A companion to the same label's masterful reissue of John Cale's Paris 1919, The Frozen Borderline remasters the two albums that Nico recorded (with Cale in attendance) for Elektra and Reprise in 1968 and 1970, adding a heap of bonus tracks and the kind of deluxe packaging that fans – accustomed to the cheapness of other Nico repackagings – have previously only dreamed about. Spread across two discs, one per original LP, the two albums sound spectacular. Neither was exactly a production tour de force, their instrumentation dominated, of course, by harmonium, and the handful of flourishes that Cale layered on.
A dozen of the Ray McKinley's Savoy and Majestic recordings are on this CD, but the music is more rewarding than the packaging. The dates are not given, the composer credits are wrong in at least three cases (Jelly Roll Morton did not write "Mint Julep," nor did M. Franko compose "Over The Rainbow"!), and the personnel listing (which mistakenly includes Bud Freeman on tenor) is quite incomplete. The 12 performances on this LP-length program … are excellent and give a fine overview of the unusual orchestra's sound. Highlights include "Hangover Square," "Borderline," and "Howdy Friends" (which was McKinley's theme song). However, this music deserves to be treated better.
With 1980's Borderline, Ry Cooder followed the foray into R&B and soul of his previous effort, Bop Till You Drop, but this time out with a little shot of the Southwest thrown in. At the same time, he also continues the primarily electric sound of that record. As far as his selection of material goes, Borderline may sometimes lack the surprising, esoteric charm of his earlier recordings, but there are still some terrific finds, including the Tex-Mex-flavored "The Girls from Texas," which may be the album's finest moment. Other highlights include one of John Hiatt's best, the written-to-order "The Way We Make a Broken Heart," as well as Billy "The Kid" Emerson's "Crazy 'Bout an Automobile," which Cooder had been performing live for a number of years, and the soulful Maurice & Mac treasure "Why Don't You Try Me." And while it's moments like these that help make Cooder's records special, he also takes on some better-known '50s and '60s offerings with moderate success.