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The Ry Cooder Anthology: The UFO Has Landed

Ry Cooder

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Album Review

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.

Biography

Born: 15 March 1947 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Whether serving as a session musician, solo artist, or soundtrack composer, Ry Cooder's chameleon-like fretted instrument virtuosity, songwriting, and choices of material encompass an incredibly eclectic range of North American musical styles, including rock & roll, blues, reggae, Tex-Mex, Hawaiian, Dixieland jazz, country, folk, R&B, gospel, and vaudeville. The 16-year-old Cooder began his career in 1963 in a blues band with Jackie DeShannon and then formed the short-lived Rising Sons in...
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The Ry Cooder Anthology: The UFO Has Landed, Ry Cooder
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