Ry Cooder

The UFO Has Landed

Rhino

One of these days, someone’s gonna do the 4-CD box set Cooder deserves — with early Rising Sons and Captain Beefheart material, session work, solo stuff, soundtracks, world music collaborations … But until then, this double CD culled from studio albums and soundtracks will have to do.

“UFO” isn’t the first compilation of the fretmeister/musicologist’s work. Earlier collections were “Why Don’t You Try Me Tonight?” (1985) and “River Rescue” (1994), both “best of” releases; and the double-disc soundtrack anthology, “Music by Ry Cooder” (1995).

Like “Echoes,” Pink Floyd’s 2001 2-CD “best of,” this is not a chronologically sequenced retrospective. Cooder and percussionist-son Joachim picked 34 songs spanning 38 years (from 1970’s “Ry Cooder” to 2008’s “I, Flathead”), jumping in with a couple of tracks from “Get Rhythm” (1987), his last solo album before he entered the 18-year-long “I only do soundtracks and world music now” phase of his career.

From there it’s a game of musical leapfrog, moving forward and backward in time, each track segueing perfectly into the next with only an occasional pairing of songs from the same album.

Twenty-seven selections are from solo releases, with no contributions from “Jazz” (1978) or “My Name Is Buddy” (2007), the latter having no representation presumably because its folk-tale/protest vibe would have disrupted the package’s continuity. Six entries come from the soundtracks to “Johnny Handsome,” “The Long Riders,” “Paris, Texas,” “Southern Comfort,” “Crossroads” and “Alamo Bay.” And one previously unreleased song, a cover of Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” featuring Buckwheat Zydeco on accordion, is from 2005 sessions that produced “Cryin’ in the Streets,” a song by Buckwheat that Cooder produced for the Hurricane Katrina benefit album “Our New Orleans.”

As always, while everything he does is superb, Cooder’s sublime slide guitar playing provides the most satisfying music-appreciation moments.

Tracks
Disc One
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

Disc Two
1. Paris, Texas
2. Theme From Southern Comfort
3. Tamp ‘Em Up Solid
4. Billy The Kid
5. Crazy ‘Bout An Automobile (Every Woman I Know)
6. Drive Like I 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 Lift 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

Total time: 2:14:22

External links
artist’s fansite
amazon.com
iTunes Store

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East Village Opera Company

Olde School

Decca

Good musical guilty pleasures are few and far between these days, but the East Village Opera Company comes to the rescue with its third release, an amalgam of ’70s rock excess and bombast fused with some of the finest operatic melodies.

Check out this lineup: guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, string quartet, male and female vocalist, augmented by the Czech Philharmonic string section and New York orchestral brass and winds, with spot R&B horns.

“The Ride” sets the tone: Zeppelinesque “Black Dog”-style riffage/rhythm alternating with passages of ELO-like ambience and brief segments of faux Floyd space rock, adorned with Wynona Judd-meets-Kelly Clarkson vocals spewing preposterous lyrics vaguely inspired by Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.”

Other highlights include the vaudeville/baroque-styled “Help Me,” with its not-so-incongruous, sparingly used “sounds like Brian May” guitar; a nearly simultaneous simulation of Steely Dan, Chicago and KC and the Sunshine Band on “Brindisi Libera”; the Freddie Mercury tribute “Walk”; and the beautiful, steel-guitar-embellished “As You Were Then.”

Although “Va Tosca” is practically a straight-opera reading, and a few tracks temper Italian vocals with progressive arrangements, “Olde School” is a major departure from previous EVOC albums in its use of newly written English lyrics and even-harder-rocking instrumentation. If the plan was to make opera more palatable for the masses, then it’s a big “mission accomplished!”

Tracks
1. The Ride (from Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre)
2. King Of The Night (from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s
Die Zauberflöte)
3. Help Me (Jove, in Pity) (from George Frideric Handel’s
Semele)
4. Brindisi Libera (Pop The Cork) (from Giuseppe Verdi’s
La Traviata)
5. Gloria (from Giovanni Bononcini’s
Griselda)
6. Walk (from George Frideric Handel’s
Semele)
7. As You Were Then (from Vincenzo Bellini’s
Norma)
8. Soldiers (from Charles Gounod’s
Faust)
9. You’re Not Alone (from J.S. Bach’s Cantata BWV 208
Was Mir Behagt, Ist Nur Die Muntre
Jagd
)
10. Va Tosca (from Giacomo Puccini’s
Tosca)
11. Butterfly Duet (from Giacomo Puccini’s
Madama Butterfly)

Total time: 57:55

External links
artist’s website
amazon.com
iTunes Store

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The Paul Thorn Band

So Far So Good

Perpetual Obscurity

Thorn’s a songwriter, not a fighter.

