Following his conceptual 1978 release, Jazz, Ry Cooder returned the next year with the R&B/soul-based Bop Till You Drop. The first major-label, digitally recorded album, Bop is a nice set of moderately known to obscure tunes from the '50s and '60s (along with a Cooder/Tim Drummond original) that doesn't always live up to its promise. Cooder and his excellent band, which includes the rhythm section of Tim Drummond and Jim Keltner along with guitarist David Lindley, understand the material and are more than capable of laying down a decent groove, but something must have gotten lost in translation from what was played to what came across on the recording. There's a thinness to the tracks that undermines the performances, which according to Cooder is due to the digital recording. If you check out the live version of Bop Till You Drop's opener, "Little Sister," from the No Nukes record (using the same band), you can see what surely could have been. Still, Bop is worthwhile given Cooder's penchant for choosing great tunes, as well as the tight performances, brilliant guitar work, and a handful of great guest vocalists (including Chaka Khan). A few of the highlights include his arrangement of the early-'60s Elvis hit "Little Sister," the soulful "The Very Thing That Makes You Rich (Makes Me Poor)," an instrumental take on Ike & Tina Turner's "I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine," and "I Can't Win," featuring Cooder's longtime cohort Bobby King on lead vocal.
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AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach