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Rock - Released May 11, 2018 | Fantasy Records

Hi-Res Distinctions Songlines Five-star review
After Ry Cooder issued 2012's biting Election Special with its indictments of the GOP, Mitt Romney, and the Koch Brothers in a meld of sounds that included folk, blues, and roots rock, fans wondered where he'd go next. Prodigal Son, his debut album for Fantasy, takes him back to the beginning when he recorded old blues, gospel, folk, and swing tunes that reflected the musical past as illumination for the historical present. Co-produced with son Joachim -- who also contributes drums and percussion -- Cooder takes control; he plays guitars, bass, banjo, mandolin, and keyboards in a program of eight covers and three fine originals. He opens with an intimate version of the Pilgrim Travelers' 1950s gospel hit "Straight Street." With banjo and mandolin buoyed by his electric guitar fills and Joachim's snare, Cooder presents evidence of his protagonist's difficulties living "...on Broadway right next to the liar's house...." before finding solace in God's light. The backing chorus (featuring the late Terry Evans) slips and sways, underscoring every syllable. Cooder doesn't need to testify vocally, the lyrics and his guitar do that. "Shrinking Man" is an original filled with poignant metaphor set to a raucous, bluesy country stomp delivered in electric jug band style. The original "Gentrification" offers biting social satire adorned with layers of acoustic and electric guitars played in Nigerian hi-life style with kalimba, bells, and whistles; its humorous lyrics are rife with the truth. Cooder's readings of Blind Willie Johnson's "Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine" resonate with conviction and gritty determination. Alfred Reed's hymn "You Must Unload" features Robert Francis Commagere on bass and Aubrey Haynie on violin. They color his prophetic vocal in calling the powerful, greedy, and decadent to account. The title cut is traditional. Cooder renders it a grimy, electric, country blues -- complete with an homage to country legend Ralph Mooney's pedal steel guitar playing. Banjo, mandolin, and snares create a frame for Blind Roosevelt Graves' strident "I'll Be Rested When the Roll Is Called," while Carter Stanley's "Harbor of Love" has been recontextualized as a gently soulful, painterly, country-gospel tune. Cooder's own "Jesus and Woody" is a tender allegory sung from the former's viewpoint as he requests the legendary folksinger to sit and play for him as he reflects on sin, fascism, and the dream of a better world. This would have been a great place to stop, but Cooder has another rocker to deliver in the traditional church stomper "In His Care," where crisscrossing rhythms and gospel strut meet rebellious roots rock & roll. His reliance on gospel here illuminates his commitment to equality. Prodigal Son is yet another act of committed intention from one of American music's greatest guardians and purveyors. In its grain, aesthetic pleasure and the will for justice converse and ultimately convince the rest of us to act. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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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 /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Records

Distinctions Stereophile: Record To Die For
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Rock - Released September 29, 2014 | Rhino - Warner Records

Distinctions Choc de Classica
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Rock - Released October 24, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released July 11, 1979 | Warner Records

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World - Released January 27, 2003 | Nonesuch - Warner Records

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Rock - Released October 24, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

The first multi-label spanning, American released Ry Cooder compilation does its best to present a coherent portrait of a musician whose wildly eclectic recordings and broad, four decade (and counting) list of releases makes that job all but impossible. Certainly the guitarist/singer/songwriter/producer and coordinator of the successful Buena Vista Social Club reunion deserves a comprehensive box set. But even then it would be difficult to follow his diverse recorded accomplishments that range from '60s work with Captain Beefheart and Taj Mahal, to sessions with Little Feat and the Rolling Stones, world music side projects, outside productions of other artists, and over a dozen solo albums that mix folk, soul, funk, rock, country blues, gospel, and Tex-Mex, among other styles. This 34-cut double-disc package, compiled by Cooder's son and musical companion Joachim, does an excellent job cherrypicking well-known nuggets along with a batch of obscurities from his father's voluminous output, resulting in an intriguing, enlightening, and above all listenable sonic résumé. Rather than arrange his father's songs in chronological order, the younger Cooder decided to take the organic approach of presenting the material in a more cohesive fashion. He mixes and matches items from papa Cooder's 1970 debut through 2008's I, Flathead to maximum effect without the jarring segues that might occur if sequencing was done in a time based manner. The elder Cooder provides short, occasionally odd, usually humorous blurbs about each track in the accompanying booklet, shedding a bit of light on the tunes, and in the case of the selections from films such as Southern Comfort, The Long Riders, and Paris, Texas, the directors he worked with. One previously unreleased tune, a passable version of "Let's Work Together" performed with Buckwheat Zydeco is here, perhaps as an enticement to collectors. But it's Joachim's excavations into his dad's deep catalog to resurrect oddities such as "Smells Like Money" from the Johnny Handsome flick and gems like the Willie Dixon/Cooder jointly composed "Which Came First" from The Slide Area that make this collection so enjoyable. Eagle eyed admirers might lament that nothing from 1978's impressive genre excursion Jazz is included, but Cooder's phenomenal slide guitar skills, and somewhat limited vocal abilities, are well displayed throughout the two-and-a-quarter hour running time. The song that helps provide the unusual title for the disc, "UFO Has Landed in the Ghetto," is M.I.A. and surely there are fan favorites that didn't make the cut due to limited space, but this is an impressive and relatively inclusive recap that is a fine starting point for anyone interested in delving into Ry Cooder's extensive and influential career. © Hal Horowitz /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 8, 2011 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Rhino

