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VINE VOICEon 27 March 2001
Ry Cooder - Paradise and Lunch
If you were to cut Ry Cooder in half he would be lettered 'Musician' all the way through. He hardly seems to have made anything except excellent albums, apart from 'The Slide Area'. So here is another eclectic mix of blues, gospel, folk and interpretations of obscure old pop songs. All played by his early house band, with a few distinguished guests, so nothing new there. But some albums just work, and all I can suggest is that when you get the right people together at the right time the magic just happens, and it really happens here. I think the secret is in knowing what to leave out. This sort of music doesn't smack you on the forehead, it just sidles up and makes friends. The rythms are generally gentle and subtle, but still make you want first to tap your feet and then dance around the room. This mood is set in the first track, 'Tamp 'em up solid', but this is no surprize, Cooder has always been at expert at first tracks (Such as 6-3-4-5-7-8-9 and Get Rythm). 'Jesus on the main line' is one of those left field tunes that just get to you after a couple of playings, and 'Fool for a cigarette' has that depression / dust bowl feel so well done on the 2nd album (Into the Purple Valley). The guitar licks are immaculate as ever, electric accoustic and slide, but the point is not how clever they are, but how well played they are. No-one can play as sweetly or with more emotion than Ryland Peter Cooder. The final track is a duet between Cooder and the veteran jazz pianist Earl Hines. They play the Blind Blake standard 'Ditty wah ditty' with real swing. Cooder keeps the melody and rythm driving along whilst Hines plays some astonishing variations. I'm still not sure if it works, but I can't stop humming the tune. All in all this is an addictive album, one of those I get every 3 or 4 years that I play almost non-stop . Five stars are hardly adequate. I have a reservation about the design of the cover, one of the worst I have ever seen, especially with a hangover, but it does make the album easy to spot on the rack. I just can't think why I didn't buy the album before.
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"Paradise and Lunch" followed a similar path to his previous release "Into the purple valley" but overall probably has a more electric, R&B sound, with either Jim Keltner or Milt Holland on drums. Again it's a very consistent record that seamlessly mixes blues, rock and roll, country and jazz to provide a varied but somehow completely unified sound.

We start with a great acoustic work-song "Tamp 'em up solid" and then Washington Phillips' beautiful ballad "Tattler" is given an R&B makeover to make it sound like the Drifters. Meanwhile the Drifters own "Mexican divorce" is taken south of the border and slowed down to produce a soulful TexMex classic. Blind Willie McTell's "Married man's a fool" is also updated with an R&B setting, although not quite as funky as the Womacks' "It's all over now" which really rocks. We also get an early version of the gospel song "Jesus on the mainline" which Ry was often to revisit. "Fool About A Cigarette/Feelin' good" is a medley of a country song and a J.B. Lenoir blues that somehow seem to fit together. Finally Ry and Earl Hines battle it out on a swinging ragtime version of Blind Blake's "Ditty Wah Ditty".
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on 8 June 2010
There are some truly excellent comprehensive reviews already here (and one off the mark) so I will not attempt duplication. However, I have to say that for me this is Ry Cooder's masterpiece and a timeless gem. Blues, gospel and country rock, sung and played with awesome skill but above all joy and a sense of humour. Although I like some of his later work, such as the Buena Vista etc, Ry Cooder peaked here with Paradise and Lunch, sandwiched in between the excellent Chicken Skin Music and good but slightly disappointing by comparison Borderline. Something really magical happened in recording Paradise. Earl Fatha Hines exquisite "Ditty Wa Ditty" just rounds it off perfectly along with a wonderful, definitive version of "It's All Over Now". Also, try: the aforementioned albums; John Hiatt's excellent "Slow Turning"; or in gentler vein Kate and Anna McGarrigle's also magical self-titled album.
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"Paradise And Lunch" was Ry Cooder's 4th solo LP stalling at a miserable No. 167 on the American LP charts in June 1974 – a better placing than his third album "Boomer's Story" from November 1973 that didn't chart at all. But that doesn't mean it isn't a classic. I've always adored its typical RC mix of Roots, Americana and Blues titles. You'd also have to say that with his staggering diversity of styles – especially his branching off into Soundtracks, World Music and even Gospel with Mavis Staples in the 80’s and beyond into the 00’s – this 70ts nugget has been unceremoniously forgotten. It shouldn't be. But let's get to the best variant of the CD...

"Paradise And Lunch" can be found as Disc 4 of 11 in the superb "Ry Cooder 1970-1987" Warner Brothers 11CD Box Set from November 2013 (see full review) – sporting a gorgeous Remaster. I estimate that most of the first 7 are REMASTERS with the remainder sounding like those CDs already issued (which sound great anyway). Disc 4 breaks down as follows (37:22 minutes):

1. Tamp 'Em Up Solid [Traditional Song cover]
2. Tattler [Russ Titelman, Ry Cooder and Washington Philips song]
3. Married Man's A Fool [Blind Willie McTell cover]
4. Jesus On The Mainline [Traditional Song cover]
5. It's All Over Now [Bobby Womack cover]
6. Medley: I'm A Fool For A Cigarette/Feelin' Good [J.B. Lenoir cover] [Side 2]
7. If Walls Could Talk [Bobby Miller cover]
8. Mexican Divorce [Coasters cover]
9. Ditty Wa Ditty [Arthur Blake cover]
The LP "Paradise And Lunch" was released May 1974 in the USA on Reprise MS 2179 and in the UK on Reprise K 44260. Earl Hines plays Piano on "Ditty Wa Ditty"

The CD label reflects the original vinyl issue - a Riverboat Tan design but the 5" card repro gives you little to go on (even if you could read it). There is no mention of who mastered what and from where on the Box set - but I've had the 90's issue for years and the audio on the Box set version is improved over that.

