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£16.99

Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Rhino

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Since he's a limited vocalist with erratic songwriting skills, one could justifiably argue that the soundtrack medium is the best vehicle for Ry Cooder's talents, allowing him to construct eclectic, chiefly instrumental pieces drawing upon all sorts of roots music and ethnic flavors (often, but not always, employing his excellent blues and slide guitar). This two-CD, 34-song compilation gathers excerpts from 11 of the soundtracks he worked on between 1980 and 1993 (three of the cuts, from the 1981 film Southern Comfort, are previously unreleased). As few listeners (even Cooder fans) are dedicated enough to go to the trouble of finding all of his individual soundtracks, this is a good distillation of many of his more notable contributions in this idiom, although it inevitably leaves out some fine moments. Still, it's well programmed and evocative, often conjuring visions of ghostly landscapes and funky border towns. ~ Richie Unterberger
£10.99

Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Rhino

Ry Cooder has always believed in the "mutuality in music," and this may be no more evident in his career than with his fifth album, Chicken Skin Music (a Hawaiian colloquialism, synonymous with goosebumps). Even more than usual, Cooder refuses to recognize borders -- geographical or musical -- presenting "Stand By Me" as a gospel song with a norteño arrangement, or giving the Jim Reeves country-pop classic, "He'll Have to Go," a bolero rhythm, featuring the interplay of Flaco Jimenez's accordion and Pat Rizzo's alto sax. Elsewhere, he teams with a pair of Hawaiian greats -- steel guitarist and singer Gabby Pahinui and slack key guitar master Atta Isaacs -- on the Hank Snow hit "Yellow Roses" and the beautiful instrumental "Chloe." If Cooder's approach to the music is stylistically diverse, his choice of material certainly follows suit. Bookended by a couple of Leadbelly compositions, Chicken Skin Music sports a collection of songs ranging from the aforementioned tracks to the charming old minstrel/medicine show number "I Got Mine" and the syncopated R&B of "Smack Dab in the Middle." Also included is Appalachian songwriter Blind Alfred Reed's "Always Lift Him Up," complete with a Hawaiian gospel tune, "Kanaka Wai Wai," woven into the instrumental section. As he explains in the album's liner notes, Cooder understands the connection between these seemingly disparate styles. This is not merely eclecticism for its own sake. Chicken Skin Music is probably Ry Cooder's most eccentric record since his first, but it's also one of his most entertaining. ~ Brett Hartenbach
£13.99

Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Rhino

With 1980's Borderline, Ry Cooder followed the foray into R&B and soul of his previous effort, Bop Till You Drop, but this time out with a little shot of the Southwest thrown in. At the same time, he also continues the primarily electric sound of that record. As far as his selection of material goes, Borderline may sometimes lack the surprising, esoteric charm of his earlier recordings, but there are still some terrific finds, including the Tex-Mex-flavored "The Girls from Texas," which may be the album's finest moment. Other highlights include one of John Hiatt's best, the written-to-order "The Way We Make a Broken Heart," as well as Billy "The Kid" Emerson's "Crazy 'Bout an Automobile," which Cooder had been performing live for a number of years, and the soulful Maurice & Mac treasure "Why Don't You Try Me." And while it's moments like these that help make Cooder's records special, he also takes on some better-known '50s and '60s offerings with moderate success. His recording of Wilson Pickett's 1966 hit "634-5789" isn't going to make anyone forget the original, but he's able to pull it off as a rocker, while "Speedo" and "Down in the Boondocks" are respectable covers. Borderline may not have the singular personality of his best '70s work, but it's a solid outing nonetheless. ~ Brett Hartenbach
£11.99

Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Rhino

This CD opens with an outrageous and exceedingly funky "UFO Has Landed in the Ghetto," and which seems so out of place with the other material. Yes, it is a rhythm & blues, bordering at times on funk album, and rap is one direction R&B took, but.... Listen to the groove on "Which Came First," and try to keep your body from bobbing to the strong rhythm laid down by Jim Keltner, Tim Drummond, and the background vocalists. While we are on the subject of vocals, this is one of Ry Cooder's best efforts, and his backup vocalists are key here and deserve special recognition: Bobby King, John Hiatt, Willie Greene, and Herman Johnson for most of the CD. The two gems on this are the phenomenal treatments of both "Blue Suede Shoes" and Bob Dylan's "I Need a Woman." Two songs as different in the original forms as pigs and gerbils are converted to R&B hit status. Both contain some memorable slide guitar work, but isn't that what we expect from this master of the guitar family. The album is very good but those two songs make it a gem. ~ Bob Gottlieb