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Rock - Released December 9, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

Ry Cooder is not frequently considered a prolific recording artist, yet he has amassed a sizeable catalog of original albums and film scores over the decades. He has also participated in some truly and even historic projects from the 1960s on, including the Rising Sons with Taj Mahal, the Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band, Little Village, and the Buena Vista Social Club. Likewise, many of his collaborative dates are regarded as particularly noteworthy, especially his albums with Ali Farka Touré, V.M. Bhatt, Manuel Galban, and the Chieftains. This box collects in encyclopedic fashion Cooder's solo records for Warner beginning with his self-titled debut album and continues through his final album for the label proper, the brief yet classic Get Rhythm. In between, are Into the Purple Valley, Boomer's Story, Paradise and Lunch, Chicken Skin Music, Show Time, Jazz, Bop 'Til You Drop, Borderline, and The Slide Area. None of his soundtracks from this period are included -- too bad, actually. When tolled and juxtaposed with more recent recordings for Nonesuch, including his L.A. trilogy -- Chávez Ravine, My Name Is Buddy, I, Flathead: The Songs of Kash Buk & the Klowns -- and even Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, it is obvious that Cooder has been mining a deep, rich vein in his exploration of North American, Hawaiian music, country, folk, blues, mariachi, Tejano, Norteño, rock & roll, swing, and more, placing them in a variety of contexts, all of which yield meaning as they underscore musical and cultural history and what gets lost as it evolves. He is not a preservationist, but one of our great historians. Each chapter in his recorded legacy is worthy of investigation. As is de rigueur in this Rhino series, each album is presented bare bones, in a paper LP-cover sleeve with original, scaled-down art contained in a cardboard slipcase sans bonus material or booklet. That said, given the price, having these records in one place -- as they've all been in and out of print over the past couple of decades -- is a real plus for fans. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released June 23, 2008 | Nonesuch

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Rock - Released January 11, 1991 | Warner Records

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Rock - Released June 14, 2005 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet
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Rock - Released February 7, 2020 | Leftfield media

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Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Records

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Rock - Released October 1, 1980 | Rhino

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Rock - Released August 30, 2011 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet
Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, issued between two national election cycles, is the most overtly political album Ry Cooder has ever released, and one of his funniest, most musically compelling ones, too. Cooder looks deeply into his musical past using his entire Americana musical arsenal: blues, folk, ragtime, norteño, rock, and country here. Opener "No Banker Left Behind" updates Civil War-era marching music. Cooder's guitar, banjo, bass, and mandola lead drummer (and son) Joachim through a scathing indictment of the the financial bailout in 2007. The marching rhythms are punched through with sharp banjo and mandola riffs as Cooder's signature electric guitar sound frames them. "El Corrido Jesse James" has the outlaw speaking from heaven in waltz time. Accompanied by Flaco Jimenez's accordion and a horn section, James claims that while he was a bank robber, he never "turned a family from their house," and asks God for his trusty .44 to "put that bonus money back where it belongs." "Quick Sand" is a shuffling electric rocker that addresses the plight of illegal immigrants crossing into Arizona. "Christmas Time This Year" is the most incendiary anti-war song in a decade, presented innocently as a Mexican polka. "Lord Tell Me Why" borrows production techniques from Tom Waits, with co-writer and drummer Jim Keltner who assists in getting across this biting, ironic gospel tune: "Lord tell me why a white man/Ain't worth nothin' in this world no more...." An 11-piece band assists in "I Want My Crown," a scorching, growling blues with Cooder's nasty guitar leading the charge. It's followed by the album's finest moment, "John Lee Hooker for President," where Cooder does a shockingly accurate impression of the late bluesman, in fine boogie mode, paying a visit to the White House, not liking what he sees, and deciding to run for office: "I'm compastatic. I ain't Republican or Democratic." He names Jimmy Reed as Veep and Johnny Taylor Secretary of State. His campaign promises swift retribution for injustice and a "groove time" for the nation. If only. The depth of Cooder's rage is quieter but more direct as the album draws to a close. In "If There Is a God," God's been driven from heaven by redistricting; he, "Jesus, Mary and Joe" all hit the road for Mexico. God goes so far as to say he thinks the "Republiklan" legislature wants to bring back Jim Crow laws. Cooder's sorrow about the environment is pervasive in the final corrido, though he, like the Buddha, leaves room for tolerance, wishing his enemies "No Hard Feelings." Those who've followed Cooder from the beginning will find much to love on Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down. Those music fans unfamiliar with his work but looking for a comrade in arms will find one here. That said, this is revolution music; worthy of dancing to, learning from, and singing along with: who says topical music has to be boring? © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Warner Records

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Folk - Released September 1, 2006 | Nonesuch

Booklet