"Paradise And Lunch" is a curmudgeon of an album - a group of witty and hard-hitting lyric songs about losers, cravers, fornicators and romantic fools (and that's before we get to the tobacco). It opens with the double-bass and high-hat shuffle of "Tamp 'Em Up Solid" – a working on the railroad shanty with Mary and the Baby laying in bed thinking about the money their man 'hasn't' made. The warbling guitar effect of "Tattler" is 'so' Ry Cooder – a cautionary tale of a man with an eye for the ladies but with as much sense as a mule (after the saloon dust has settled - this klutz is going get a rowdy wife I'm afraid). More relationship misery follows with "Married Man's A Fool" where a disgruntled preacher gives a warning from the pulpit to his fretful congregation – chances of her remaining faithful is pretty slim boys (oh dear). To sooth our ache – Ryland gives it a bit of the Lord as Saviour on the Amen Traditional "Jesus On The Mainline" where the rattling rhythm section sounds like a chain gang praying for mercy in the hot sun and hoping to be heard. Side 1 ends with the fabulous Ry-Funk of Bobby Womack's "It's All Over Now" – a jerky piano and guitar chugger that feels like it should be in the Coen Brothers "O, Brother Where Art Thou?"

Side 2 opens with a total winner – a double whammy witty coupling of "I'm A Fool For A Cigarette/Feelin' Good". As the mandolins strum and the Electric Slide Guitar slithers around your speakers – he sings with a craven ache "...when you're finished choke it...'cause I wanna smoke it...." Back to more martial lowlifes with "If Walls Could Talk" – telling your friends you've ‘been busy’ and glad that your shoes can't talk. Ry strips down The Coasters novelty hit "Mexican Divorce" to give it a genuine Tex Mex shuffle and feel – the beautifully produced playing reminding you of just how pretty the melody was and still is. The album ends on the witty word play of "Ditty Wa Ditty" with veteran player Earl Hines on Piano (and still no one seems to know what those words mean - but they do sound good). "Paradise And Lunch" - the whole album is so damn cool really – but then the forgotten "Boomer's Story" from 1973 is the same...

At a little over two quid per album – locating a great sounding "Paradise And Lunch" inside the "Ry Cooder 1970-1987" is a frankly bit of a steal - with the entire Box a genuine blast in a sea of overpriced and stodgy Anniversary reissues.

On Ry Cooder's blinding cover of "I'm A Fool For A Cigarette/Feelin' Good" - he counsels that "...all the money in the world spent on feelin' good...” Well I'd advise you spend your money on this wickedly good album (inside that Box Set) and in the meantime - thank God you married well...
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on 15 April 2010
Despite its gaudy, luminescent yellow sleeve, this 1974 release is one of the best of the solo albums in Ry Cooder's bulky back catalogue. That is reflected in the inclusion of 3 of its 9 tracks on his 2008 anthology The UFO Has Landed. They were a string-driven romantic lament entitled 'Tattler' (which was a rare example of a track written by the man himself), and two gospel-tinged traditionals - 'Jesus On The Mainline', 'Tamp `Em Up Solid' - which were arranged and adapted by Cooder. The other six tracks featured here reflect his always eclectic choice of songs: material penned by pop songwriter Burt Bacharach is mixed with that of the bluesman Blind Willie McTell. Cooder's limited vocal authority is also less of a problem here than it had been on previous recordings, perhaps because of the more extensive use of backing vocalists. Only with his mid-paced version of soul artist Bobby Womack's awesome 'It's All Over Now' does Cooder really fall short in his attempt to reinterpret a song.
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on 6 October 2011
Yep Cooder all the way. Only Ry can produce an atmospheric feel of being right there as they play, he can turn the mood with a lick and the Cooder style shines out with every cord played.Paradise and Lunch
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on 30 April 2013
This album is lauded by many as a classic - some even say his best.

In my opinion its a classic JUST because its a Cooder album. To me however his classic albums were made in the eighties and beyond.This is just of course a matter of opinion. In the eighties Ry moved on from more traditional folk/blues stylings to a more contemporary electric rhythm and blues feel - so it just depends what you prefer.

Paradise and Lunch was a step in the direction of what he would further explore in albums such as "Bop Till You Drop". Songs like Tattler and It's all Over Now would easily fit on "Bop Till You Drop" stylistically.

There are also acoustic blues worksongs like tamp em up , and traditional rag time / folk blues like Ditty Wah Ditty still in the mix.

With albums like Bop Till You Drop,Borderline , Slide Area and ESPECIALLY Get Rhythm, for me Ry really finds his voice , AND even more importantly his signature beefy Slide guitar sound. This is something that by his own admission he was struggling to achieve in the 70's. Jesus On The Mainline has become a signature track by Cooder, but the origional version on here imo is his weakest attempt to date.

Everything I've said here is subjective .Ry Cooder is my favourite guitarist, and I listen to this album a lot.I'm just comparing it to other Cooder albums. 3.5 - 4
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on 8 October 2015
One of Rys Best. very prompt delivery from seller.
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on 4 September 2014
fabulous album, well packaged
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on 25 October 2014
loved it
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