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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 22 April 2004
Ry Cooder is probably best know to contemporary music buyers as the manbehind the Buena Vista Social Club, which was an unexpected runaway hit afew years back. Well, I say unexpected, but not so if you've been payingattention to his output over the last 30 years. This CD is a simmilar ideato Buena Vista - get a bunch of less-well know but very talented musicians- and play through some old, and somtimes long forgotten tunes. To thisend he has included the fantastic Flaco Jimenez, plus two greats ofHawaiian music: Gabby Pahinui and Atta Isaacs.
The tunes on this album may be familiar to many: Leadbelly's "BourgeoisBlues" and "Goodnight Irene", plus the King/Leiber/Stoller classic "StandBy Me". There are some that will be less familiar, with "Always Lift HimUp" first recorded by the wonderful Blind Alfred Reed standing out. Thisis an accomplised, ecclectic and hugely enjoyable CD.
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VINE VOICEon 5 June 2004
The rediscovery of a rich indigenous American musical history didn't begin with O Brother Where Art Thou, though it gave a timely boost to an undervalued genre. Somehow the blues and folk archives of Alan Lomax and Harry Smith, and music handed down through families over generations and kept alive, needed to be woven into a whole that was both true to a tradition and yet contemporary. Among the honourable few who attempted such a synthesis were the Band, Neil Young and Ry Cooder.
Ry Cooder toured his Chicken Skin Music band after making this album and if you saw it you probably will remember a Whistle Test concert for UK television in 1977. Ry Cooder had assembled an extraordinary orchestra, uniquely combining the Tex-Mex accordion mastery of Flaco Jiminez with the Hawaiian slack key guitar maestros Gabby Pahinui and Atta Isaacs to perform traditional minstrel and gospel songs, soul ballads, Leadbelly and Ray Charles covers and standards such as the wonderful He'll Have To Go, and Chloe.
The result is a skilful blend that is not dry or academic but designed for dance and entertainment
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on 19 September 2007
This is the most essential of a list of essential Ry Cooder albums. If you only ever buy one of his CDs, make it this one.

I wore the vinyl out and had to buy it again and then I had to buy the CD. Someone borrowed the CD, they moved and I never got it back so I had to buy it again.

The playing is immaculate, it is simply wonderful music. The Mexican influences are great and really bring an extra dimension. This is the culmination of everything RC did before and overshadows everything he has done since.

Buy this album.
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on 27 November 2005
I first heard this on tape in 1988 when it was already 14 or so years old. I loved it immediately and still love it today. Cooder is a master of anything with strings and frets, and he has assembled a great bunch of musicians around him for this album of familiar and occasionally less familiar American folk and blues standards. 'Goodnight Irene,' 'He'll have to go,'and 'Stand by me' are probably definitive versions, though 'yellow roses' does not really work for me. Still, you can forgive one slightly poorer track on an album on which most are outstanding. 'Always pick him up' may be a bit maudlin and even sexist by today's standards, but it's still a brilliant song.
I'v heard most of Ry's other albums from this period, and while they are all good, this one remains, for me, the best of the bunch.
Scottish Amazon users might remember that track 2 'I've got mine' was used in Tennents Lager TV promotion in the late eighties. But don't let it put you off - the music is much better than the lager!
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Ry Cooder is a remarkable figure in post-war American music. In truth, only Taj Mahal really gets close to him in terms of exploring the borderlands of different musical styles. In recent years, Cooder has expanded his muse beyond the environs of the USA, taking in collaborative works with V M Bhatt and Ali Farke Toure, as well as the Buena Vista Social Club, to name but three of his musical sojourns. Since his first, self-titled solo album of 1970, Cooder had stealthily built a solo career around an almost anthropological, archaeological excavation of forgotten sounds and idioms of North American music. 'Chicken Skin Music' is one of his most accomplished collections, taking in Tex Mex music at a time when it was very much a minority style. He took songs such as 'He'll Have To Go', something of a cornball piece in the hands of Jim Reeves, but here transformed into an emotive (but witty) song for the love lorn. 'The Bourgeois Blues' is one of Cooder's finest excursions into the Blues, and his version of 'Smack Dab In The Middle' acknowledges the influence of Ray Charles. It's recorded brilliantly, the musicianship is classy, and yet understated, and all the components conspire to make one of the finest albums of its era, that has not dated, because it didn't sound of its' time at the time. Nor is it a museum piece; 'Chicken Skin Music' resonates with bluesy, soulful power, and it swings like mad. Cooder made more commercially successful albums, but this is an artistic highwater mark that you owe it to yourself to own.
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on 8 January 2000
I've been a Cooder fan for almost 20 years - I reckon this is the best. Totally different from anything I've hear before. Music is mesmeric. The rendition of "He'll have to go" is better than the original. All the tracks are good. perhaps "Stand by me" doesn't quite come off.. but it's still good.
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on 31 March 2007
Ry Cooder at his best. A superb CD - one of my absolute favourites. 'He'll have to go' - better than the original. 'Yellow Roses' - a wonderful rendition. The best ever Ry Cooder album. Listen and enjoy! It does not disappoint.
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on 26 August 2015
Unusual angle taken by Ry Cooder on this album, with a definite Hawaiian 'flavour' on some tracks, some rocking rhythm on others. All in all a departure from previous work with a mixture of quick and slow, and a new working of the classic Irish 'Goodnight Irene'. Arranged and produced by Ry Cooder - some in Hawaii with Gabby Pahlnui and Atta Isaacs
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on 22 September 2015
Ry finds tex- mex and lays down a pattern lovingly covered by many since. With actual Mexican and soul musicians to sweeten and deepen the mix. This album has the highest ratio of great music to bloody awful cover known to humanity.
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on 5 October 2011
This is a very fun CD made by a group of musicians who were clearly having a good time. Recorded in 1976, right before Ry's inspired Jazz, which would take him in another direction completely. I am a huge fan of accordian player Flaco Jimenez who is up front and center on every song. My favortie song is probably the old classic "He'll Have to Go." "Stand By Me" is uptempo and rousing, while "Yellow Roses" and the instrumental "Chloe" are sweet and sentimental. If you like Ry, you'll love this CD.
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