Ry Cooder:The Ry Cooder Anthology, The UFO Has Landed (Warners)

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Ry Cooder: Dark End of the Street
Ry Cooder:The Ry Cooder Anthology, The UFO Has Landed (Warners)

Given the length - not to mention the breadth - of his career, this crammed double disc could almost still seem paltry. Cooder has recorded about 30 albums, reached from classic film soundtracks (Paris Texas and The Long Riders) to the Buena Vista Social Club, recorded concept albums (the recent LA trilogy) and pared-back acoustic material.

It's quite some length and breadth, but this 34 track collection - with brief but pointed notes on each track by Cooder and an essay by Michael Ondaatge - does the business of introducing Cooder to an audience that wasn't there for him the 70s and 80s, as well as making old fans want to go back to some of those albums that are probably much loved but gathering a bit of dust.

Before he came to New Zealand in the early 70s I seem to recall him likening his singing voice to "geese farts in the wind" but the remarkable thing is how flexible he has been with that vocal flatulence: he can twist it to old time rock'n'roll (Little Sister), folk-blues (Do Re Mi), soul (Dark End of the Street, the aching but weary Teardrops Will Fall) and zydeco-Cajun (the previously unreleased Let's Work Together here with Buckwheat Zydeco). And of course gospel (Jesus on the Mainline), blues (Cherry Ball Blues), cantina folk (Maria Elena), Hawaiian-gospel (Always Lift Him Up/Kanaka Wai Wai)  . . . And all of these are given the Cooder twist.

Then of course there is that which he is really know for, his slide guitar playing which is everywhere across these two discs, and those evocative soundtracks (the eerie Smells Like Money, evocative Paris Texas and so on).

Cooder has always seemed one of the more modest geniuses of modern music, a man who is (like Dylan) a walking archive and keeps styles alive when others would let them quietly pass away.

This cheerfully non-chronological collection (collated by Ry's son Joachim) is like a private jukebox of styles and approaches. The word "journey" is bandied about far too much for my liking, but Cooder's career as sketched in here is certainly one very enjoyable trip. 

 

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Gavin Hancock - Dec 13, 2011

I had to smirk at "geese farts in the wind"!

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