Thursday, 16 December 2010

“The Ry Cooder Anthology - The UFO Has Landed” by RY COODER (2008 Rhino 2CD Set - Bernie Grundman Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"…Why Don't You Try Me Tonight?"

I wanted to point out something about this 2CD retro that many seem to be ignoring - or not mentioning at all - the TRULY STUNNING SOUND QUALITY.

Fans of the wonderful Ry Cooder will know that apart from an occasional CD here and there and an 8-album campaign in Japan in 2007 - there have been NO remasters of his huge catalogue anywhere. Nearly 40 years of recording and no decent reissues to speak of (Tom Waits and Prince are 2 others that jump to mind on that front). The Japanese versions are just that - Japan only - and are costly as imports. There is the "Ry Cooder 1970-1987" 11CD Box Set from November 2014 (which I've reviewed) but not everything on that is remastered either.

Which brings me to Rhino/Warner Brothers 8122-79891-9 (Barcode 081227989194) released November 2008. "The Ry Cooder Anthology: The UFO Has Landed" by RY COODER is a superlative 34-track 2CD reissue that covers his entire Warner Brothers and Reprise career - as well as his soundtrack work in the last 3 decades. It plays outs as follows:

Disc 1 (63:58 minutes):
1. Get Rhythm
2. Low Commotion
3. Available Space
4. On A Monday
5. Do Re MI
6. Which Came First
7. The Very Thing That Makes You Rich [Makes Me Poor]
8. Down In Hollywood
9. Smells Like Money
10. Let's Work Together
11. I Got Mine
12. Cherry Ball Blues
13. Jesus On The Mainline
14. Tattler
15. Teardrops Will Fall
16. Maria Elena
17. Jesse James
Tracks 3 and 5 from "Ry Cooder" (October 1970)
Tracks 4 and 15 from "Into The Purple Valley" (February 1972)
Tracks 12 and 16 from "Boomer's Story" (November 1972)
Tracks 13 and 14 from "Paradise And Lunch" (April 1974)
Track 11 from "Chicken Skin Music" (August 1976)
Tracks 7 and 8 from "Bop Till You Drop" (July 1979)
Track 17 from "The Long Riders O.S.T." (April 1980)
Track 6 from "The Slide Area" (April 1982)
Tracks 1 and 2 from "Get Rhythm" (November 1987)
Track 9 from "Johnny Handsome O.S.T." (October 1989)
Track 10 is Previously Unreleased

Disc 2 (70:41 minutes):
1. Paris, Texas
2. Theme From Southern Comfort
3. Tap 'Em Up Solid
4. Billy The Kid
5. Crazy 'Bout An Automobile (Every Woman I Know)
6. Drive Like I've Never Been Hurt
7. Feelin' Bad Blues
8. Boomer's Story
9. How Can You Keep Moving (Unless You Migrate Too)
10. Alimony
11. Always Life Him Up/Kanaka Wai Wai
12. Theme From Alamo Bay
13. Dark End Of The Street
14. Why Don't You Try Me
15. Poor Man's Shangri-La
16. Going Back To Okinawa
17. Little Sister
Track 2 from "Ry Cooder" (October 1970)
Tracks 4 and 9 from "Into The Purple Valley" (February 1972)
Tracks 8 and 13 from "Boomer's Story" (November 1972)
Track 3 from "Paradise And Lunch" (April 1974)
Track 11 from "Chicken Skin Music" (August 1976)
Track 17 from "Bop Till You Drop" (July 1979)
Tracks 5 and 14 from "Borderline" (October 1980)
Track 1 from "Paris, Texas O.S.T." (February 1985)
Track 12 from "Music From Alamo Bay O.S.T." (August 1985)
Track 7 from "Crossroads O.S.T." (July 1986)
Track 16 from "Get Rhythm" (November 1987)
Track 2 from "Southern Comfort" (first issued on "Music From Ry Cooder" 2CD set August 1985)
Track 15 is from "Chavez Ravine" (June 2008)
Track 6 from "I Flathead" (June 2008)

The award-winning sound engineer BERNIE GRUNDMAN has mastered "The UFO Has Landed" from the original tapes and he's done a beautiful job - especially given the differing recording dates (the Seventies stuff in particular sounds incredible). The 2nd point is the alignment of the songs themselves; chosen by Ry and his son, they're not in release date order, but as you can see from the track lists above mixed up so that one decade seamlessly flows into the next and back again. A nice idea - but in reality hard to get right - and they have. As a listen it really works. It opens with 1987's "Get Rhythm", then tracks from "Ry Cooder" from 1970 - skip to 1979's "Bop Till You Drop" - skips back to 1974's "Paradise And Lunch" on to 1985's "Paris, Texas" and so on. It gives the play list a fresh feel - and as the remaster quality hammers you, it's like hearing his material anew.

Speaking of sound quality - there's one particular example on here I'd recommend. Many fans will know that 1972's "Boomer Story" is one of those album gems few know anything about - but should. It's a criminally forgotten beauty and luckily its featured on here with 4 tracks - "Cherry Ball Blues", "Boomer's Story", the cover of the James Carr hit "Dark End Of The Street" and the truly beautiful instrumental "Maria Elena". If you've never heard this gorgeous Mexican-style soulful instrumental (sounding like it was recorded in 2006 and not 1972), then go to iTunes and download it for 80p - fabulous stuff.

The DDD recording of "Bop Till You Drop" has always been somehow dull and subdued on CD - but here at least it has more subtle muscle - even if you have to crank "The Very Thing That Makes You Rich (Makes Me Poor)" a little too much (lyrics above). There's also that terrible hiss on "Paris, Texas" - but the remaster has also accentuated just how brilliantly menacing the slide guitar work is - it's all 'feel'... very, very cool. Another lovely track is the theme to "Alamo Bay" and the huge slide sound on "Feelin' Bad Blues" from the 1986 "Crossroads" soundtrack. And on it goes...

Niggles - they've called it after the quirky "UFO Has Landed In The Ghetto" track from 1982's "The Slide Area" and haven't included the track, there's soundtrack stuff aplenty on here when there was the much-praised "Music From Ry Cooder" double CD compilation of 1995 for that - and the liner notes in the 40-page booklet by Ry on each track are often short, cryptic and generally useless. Worse - as you can see from the rather lax playing times on both discs above - there was room for plenty more. We could have had goodies like "All Shook Up", "Teardrops Will Fall", "Ditty Wah Ditty", "Fool For A Cigarette/Feelin' Good" and "I Think It's Going To Work Out Fine". The previously unreleased cover of Wilbert Harrison's "Let's Work Together" is good rather than great.

Having said all of that - I've played this double to death - it's brilliant in so many ways. And every time I feature "Maria Elena" in the shop shuffle it brings a customer to the counter asking after it. They know its Ry Cooder - they just don't know which track it is. I can see it in their faces - making a mental note - forgot how much I loved this guy - I must buy this. You should too.

Recommended like a shoeshine boy getting’ some badly needed rhythm...

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