folk nor a country album, which no doubt hurt its commercial potential... 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"... are more straightforward getting-laid songs, funny as hell... while several of their albums have been as good as Seductive Reasoning, none were better. Nor did they have to be. - Todd Mason (previously)

After decades of indifference and neglect from CBS/Columbia/Sony, this 30 minute masterpiece is being reissued by Real Gone Music in January 2012 with the original cover art - which I admit to liking less well than that of the 1981 reissue.
posted by Trurl (29 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The Roches contributed sublime backing vocals to Indigo Girls' song Airplane, and for that I will love them forever.

(Even if the song is a bit goofy with touches of deep insight. I apologize for how awful that video is, but I'm linking it for the music not the visuals.)
posted by hippybear at 10:02 PM on December 16, 2011

(plus it's not even the entire song. How sad is that?)
posted by hippybear at 10:02 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love the Roches. I still have their albums on vinyl.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:50 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hey, this is really good news. The one and only fan letter I ever wrote to a band was to the Roches, and the reply came in the form of a hand-written letter from Suzzy. When I'd asked her where I could find the elusive Seductive Reasoning, her response at the time - the early 90s - was "probably the $0.99 bin at Sam Goody's." I'm glad to hear this album will get another chance at touting and circulation.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:16 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know it's old, but the Roches + Fripp is really great. Everyone should have that record.
posted by pracowity at 2:18 AM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Roches are a bit of a litmus test for me—not because I'm really a fan, but because everyone I've known with really good taste in music is familiar with them and listens to them at least a little bit. And, more idiosyncratically but perhaps predictably, my feelings and thoughts regarding my first acquaintance with their music.

I first heard of them around 1982 or 1983, just after I graduated high school, when I learned that a long-time friend—my sixth-grade girlfriend, actually—considered them her favorite band.

She was the daughter of the university president, just moved back to town when her dad got that job after having moved away when we were kids. She had come back from Lawrence our senior year, where her dad had been a VP, and although you wouldn't think this of someone coming from, well, Lawrence, Kansas, in the context of our small southwestern-almost-Texas-town, she was like a visitor from Outer Space. Everything about her didn't fit into local cultural conventional categories, and The Roches was an example of this.

I know that seems amazingly provincial, but that's how I grew up.

Even so, I didn't listen to the music, or I don't remember it if I did. It wasn't until 1989 when my soon-to-be-spouse sent me a mix-tape from Toronto, where she was from (well, Markham, actually), that I really discovered the band.

She had included not one, but two tracks from The Roches, probably both predictable: "We", and "The Death of Suzzy Roche". The latter, especially, made an impression on me. Theirs is not really a sound I like that much, but I was and still am very impressed with everything about that track.

My ex had a tremendous influence on my musical tastes. At the time, through the 80s, I just didn't know anyone who really knew anything about indie or alternative music of any kind. All I knew was stuff that made the album charts. My high school tastes were hard rock and I had outgrown that but found that I really disliked the pop of the 80s and, not knowing better, just abandoned the whole of rock/pop for jazz, mostly. This mix-tape she sent me was a revelation, almost without exception music I'd never even heard of. Some of it was really obvious and popular in its own way, predictable to the people here, such as The Roches and They Might Be Giants. Other stuff is still pretty obscure.

My sense is that there's a pretty big gap between those who know of The Roches and those who don't. For those who do, they're well-known and obvious and important musically, even if you don't really like them. For those who don't, they don't exist—obviously, that's necessarily true but what I mean is that they don't even implicitly exist, The Roches are not even out there on the fringes as something that someone might have mentioned to them once, or heard playing at someone's house. So, to me, that someone is even familiar with them at all is a litmus test of whether their musical sensibilities go beyond the truly conventional and predictable.

I don't think this is just an accident of my personal history, or history with regard to The Roches. There's something inherently unique about them, not just their familiar harmonies but the songwriting, both melodically and lyrically. They're important in this regard, even if they don't appeal to one's taste. And it's hard to imagine that they haven't been tremendously influential in their own way.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:12 AM on December 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

We don't give out our ages,
And we don't give out our phone numbers
    (give out our phone numbers)
posted by erniepan at 3:36 AM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

God, I knew a lotta people who loved 'em to death in late-70s Boston. I thought they were OK, a certain flavor of uniqueness that I had to respect even while feeling that some if not most of their stuff was just a wee bit precious for my tastes.

