At first, the notion of cramming a talent as original and authentic as Ry Cooder's into a compilation package rings a bit awkward. I don't know, seems like Cooder has always functioned simultaneously within the system and totally outside the lines. He's a generation's master synthesist of traditional and popular idioms whose music truly stands apart from anything else out there. In short, not a greatest-hits kind of guy.
But why quibble? For relative newcomers or those with gaping holes in their Cooder collections (or, for example, for those whose original vinyl LPs have been taken hostage by a vengeful ex--been there, done that), The UFO Has Landed is a godsend.
A double-disc, 34-track treasury that spans the slide guitarist extraordinaire's nearly 40-year career, the anthology was assembled and produced with meticulous care by his son, percussionist Joachim Cooder. The boy done good.
Every stage of Cooder's remarkable journey through the roots music of America and points beyond is well represented. From the early, Stratocaster-stung country blues that introduced Cooder to the planet at-large (and drew him briefly into the orbit of the Rolling Stones, who, ahem, borrowed liberally from his bag of licks), through the pioneering World Music excursions and film soundtracks (Paris, Texas; Alamo Bay; Crossroads; among others), it's all here.
As for Cooder neophytes, I say figure out what material on The UFO Has Landed flicks your switch and by all means explore the man's illustrious catalog in detail. To my mind, that would be the suitably Cooder-esque thing to do. But in the meantime, this is a damn good place to start.