The former pugilist traded in his boxing gloves more than 10 years ago after going so far as to fight Roberto Duran on national TV, opting instead to make music. Hailing from Tupelo, Miss., he has a blues-gospel viewpoint that informs his country-rock-R&B output.

With four studio albums under his belt, he now has a sizable portfolio from which to extract a cross section of his work. “So Far So Good” is a reissue of a 17-song concert DVD previously sold only through his website and on the road, packaged with a bonus 16-song CD containing five songs not on the DVD. Those who already own the DVD have the option of downloading the bonus audio portion from the iTunes Music Store.

Onetime country songwriter Billy Maddox has been Thorn’s co-writer from the beginning, and as “So Far” attests, the mentoring has paid off. With a crack backup band to boot, the future’s wide open, so look for these guys’ following to continue to grow.

Tracks
1. Mood Ring
2. Heart With 4 Wheel Drive
3. Rocks
4. I Bet He Knows
5. Burn Down The Trailer Park
6. Lover’s Vacation
7. Hammer And Nail
8. Every Little Bit Hurts
9. What Do You Take Me For
10. A Lot Of Good Reasons
11. High
12. I Have A Good Day
13. Joanie The Jehovah Witness Stripper
14. Ain’t Love Strange
15. Mission Temple Fireworks Stand
16. If I Can Get Over Her
17. I Guess I’ll Just Stay Married

Total Time: 1:32:56

External Links
artist’s link
amazon.com
iTunes Store (bonus audio CD only)

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Rosco Gordon

No Dark in America

Skuntry/Dualtone

roscoThis is Gordon’s swan song, finished a few months before his death in July 2002 at the age of 74.

An R&B singer/songwriter/pianist, Gordon created a piano shuffle in the early ’50s known as Rosco’s Shuffle. When his Sun, Chess and RPM 45s became available to Jamaicans at the end of the decade, they adopted his shuffle for electric guitar, and ska was born. He had fallen into obscurity until a few years ago, when he figured prominently in Martin Scorsese’s PBS documentary series, “The Blues.”

Recorded over five years and at nine locations, “No Dark in America” began as a project of Hoobellatoo, a field-recording enterprise started by two former members of the rock group Enormous Richard. Overdubs were slowly collected and added onto Gordon’s basic tracks, while the title track and a few others were recorded with a live studio band.

Hot stuff. Guests include ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer; Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed; and Joe Pisapia, the guitarist for Nashville-based pop-rock group Joe, Marc’s Brother.gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. No Dark In America
2. Cheese & Crackers
3. Early In The Morning
4. A Night In Rio
5. Girl In My World
6. You Don’t Care About Nothing
7. I Am The One
8. That’s What You Do To Me
9. You Look Bad When You’re Naked
10. Love On Top Of Love
11. Takes A Lot Of Loving
12. Are You Mine?
13. When Baby Come Home
14. One More Time
15. Now You’re Gone

Total time: 59.8 minutes

External links
artist’s website
amazon.com
iTunes Store

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The Bees

Free the Bees

EMI/Virgin (UK import)

The Mamas & the Papas meet the Beatles and early Pink Floyd, open the Doors and party with the Monkees, while riding a late-model Buffalo Springfield and talking to the Byrds, at the same time shimmying with Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, throwing old Stones at the Standells, planting the Seeds and spreading Love after working out a few Kinks, but not before taking the 13th Floor Elevators to see Moby Grape, abandoning their Chocolate Watch Band for a Strawberry Alarm Clock, only to redeem their Box Tops while acting like Young Rascals looking for some Pretty Things.

Whereas the first album by The Bees was mainly a two-man, home-studio-recorded affair by Isle of Wight-based Paul Butler (vocals, guitar) and Aaron Fletcher (bass), “Free The Bees” is the work of a six-piece, recorded in three weeks at Abbey Road following two years of nearly solid touring.

The songwriting is even groovier, and the easy harmonies are still there, but the sound is not slicker as one might expect. It’s a case of more is less, as a self-imposed moratorium of 16 tracks was in effect at the recording desk — a move that positively enhances the retro vibe.

But don’t be put off by all this talk of old-fogy sounds. Music has always been about borrowing from the past to create something new, and in only two albums The Bees have distilled an intoxicating blend of musical spirits.

Tracks
1. These Are The Ghosts
2. Wash In The Rain
3. No Atmosphere
4. Horseman
5. Chicken Payback
6. The Russian
7. I Love You
8. The Start
9. Hourglass
10. Go Karts
11. One Glass Of Water
12. This Is The Land

Total time: 43.9 minutes

External Links
artist’s website
amazon.com

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