When I saw Ry Cooder live in the early seventies, he was wearing baggy blue silk pants, pink satin pumps, a bandana, and a Hawaiian shirt.
Eclectic garb? You bet.
But somehow it all went together, a perfect sartorial analogue to his musical eclectism.
As far as the best debut ever, it’s gotta be either this or Little Feet’s.
Nobody was doing this roots stuff back then, and nobody’s ever done it better.
The opening bars of ˝Alimony˝ are perfect. ˝How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live˝ and ˝Available Space˝ are transcendent.
One marvels at the clarity of musical vision from one so young.
Everything here’s absolutely top drawer: overall concept, arrangements, production values, musicianship.
It all continues with Into the Purple Valley (probably Cooder’s best) and Boomer’s Story, but to my ears he slips up with Boarderline.
Wait a minute.
As great as Into the Purple Valley is, Paradise and Lunch gets the nod as his best ever, because it’s his most eclectic and has soooo many killer tunes on it.
Chicken Skin Music is also great (if you can get by the obnoxious cover art, thankfully much smaller in the CD format)--check out especially ˝Stand by Me.˝ ˝Mexican Divorce˝ from Paradise and Lunch is my all-time favorite Cooder cut; it always puts me in mind of my all-time favorite Byrds song, ˝Tulsa County Blue˝ (from their somewhat neglected masterpiece, Ballad of Easy Rider).
Of course, Buena Vista Social Club is also essential Cooder, as is Meeting by the River, with Indian maestro Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and Talking Timbuktu, with Malian bluesman Ali Farka Toure.
Also worth checking out: Fascinoma (with the unlikely but brilliant combination of Jacky Terrasson and John Hassell) and Hollow Bamboo.
I’m not wild about all of his film music, but all in all, he’s had quite a remarkable career.
And I guess that’s why Cooder gets the nod over Little Feet for the best ever debut--his subsequent career outshines Little Feet’s, although they went on to produce some great stuff.
Who knows where they might’ve gone but for Lowell George’s untimely death.