Hella singing group, for sure. And they always struck me as the kind of band that could only happen between siblings. Kinda like the Shaggs.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:02 AM on December 17, 2011

Erniepan, you stopped short of the best line:

Sometimes our voices give out,
But not our ages and our phone numbers

posted by itstheclamsname at 4:04 AM on December 17, 2011

Oh, and I look forward to checking these links, Truri. Thanks for the post.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:04 AM on December 17, 2011

Two stories about the Roches:

1. I was on a date with the woman I would later marry. I was at her apartment, I think for the first time. She was making something in the kitchen and suggested I put something on the stereo. I put on the Roches' self-titled album, which has been a favorite since the first time I heard it. As she later told me, she thought to herself in that moment "this is going to work." So far so good.

2. I saw the Roches live at a show in the early 90s. Despite the first song on that self-titled album, the ticket spelled their last name R-O-A-C-H.
posted by adamrice at 6:05 AM on December 17, 2011

They made awfully cute insects on Tiny Toons.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:07 AM on December 17, 2011

Their Hallelujah Chorus is pretty great; a four part song arraigned for three voices.

I first learned of The Roches from a performance of their song The Married Men by Phoebe Snow and Linda Ronstadt on Saturday Night Live. That prompted me, in the pre-Internet era, to search out the authors. I found their Robert Fripp-produced self-named album. I've loved it ever since.
posted by blob at 6:29 AM on December 17, 2011

They made awfully cute insects on Tiny Toons.

That they did. Criminally hard to find that bit on line.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:33 AM on December 17, 2011

Ah, that's one of my all-time favorite albums. I've long hoped to find something else that sounds even vaguely similar to "Seductive Reasoning".
posted by moonmilk at 7:33 AM on December 17, 2011

I had their first four albums on vinyl, then they sort of got forgotten about in my mind, until the movie Please Give which features their cover of No Shoes over closeup footage of mammograms being performed.

On this basis, I now have most of there stuff on digital and am loving it as much as I ever did.
posted by Danf at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2011

Just because it's the season, their We Three Kings Christmas album is great. And their version of "Winter Wonderland" is to die for.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:00 AM on December 17, 2011

I was thinking that they sound a lot like, and kinda contemporary to, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and wondering if their was ever any sort of connection or kinship. Then I see in the comments here that Loudon Wainwright (Kate's ex, sire to Martha & Rufus) actually married their younger sister Suzzy, so there is an intersection of a sort. And surely more.
Anyway, interesting post - I had never heard of the Roches.
posted by Flashman at 8:32 AM on December 17, 2011

posted by Flashman at 8:33 AM on December 17, 2011

I had their first four albums on vinyl... I now have most of there stuff on digital

This record is the only music I purchased on vinyl, cassette, and compact disc - the last of which required a special order, and is rare enough that there's not a single one currently listed on eBay. Though I stopped paying for music several years ago, I should buy the 2012 reissue on MP3 just to complete the cycle.

It is also the only record that I have sang along with from start to finish. The melodies and harmonizing are that compelling.
posted by Trurl at 8:55 AM on December 17, 2011

Never heard of these before, fantastic stuff, thanks!
posted by houlihan at 10:31 AM on December 17, 2011

I came in here to say what ROU_Xenophobe said, but with a soundtrack. I don't really like most Christmas music, but the Roches' Christmas album, We Three Kings, is something I listen to every single year.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:16 AM on December 17, 2011

Drat, link screwup. That's what he said, this is what they sang.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:18 AM on December 17, 2011

When i was growing up, my mother played the Roches' Christmas album as if it were "Feliz Navidad" at the DMV. If I picked up their music now, I'd probably like them, but the thought of that Hallelujah Chorus makes my earwax curdle.
posted by Madamina at 12:38 PM on December 17, 2011

Clan tendrils.
posted by quarterframer at 12:39 PM on December 17, 2011

To my mind, Keep On Doing is probably my favorite album of theirs. I first heard it playing from the room of a friend's girlfriend, and thought it was just the most magical, lovely music I'd heard in a long time. Losing True remains one of my favorite songs to this day.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:52 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can take guitar lessons from Terre Roche, online or in person!
posted by candyland at 1:03 PM on December 17, 2011

I first heard them (though not heard of them) on Praire Home Companion show notes here some years ago.

What lovely, lovely voices. I had no idea there was a Christmas album -- hurray!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:31 AM on December 19, 2011

> Keep On Doing

Also produced & featuring guitar work by Fripp. Losing True: I'm glad to find more where Hammond Song and Quitting Time came from!
posted by morganw at 12:57 AM on December 25, 2011

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