Top Artists – Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder – Paris, Texas

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  • The sound here is bigger and livelier than any other we played – above all it’s balanced, avoiding the tonality issues we heard on so many other pressings
  • 4 stars: “Suggestive of both the imagery of Wim Wenders’ movie Paris, Texas and the desert itself, Ry Cooder’s score is a peaceful, poetic journey into the soul of an acoustic guitar… a powerful and immensely evocative journey for those whose experience with the material is the album alone.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ry Cooder’s, this classic from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Ry Cooder / Jazz

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ry Cooder

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • These are the stampers that always win our shootouts, and when you hear them you will know why – the sound is big, rich and clear
  • “The complexity of the material on Jazz, as well as the arrangements by Joseph Byrd, dictate that this is Cooder’s most polished and orchestrated effort to date.” — Allmusic
  • If you’re a fan of Ry Cooder’s, this classic from 1978 belongs in your collection.

We’re big fans of Ry Cooder here at Better Records, and it’s always fun to hear the eccentric instruments and arrangements he and his cohorts cook up. Of course, it’s even more fun when you have a great sounding pressing like this one that lets you hear what the musicians were up to. (more…)

Ry Cooder – Self-Titled

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More Debut Albums of Interest

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage Reprise pressing of Cooder’s debut album from 1970 – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear the brilliant Lee Herschberg’s All Analog Recording skills brought to bear on so many different instruments serving an assortment of sonic textures, this is the copy that will let you do it
  • 4 stars: “Cooder’s debut creates an intriguing fusion of blues, folk, rock & roll, and pop, filtered through his own intricate, syncopated guitar; Van Dyke Parks and Lenny Waronker’s idiosyncratic production… Cooder puts this unique blend across with a combination of terrific songs, virtuosic playing, and quirky, yet imaginative, arrangements.”

The music reminds me a lot of early Little Feat, which is a good thing. The sound is somewhat similar as well, which is to say that it is natural and musical, nothing like the hyped-up hi-fi sound of his TAS-listed album Jazz — and that’s a good thing as well.

There are some great songs here, including My Old Kentucky Home, One Meat Ball and How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. It may even be his best album. (more…)

Ry Cooder – Paradise and Lunch

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  • You’ll feel like you are right in the studio with Ry and his top-notch crew as they kick out the jams, the sound is so present, rich, full-bodied and transparent
  • I can’t think of another Ry Cooder album with such consistently good material, or better sound
  • 4 1/2 stars: “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… Eclectic, intelligent, and thoroughly entertaining, Paradise and Lunch remains Ry Cooder’s masterpiece.”

Ry and his pals have plenty of interesting and unusual ideas to bring to the consistently good material found on the album, so 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. Plenty of people could do these things, but only Ry could do them this well. (more…)

Ry Cooder / Jazz – Transparency Is Key

The best copies realistically convey the live-in-the-studio quality of the sound. This is a tight ensemble working at the top of their game, no surprise there; Ry surrounds himself with nothing but the best.

But the better copies have such amazingly transparent sound you can’t help feeling as though you really are in the presence of live human beings You really get the sense of actual fingers plucking those guitar strings. You hear mouths blowing air through horns and woodwinds.

These are sounds that most recordings pretend to capture, and like hypnotist’s subjects, we go along for the ride. This recording has the potential to actually bring forth that living, breathing musician sound, no imagination required.

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ry Cooder

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Ry Cooder – Into the Purple Valley – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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TUBEY MAGICAL A+++ MASTER TAPE SOUND (and relatively quiet vinyl) ON BOTH SIDES. All of the elements you could ask for from this kind of music are here: superb clarity; amazing richness and warmth; correct tonality; serious energy and immediacy; texture to the vocals and so on. I don’t think you could do anything to these songs to make them sound any better.

We’ve become pretty big Ry Cooder fans here at Better Records, and an amazing pressing like this one will show you exactly why. We played a big stack of these this week, and you’re going to have a very difficult time finding a copy that can keep up with this one!

This copy was Right On The Money from top to bottom and from start to finish. It’s got the kind of presence and energy needed to bring these old songs to life. Most copies we played suffered from an overly clean quality, lacking richness and warmth almost entirely. Not this one though — it’s full of that old analog tubey magic, the kind that keeps guys like you and me digging in bins and spinning dusty old records instead of going digital.

