The reissue of the year is the soundtrack to one of the most compelling music documentaries ever made, about a comeback so improbable it seems like fiction. Searching for Sugar Man follows two South African fans as they solve the mystery of the Hispanic, Detroit-born singer-songwriter Rodriguez: a charismatic phantom who vanished into working-life obscurity after his quietly urgent, elegant-R&B classics, 1970’s Cold Fact and 1971’s Coming From Reality, crashed on release in the U.S. (They were Springsteen-size smashes in South Africa, though Rodriguez never saw a dime.)
The soundtrack combines the best tracks from those LPs in a greatest-hits display of Rodriguez’s supple Dylanesque voice; his fluid, lyric swing between sympathy, need and righteous candor in “Sugar Man,” “I Wonder” and “I Think of You”; and the music’s unhurried, funky delicacy. You can get the original records in full, reissued by Light in the Attic. But the Sugar Man album is a precise introduction to a gentle genius who is still here (now 70), still singing, and finally reaching the audience he always deserved.