A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.
This copy does almost everything you could ask for from this music — good energy, tons of richness and clarity and lots of texture to all of the instruments. You’ll feel like you are right in the studio with Ry and his top-notch crew as they kick out these fun, eccentric jams. LEE HERSCHBERG engineered this one as well as a great many others for Ry Cooder.
I can’t think of another Ry Cooder album with such consistently good material. And since Ry and his pals have such interesting and unusual ideas, there’s a lot here for audiophiles to appreciate.
Take for example the version of Burt Bacharach’s song Mexican Divorce. You’ve got timbales in the left channel, a conga in the right channel, a marimba somewhere in the background, and for good measure, a wonderful sounding mandolin takes center stage!
But the variety of instruments alone are not what makes it so enjoyable. It’s that Cooder has a knack for knowing exactly what elements will work musically in a song. Anyone can find a few exotic elements and throw them together, but our man Ry has the good sense to use only the ideas and instruments that sound just right. It’s why Jazz, Chicken Skin Music, and even Buena Vista Social Club are all such successful albums. A lot of people could do these things, but only Ry could do them so tastefully.
Transparency and Spaciousness Are Key
We played a stack of these this week, and wouldn’t you know it, they all sound different. The best copies (like this one) are incredibly transparent with amazing dimension to the soundfield. Particularly on side two here, you’ll be shocked at how big, wide, and deep the sound gets. As mentioned above, there’s a bunch of things going on with these songs, so it really kicks up the enjoyment factor when you can hear INTO the music.
Lee Herschberg, Engineer Extraordinaire
One of the top guys at Warners, Lee recorded and mixed this album as well as a number of others by Ry Cooder. You’ll also find his name in the credits for many of the best releases by the Doobie Brothers, Gordon Lightfoot and Frank Sinatra, albums we know to have outstanding sound (potentially anyway; you have to have an outstanding pressing to hear outstanding sound).
And of course we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the album most audiophiles know all too well, Rickie Lee Jones’ debut. Herschberg’s pop and rock engineering credits run for pages. Won the Grammy for Strangers in the Night even.
The album that gets my vote for Herschberg’s Pop Engineering Masterpiece would have to be Michael McDonald’s If That’s What It Takes. On the best copies the sound of that album is out of this world.
The most amazing jazz piano trio recording we know of is Herschberg’s as well: The Three (with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown and Joe Sample).
Tamp ‘Em up Solid
A Married Man’s a Fool
Jesus on the Mainline
It’s All Over Now
Medley: Fool for a Cigarette/Feelin’ Good
If Walls Could Talk
Ditty Wah Ditty
AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review
Like his three previous records, Paradise and Lunch is filled with treasures which become part of a world where eras and styles converge without ever sounding forced or contrived. One may think that an album that contains a traditional railroad song, tunes by assorted blues greats, and a Negro spiritual alongside selections by the likes of Bobby Womack, Burt Bacharach, and Little Milton may lack cohesiveness or merely come across as a history lesson, but to Cooder this music is all part of the same fabric and is as relevant and accessible as anything else that may be happening at the time… Eclectic, intelligent, and thoroughly entertaining, Paradise and Lunch remains Ry Cooder’s masterpiece.