I will begin by declaring my enormous respect and love for Cooder's music. Ever since Chicken Skin Music -ironically, another beauty honoring the Mexican influence on American music- Cooder has been one of the "saints of my devotion," as my father used to say. In Chavez Ravine, an album he's been working on for about three years, Cooder researched the disappearance of an area of Los Angeles, and long-standing Mexican community, that was erased to make way for what would become Dodgers Stadium. The album that has resulted from his interest is, then, a political statement about the legacy of Joe McCarty, an elegy about old neighborhoods paved over by a twisted sense of progress, and an amazing group of songs showing the deep gift of Mexican-American music. With the same cool touch and deep affection that Cooder already demonstrated for Malian music (Talkin' Timbuktu) and Cuban grooves (Mambo Sinuendo and Buena Vista Social Club), Ry gathered a host of incredible Mexican-American musicians from the Fifties, to invoke the spirit of this story. Ersi Arbizu, Lalo Guerrero, Don Tosti and Little Willie G. -all great performers, most of which may be unknowns to most of us- take turns singing songs that conjure up the longings, loves and betrayals from the Chavez Ravine odyssey. Now, let's be clear, do not think this is ethnographic research for the Smithsonian archives or a dry document of music gone by. This album grooves ("Poor Man's Shangri-La" or "Onda Callejera") and gets down ("Muy Fifi" and "3 Cool Cats") as well as it will move you with some slow burners ("It's Just Work For Me") and beautiful ballads ("In My Town," "3rd Base, Dodgers Stadium" and "Soy Luz Y Sombra"). In conclusion, this is some of the most soulful music you may come across this year. It proves, too, that you can move your body with abandon and reflect on serious issues at once. Meaning and grooving, with passion and concern, master Cooder takes us for another ride through the real America, where great and forgotten voices get to sing aloud again.
I make no claim to be a Ry Cooder fan. I don't know much about him or his work. I bought this album having read an interview with Mr Cooder somewhere, and I thought it sounded vaguely interesting. "Vaguely interesting" does not do this justice. This could easily have been an historical document that I'd listen to once, nod, stroke my beard, and put away, never to be heard again. That ain't gonna be happening. This is a living, breathing record, full of soul, vitality, and great tunes. I put it on, listened, then it put it straight back on again. Hell, if it can make me get up and dance around my living room, it's doing something right. The Buena Vista Social Club was awesome - this is Cooder using regional music in a vastly different way, and it works perfectly.
There aren't any great party numbers on this lovely CD, nothing to kick out the jams to, and I miss that. Ry Cooder may never again give us more great rocking numbers like those from 20-odd years ago, sadly. But this is still a lovely album, and at its best has a warmth of acoustic to match and even better Buena Vista Social Club. There are several real beauties on here, music to drift away to. Chavez Ravine comes on like a soundtrack, although there is no movie (bet there's a documentary to follow). More rewarding than any of Ry's actual soundtrack CDs; not quite up there with his best work; uneven but great in places. Get it.
If you are looking for a nice safe pop album, then avoid this like the plague.Cooders style has never been mainstream, and his new album an eclectic hybrid mix of different styles held together by a narative about an area of LA bulldozed in the name of progress.Cooders style has never been safe, but it has always been authentic, in a world where any idiot with a hit album is hailed as a "genius" he just might be the real deal.His new album is both angry and nostalgic, it is a difficult listen but worthwhile, it is a work by an artist that cares about his craft, it is totally unique.
I am biased, I think Ry is the modern genious of music. everything he does, he does with passion, love, and superb knowledge and humility. he learns, he contributes, and then he shares the result. i recommend all his music, but this one is special. it is exciting, it is curious and playful. it is musically gorgeous, and it has soul. a wonderful soul filled with life. it is a lush feast for those who love music. enjoy it, and pass the word on, with love. M
Ry Cooder has always had a love of "tex mex" style music and on this album he recounts the story of how hispanics were moved out of their homes to make way for the new Dodgers baseball stadium. This is a classic Cooder album embodying all that is great about the man, beautiful lyrics and great instrumentals, both commercial and mexicali. The most under rated album of the year (probably)
One of Cooder's best projects. I didn't know about the author he celebrated here, and this album of personal re-interpretations of his songs managed to suggest me a whole old world waiting to be discovered. A great mix of old vintage sounds and instruments, revisited with a unique, fine touch. Songs of memories, misery, desolation, but also irony, life, little joyful things, a musical and poetic mix of LA mods, desert, mexico, american folk, and many many suggestions
Mention 'concept album' and rock'n roll and you'd be forgiven for running a mile. Being a Cooder fan, there was no way I'd not buy it, especially as I like the cojunto texmex sound (Flaco Jimenez etc), but I admit I was apprehensive. And you know what, right from the first track (Poor man's Shangri-La)Ry and co , put me right at ease. As concepts go, this sought to illuminate a place and an era and the music that emanated from it, before a whole community was cleared away by greedy property developers (a breed that has growm in rapacity since then). Ry reminds you of a simple fact that too often is forgotten sometimes- in musical terms, a place can often create the genre. All great music was local once. Amazingly Ry was able to colloborate with many of the musicians that were once on the scene, 50 years ago, when Chavez Ravine was cleared away to make way for a stadium! And by the way, its all great fun to listen to, and immensely enjoyable and variable too! So get over your 'concept album' prejudice right now. I did, and I want to testify!
I've come late to the party, but having become reacquainted with Ry through 'Pull Up...' and 'Election Special', I would say this is a fantastic purchase. Comparisons are so subjective and probably futile, but as a big Neil Young fan over the years, this music knocks all that experimenting into a cocked hat. Don't expect 'Bop..' or 'Into The Purple Valley' or anything else really. This sits really well with 'Buddy'.