‘The Prodical Son’ avoids gospel message
Ry Cooder is 71-year-old jazz/R & B artist.
He recently released an album, “The Prodigal Son,” from Perro Verde Records that was produced by Cooder and his son, Joachim Cooder.
My first thought upon hearing the title was that Mr. Cooder had an epiphany and was declaring his faith in Christ. This was not the case.
Cooder tells it like so in a Los Angeles Times interview: “The gospel music has a nice way of making these suggestions about empathy .... It’s a nice musical way of suggesting that, of reminding people of that…. Plus, I like the songs, I have to admit. They’re nice songs. Pretty. Beautiful chords, great melodies, for sure.”
A native of Santa Monica, Calif., Cooder has been in the music business for almost 50 years. This album has been hailed as having an “all-American” feel. Cooder was aiming to find a mix of black gospel and white gospel church music and, I have to say, I honestly think he has failed in that particular goal.
In the many styles of church music, I have heard, they all have one thing in common - the artist has a heart the gospel message. This is not the case with “The Prodigal Son.”
Cooder is undoubtedly a talented musician. The music on “The Prodigal Son” is very professional and displays tremendous talent. The instrumentation of guitar, banjo, mandolin and percussion alone makes this album worth a listen, but it lacks the heart for the gospel that would make the lyrics ring true.
That is not to say, of course, that some of the music does not contain truth. But, by and large, this album is empty of anything that resembles the gospel. The title track exemplifies this, “I wandered into a tavern where a music band was playin’ .... I asked….is this a new teaching/ she said there is no God but God, and Ralph Mooney is his name…. but just as long as you sit there on the bandstand and play your guitar like Buddha, I’ll be glad…. dim lights, thick smoke, and loud, loud music is the only kind of truth I’ll ever understand.”
“You Must Unload” is an interesting commentary on ‘fashion-loving Christians’ and ‘money-loving Christians’ who ‘must, you must unload.’ I can’t say I disagree with Cooder’s statement on this one. Likewise, “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” speaks a partial truth, “I got a Bible in my home...if I don’t read my soul will be lost/ nobody’s fault but mine.” And, “I’ll be rested when the roll is called” sounds fun but lacks the celebration that would be integrated from artists who truly believed what they were singing.
So, if you are a fan of Ry Cooder, or love unique jazz/ R&B tracks, “The Prodigal Son” may be an enjoyable listen for you. If, however, you were hoping to find a gospel message, “The Prodigal Son” is not your best choice.