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* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : Cooder: Mix 'n' Mash

November 01, 1987|STEVE HOCHMAN

* * * 1/2 RY COODER. "Get Rhythm." Warner Bros. A Cooder album is the musical version of "mix-in" ice cream, with various tasty items blended into favorite flavors to create entirely new treats. Cooder's first non-sound-track release in five years includes at least a sampling of virtually every style that the singer-guitarist has ever tackled. In other words, it's just your average blues/folk/Tex-Mex/R&B/gospel/Okinawan/Caribbean/funk/rock extravaganza. You don't even have to go any further than the first cut--a jumping version of the Sun Records-era Johnny Cash title song--to hear every one of those elements mashed together.

Eclectic? The word hardly touches this album. How about a rarely heard 30-year-old Chuck Berry number ("13 Question Method") done in the acoustic finger-picking style of the late Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence? Or the Elvis Presely classic "All Shook Up" given tough funk-rock treatment? But thanks to Cooder's remarkable musical instincts and stellar musicians (including accordionist Flaco Jimenez, drummer Jim Keltner and keyboardist Van Dyke Parks) this is never mere musical game-playing.

As a bonus, there's a lovely reprise of "Across the Borderline," co-written by Cooder, John Hiatt and Jim Dickinson for the 1982 movie "The Border," done here as a duet with Harry Dean Stanton, who offers one plaintive verse in Spanish.

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