There’s A Good Reason Audiophiles Love Ry

Ry’s music holds special appeal to us audiophiles, as he’s always throwing instruments into the mix that you hardly ever hear on your standard rock album. I wish I could tell you everything he plays on this album, but I’d just be guessing if I tried. (Wikipedia credits him for guitar, bass, and mandolin, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that there’s more to it than that.) This I can tell you — when the man picks up an instrument, he can sure play the heck out of it, and it’s an audiophile’s treat to hear how naturally he incorporates these sounds into his songs. (more…)

Ry Cooder – Chicken Skin Music – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Side two of this Reprise pressing is OUT OF THIS WORLD. From the moment the needle hit the groove we were blown away by the huge soundfield, the unbelievable presence and the massive amount of energy. It sounded like Ry and his crew were right there in the room with us, playing their hearts out. The two tracks featuring Hawaiian musicians (steel guitarist and singer Gabby Pahinui and slack key guitar master Atta Isaacs) are both on side two and they sound AMAZING on this copy. (more…)

Ry Cooder / Jazz – MoFi Adds Plenty of Sparkle to these Acoustic Guitars

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Sonic Grade: D

As you probably know, the MoFi of Jazz goes for big bucks nowadays — $500 and up. Is it worth it? 

Are you kidding? It’s a nice record as far as it goes, but it suffers from the same shortcomings as just about every Mobile Fidelity pressing we take the time to play these days (with some obvious exceptions of course). We have a test pressing, and knowing that the MoFi is the standard against which many audiophiles would prefer to judge our Hot Stampers, we listened to it first before going about our comparison test.

Our MoFi copy is actually tonally correct, which was a bit of a surprise. (Yours of course could very well be otherwise.) Right away we could hear exactly what people like about it, the same thing that audiophiles have always liked about half-speeds: their amazing transparency. Jazz on MoFi has zero-distortion, utterly clear, spacious, see-through sound.

But listen past that and what do you hear. Don’t those guitars seem to have that MoFi Tea-for-the-Tillerman-like quality you hate: all pluck and no body, all detail and no substance? Nothing has any weight. Nothing has any solidity. Nothing has any real life. It’s pretty, but it ain’t right. It’s the kind of sound that shouts out to the world “Hey, look at me, I’m an audiophile record! See how I sound? Clear and sparkling clean.”

Which isn’t bad for about two minutes, and then it’s insufferable.

More Records Perfectly Suited for the Stone Age Stereos of the ’70s

Ry Cooder – Boomer’s Story – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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This is a QUIET Reprise Tan Label LP with a good side one and a GREAT side two. It’s not the best copy we’ve ever heard but it’s a step up from most of what’s out there. Side two is very natural and incredibly clean. The presence is wonderful, the top end is sweet, and the transparency is top-notch. Side one is similar but a bit smooth for our tastes.

We’re big Ry Cooder fans here at Better Records, and this is one of our favorites. Make sure to check out the lovely reading of Dark End Of The Street that opens side two. (more…)

Letter of the Week “I have often found myself listening to things on your albums that I never imagined would be captured on vinyl!”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Please accept my apology. This email has been written in my head many times before now. However, life, and its many responsibilities have forced their own priority and delayed the composition of this message.

I have long been a skeptical person. My personality, and profession encourage skepticism. That skepticism was high when I first purchased a Ry Cooder album from you in 2014. Prior to that first purchase, I had been conducting research to discover what album pressings were likely to contain the best sound. I do not recall where I initially viewed your banner advertisement (possibly stevehoffman.tv, [not a chance!] or audiokarma.org? [maybe]). Either way, I clicked on the ad for your site and noticed a Ry Cooder album that I have always loved, and I took a chance. Boy was I surprised!

Since then I have purchased many albums from you, and I have been extremely happy with nearly all of them (even 95% accuracy is rare in the physical word, and you have easily achieved accuracy beyond that point). I have often found myself listening to things on your albums that I never imagined would be captured on vinyl!

Just as a side note, I want to thank you for including Sly Stone (a personal favorite), and War in your catalog of albums. Most audiophiles are not focused on those genres, but they are missing some interesting music. Thank you for your excellence!

Justin